I know yoga isn’t about looking good – otherwise I’d do a lot more with my hair before class other than tying it up in a messy lopsided kind of knot. But when you stick me in front of a mirror I can’t help but notice certain less than flattering fat folds that occur in twists and forward bends. It’s the reason I don’t practice in just a sports bra and honestly probably one of the worst reasons why I activate Uddiyana Bandha.
When I practice in a room perfectly devoid of mirrors I am happy as a clam and often feel like a yogini goddess as I move from one pose to the next. Fact: Many yoga poses feel much more graceful than they actually appear.
But when I practice in front of a mirror or let my ego get the better of me strange things begin to happen. Want to know the most interesting part? They’re not all bad.
What Mirrors & Ego Do To Yoga (for me).
- When I am standing in Mountain Pose and catch that first glimpse of myself in the mirror I always wonder: why is my left thigh fatter than the right. I am immediately taken out of my practice and into the land of worry and concern regarding my left thigh fat. Bad news.
- Then I wonder why that lady down the room is staring at me in the mirror? Hey lady take a picture, I know my hips aren’t square right now! Get out of here. Bad news.
- Then I see myself in Warrior Two and wonder: Hmm why am I doing a booty pop in Warrior Dos? Tuck that tale bone, Heather, tuck it in… Much better, now quit leaning forward. Shape up, shape up. Perfect – I improved the pose. Good news.
- Whoa, check out that crazy thing that gentleman just did. I wonder if I can do that. OUCH. Nope. No, not at all, I cannot do that bind. Crap. Bad news.
- I refocus on myself. About half way through class it’s basically just me and that slightly less graceful chick in the mirror who looks just like me. She starts to remind me to open my chest, square my hips and use those F-ing bandhas. She also starts to push me like no one else in the class can. Competing against myself, I argue this to be: Good news.
- My shirt flops up in handstand and there it is: my belly fat. GROSS! How upsetting. Bad news.
- Ohh my hips are doing something super weird in Pigeon, get after it; fix it up. Good news.
- Ohh check out that person’s deep twist, nice bind, buddy. I appreciate that your body does that, but mine does not. I’ll take the pose deeper in my own way. Suck in that belly button, HC! Good news.
- Savasana: So thankful to no longer be staring at that red-faced chick in the mirror. Her hair was really out of control. Good news.
- Mind wandering ensues. No news at all. Total peace and quiet.
The Break Down:
The mirror and ego are bad news: When I’m taken out of my practice or competing with others or wondering what other people are thinking. That’s so beginner’s-ville. No one cares what I’m doing in a yoga class and if I let what I think people are thinking about me tweak out my practice (or back for that matter) the joke’s on me. Yoga is a one on one sport – me vs. me and me alone. If I let what I look like in the mirror mess with my head then I’m not getting what I came to class for. And if I try to do things other people can do just to compete with them then I’m no longer in control of my practice. Everyone is built differently so no pose is the same for two people. Maybe crazy bendy guy can bind because he’s double jointed. Now I look like the yogi ass hole who’s trying to compete with a circus performer. Totally uncool.
The mirror and ego are good news: When I allow these two tools to assist me in deepening my practice. Everyone needs a little reminder that 1) no pose is ever perfect and 2) every pose is always perfect (oh hey non-dualism). Oh and 3) you can always challenge yourself safely in yoga. If I can use a mirror to check myself out in Warrior Two for alignment then it’s helping me to improve my practice and deepen the pose. And if I allow my ego to inspire me to try a pose I’ve never felt ready for in the past then it’s become and invaluable tool in taking my practice where I want it to go with it. Totally cool.
I don’t vibe with the argument that the ego is awful all of the time, but I do think it needs to be controlled. And do I love practicing in front of mirrors? Not always (and especially not after eating a veggie burger and sweet potato fries the night before). But I think a little bit of both can help you or hurt you depending on where your head’s at.