Seeing yourself in the mirror and on the mat for the first time can be a moment to remember…or forget. By Victoria Jackson
I’m not usually one for practicing in front of a mirror. I try to cultivate an inner sense of where I need to be in each asana, feeling where my feet are in relation to my knees and hips, finding some place of ease for my shoulders by trying different hand positions, and so on. Compared to working with these subtle sensations, the mirror seems something of a cheating short-cut, a soft option. But unusually I found myself recently in a hot yoga studio where the walls were covered with mirrors and seeing my reflection was inescapable.
Once I’d got over the shock of seeing myself in small shorts and with a very red face, I decided to go with it and see how having a mirror might inform my practice. I don’t mean checking out if I looked amazing (I didn’t, ever, of course), but I wondered how it might help me observe my alignment.
Having a mirror quickly allowed me to spot some unevennesses and begin to learn to self-adjust. For example, I usually use my hands to feel where my hips are when I come into Vrksasana (Tree Pose) and I try to align myself well by how it feels in my body. Now having the mirror made it easier to be sure my hips were even, simply by looking straight ahead.
In fact, I found the mirror so informative that I changed my usual spot for home practice and set up my mat in front of the mirrored wardrobe doors. I have had some fun assessing my practice. I’ve already stopped trying to go so far in Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana (Extended Hand to Big Toe Pose) because I can see how pulled out of alignment I am. Softly, softly in this one now – I look in danger of a shoulder dislocation! Similarly Trikonasana (Triangle) has always been a tricky pose for me and the mirror is helping me find a more comfortable shape and start to re-programme my habitual way of moving into this pose.
But the mirror’s already showing its limitations and driving me a bit mad with the asanas that don’t reveal themselves so easily. The hilarious thing is that in contorting myself before the mirror trying to check what my lower back might be doing just out of sight, I’ve gone and pulled something in my neck! Ouch!
So I’m back to where I started: tuning in, often with my eyes closed, trying to feel my way in every moment. I’ll come back to the mirror another day.
Victoria Jackson will forever be a beginner yogini