You Don't Need The Mirror To Practice Yoga
I’ve had a couple interesting conversations recently about the fact that we don’t have mirrors within the practice space at my yoga studio. To me it seems quite clear why we don’t have them. And yet, through my conversations I realize that we are a bit of an aberration for yoga studios in these parts.
I’m curious, do use mirrors where you practice?
I started teaching yoga over 18 years ago in health clubs in Anchorage, AK and have taught over 12,000 hours since then in other gyms and my own yoga studios. The Alaska Club taught me a lot about teaching yoga and what things really worked in the environment and what didn’t. I noticed that when I taught in rooms with mirrors many of the participants looked at themselves and others in the mirror, keeping them in their heads and outside of their bodies. I also know from personal experience and human nature that we are our own worst critics -- we tend to be harsh and judgmental toward ourselves and our bodies. So when there are mirrors in the practice space women tend to over analyze our bodies “imperfections.”
- “I can see my cellulite through my pants, ugh!”
- “My belly isn’t as flat as it used to be.”
- “I wish my triceps weren’t so floppy in Warrior 2!”
- “She can so so much further in her xyz pose than me.”
According to a male yogi friend of mine, men look at women in the mirror -- completely staying outside themselves.
Basically, what I find when there are mirrors while practicing yoga we forget that yoga is an inside job and focus far too much on the external, surface layer of yoga and life.
Do Mirrors Help with Alignment in Yoga?
Many people have said to me “Mindy, I want the mirrors so I can check my alignment.” “That is one benefit of having mirrors,” I tell them. But, what if you want to practice someplace fun like an outdoors yoga class in the park or in your hotel room while traveling? What will you do about your alignment then? Mirrors are an external crutch that make you believe you are getting better with your alignment while subtly holding you back from your innate connection to your body’s wisdom.
If we go back to one of my core beliefs that “yoga is an inside job,” then learning the postures is also an inside job. You don’t need to rely on an external mirror to feel the alignment in your body. In fact, your practice will progress much more rapidly if you are able to feel into the wisdom of your body. Stay fully present with conscious awareness as to what your body is doing as you move through each asana. Then, you can practice anywhere with confidence. Your body remembers what great alignment feels like. Trusting in your body develops a healthy relationship with your body, mind and spirit -- connecting you from the inside out.
Looking at mirrors from a different angle we see that our outer lives are a reflection of our inner self.
Mirrors keep you focused outward, which likely means that you are often looking outward to solve problems that come along. You seek solutions from other people, you work on your external physical appearance, blame situations, experiences and others for the wrongs you’ve suffered, etc. When you keep trying to solve imbalances in your life by looking outward, those problems will just keep coming back in different forms. When you look inward for the root of your imbalances/problems you begin to know yourself more fully. You see your patterns and beliefs. When you are able to look at more of you, you then realize that you have a choice -- and always have -- to keep indulging in those same patterns even when you know they aren’t good for you -or- step into a new more balanced and empowered way of living your truth.
Trust Your Teacher & Pick the Right One
All the same, if alignment is a concern, go to a qualified teacher for classes. It is the teachers job to notice student’s alignment and to keep their classes safe. If the classes you are attending don’t feel safe, with or without mirrors, because the teacher isn’t correcting alignment, it is best not to go back to that teacher. Again, it is the teachers job to teach people and help them understand the poses and their bodies better. There are so many great teachers out there! Have fun exploring them and getting to know your body with each person’s unique perspective.
Now It’s Your Turn
As yoga teachers, we need to step up our teaching game and be the leaders we know ourselves to be. Help your students stand on their own with their alignment by guiding them when they need it. It can feel awkward, especially if you are a new teacher, to go correct a students alignment. But that is your job! You know your stuff! If you teach in a studio with mirrors, have fun and flip your classroom around. Take the mirrors out of the equation!
See you on the inside,