I am teaching at a new studio, Bloom Fitness and Health, and one wall has floor to ceiling mirrors. I was talking to a friend about the new space and mentioned the mirrors. She exclaimed, “I would never do yoga in front of a mirror!” and it brought to mind the first yoga class I took with a wall of mirrors. I learned the visceral definition of discomfort. I felt like a bug under a magnifying glass in the full sun. I really enjoyed the teacher, so kept attending the class, but worked to find every possible space in the room where I could avoid the mirrors. I simply could not bring myself to look at my own body doing yoga.
There is a lot of debate in the yoga community over the use of mirrors in the studio. Many yogis argue that mirrors take away from the purpose of yoga- to focus inward and quiet the senses, finding the peace that rests deep inside. Mirrors turn on our competitive nature and distract from getting in touch with the inner guru. To a certain extent I agree. But I also feel that mirrors present a real life opportunity to practice something we all have to face day to day. We are stuck with ourselves. This is it, folks. This body right here, this belly, these hips, these feet. The opportunity arises- can you simply look in the mirror? Can you practice just seeing?
One peek at a time I learned to look at my body doing yoga. It helped to treat this as a function of exercise, noticing my body respond to alignment cues, observing what happened if I shortened my stance in Warrior II, or bent my knee a little in Triangle. But over time I have learned to feel wonder and awe at this belly, these hips, these feet and the stories that my ever changing somatic vehicle tells. Because at the end of the day we are anything but stuck with our body. Stuck implies things are static and unchanging. But the fact of the matter is our bodies are constantly changing, responding to the food we eat, the exercise we take, the life events that unfold. Even the simple act of breathing can make a drastic difference in how your body appears. Take the pictures above, for example.
On the left, I have inhaled deeply, relaxing my abdominal muscles to allow a full breath. On the right, I have exhaled and pulled my belly muscles in towards my spine. This is a breath practice called Uddiyana Bandha, or Upward Flying Lock. Same belly, the only difference is full lungs or empty lungs. I decided to include these pictures to demonstrate that neither state or image is preferred. I can’t live my life only inhaling or only exhaling, and also will not always be fit or unfit. Skinny belly or full belly. It’s all of the above.
I invite you to join me in exploring yoga with a mirror on Tuesdays at 6pm for Mama’s Flow and Restore. Sign Up Online with MindBody
Today I vocalized a career dream that has slowly snuck into my consciousness. I will take the leap here to write it down, further putting my intention out into the world. It’s not a particularly revolutionary idea, but the real juicy part is the coalescing of ideas, values and practice into a solid statement.
Teaching yoga for every stage of a woman’s journey through life. Creating classes and spaces that are open to the growth and development of each woman’s body, mind and spirit.
This intention came together for me as I realized that I am currently teaching a beginning yoga class, a prenatal class, I’m preparing to teach ongoing post-partum workshops and on Tuesday, April 5th at 6:00pm I am teaching my first Mama’s Flow and Restore class at Bloom Health and Fitness! Mama’s Flow and Restore is a class designed specifically mother’s who want it all- connection and community, a little faster paced, vinyasa style flow, but not without some restorative recharge time as well. Pretty much this is what I wish every yoga class could be.
And the icing on the cake? As I was telling my husband about the coming together of this intention he reminded me that the missing piece here is hospice work. The beauty in this lies in the fact that I am so lucky to have a partner who knows my dreams to an even fuller extent that I can hold myself. It reminds me of the celtic symbol of the triquetra, which represents the 3 stages of a woman’s life: adolescence, child-bearing, and the crone.
And, men: don’t fret! You are more than welcome in all of my gender neutral classes! Your practices make you fuller people (just like practice does for women) and help you appreciate the divine feminine in yourself and the women around you.
During a pivotal point of my son’s labor I read the following poem by Rainer Maria Rilke:
God speaks to each of us as he makes us,
then walks with us silently out of the night.
These are the words we dimly hear:
You, sent out beyond your recall,
go to the limits of your longing.
Flare up like a flame
and make big shadows I can move in.
Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.
Don’t let yourself lose me.
Nearby is the country they call life.
You will know it by its seriousness.
Give me your hand.
The golden key for me, the brilliancy of this poem lies in one line: No Feeling is final. To me, this is what labor and delivery is all about. What motherhood and parenting is all about What being a human being is all about. No feeling is final– the proverbial “hokey-pokey” if you will.
In my prenatal classes I hope to empower women to see that every moment is new, that every ache and pain and joy is fleeting. As we practice together, I encourage my students to feel it all and know that whether it is a contraction, a screaming child, or a painful latch, this too shall pass. And that this is what makes life glorious and beautiful.