A yoga practice is as unique as the person practicing it. We all have different preferences, ways of learning, perspectives, and ways of connecting to our internal selves. A while ago, one of my students asked me why some yoga studios have mirrors and others don't. While the simple answer is that some studios believe mirrors are distracting and others do not, there has been much debate on whether practicing with mirrors is beneficial at all for a deeply mindful and powerful yoga experience.
While, I equally enjoy both mirrored and unmirrored classes, today I would like to explain why having mirrors is actually a blessing in disguise.
Yoga is Practiced Within
Yoga in its essence is a deeply mindful inside-out practice; separating the self from the ego and training the "monkey mind" eventually leading you to the point of enlightenment and oneness. For those who are new to yoga or are learning new asanas, mirrors give great feedback to check if your alignment is safe and correct. Particularly if you're a visual learner, mirrors will show you how a pose looks in your body, give you an idea of what adjustments can be made and what heights your postures can achieve with more practice.
But as the practice deepens, some may find that mirrors become more distracting than useful. In a mirrored class, students can tend to focus more on how they look and how they compare to other students rather than how they feel. Insecurities and self-judgement often emerge in these situations, or he/she could veer on the opposite end of the spectrum and enjoy their reflection a little too much. These kinds of engagements with the ego is one of the reasons why some yogis discourage practicing with a mirror. However, I think this engagement links back to the very practice of yoga, because it's the emotional ups and downs and facing your flaws that are all a part of the yogic experience.
There is Always a Mirror
The beauty and challenge of yoga is that it will shine light on the darkest parts of yourself. Whether it's the judgement, even verbal abuse you hear in your head for not being flexible or strong enough to hold a pose, the competitiveness you may feel with other students, or the dark memories that overcome you in the middle of practice. Regardless of whether or not you see your reflection on the studio wall, your mat IS the real mirror in the room. A physical mirror is just another tool showing you what you need to work on, both physically and mentally. While mirrors do have a strong role in feeding and damaging one's ego, it can also be used to look within and understand yourself.
If you have a strong preference for unmirrored classes, I encourage you to incorporate some mirrored classes into your regimen with the initial intention of experimentation and awareness. After class, sit and reflect on why mirrored classes may be a challenge for you. What does it bring up for you? How does it distract from your practice? In what ways do you feel hurt? More likely than not, it will bring forth areas where you many need to give yourself a little more love, kindness, and attention. From here, when you return to another mirrored class, take what you've discovered and set the intention of addressing those things a little at a time. You might be amazed at what you'll discover and where it can take you.
What are your thoughts? At the beginning of my practice, I would often get disappointed if the studio operated without a mirror, but as my practice deepened and grew, I've come to love it and encourage a mixture of practicing with and without mirrors to really refine and improve your personal practice. So, what do you prefer? Share with us your experience and thoughts!
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