My first yoga class during grad school was in a typical gym workout room with a mirrored wall. The teacher always set up her mat at the front while all of ours faced her and the mirror. I hated the mirror. I didn’t like to see my awkward non-balancing body staring back at me, so I always avoided setting up in the first row. The reflection of the rest of the room meant I couldn’t find a single drishti point to focus on. Instead, I was looking at what other people were doing. Like the girl next to me who wobbled or the guy on the far left who was shaking. I needed at least a 1 row buffer between me and the mirror.
After I graduated, I started practicing at a local studio in town. No mirrors. I did a beginning ashtanga series, where we focused more on what alignment was supposed to feel like. We broke down every posture this way. Instead of a mirror to tell me if my arms were lined up, I needed to feel the alignment in my muscles. It forced me to look inward and get to know my body instead of looking at it externally. Thankfully, I also had a wonderful teacher who could explain anatomy and physics in an easy manner.
Most of the studios I frequent are mirror-less, and I am thankful for that. I have fewer distractions this way. But every now and then, I am faced with a mirror, and it jars me. I start staring at my body and think about whether I’m engaging mula bandha enough or if my arms are supposed to be this high or if I’m bending my knee far enough. I stopped finding my edge based on what I felt rather than what I saw.
When I ramped up my home practice, those were maybe the only times I wished I had a mirrored wall. My home practice is where I work on certain postures with more consideration, time and depth than a class usually allows. Instead, I use the reflection in the fireplace glass doors to see if I’m getting closer to the full expression. Most of the time though, I really don’t know what I look like when I practice yoga. I am no model!
Are mirrors helpful or distracting in your practice?