Every Sunday evening I teach an all-levels Kripalu Yoga class. Students gather and set up their space with mat/props. I welcome each person. Kripalu Yoga practice offers a restorative way to conclude a busy week. The energy is calm and soft.
There isn’t too much I’d change about the studio. I love working with the owner, staff, and students. Yet, a large expansive mirror covers an entire wall and I very much prefer to teach in a mirror-free space. While I see the benefit of practicing certain poses with a mirror, I do what I can to orient the class away from it at key points.
In my experience, yoga is about self-inquiry, inner reflection, supportive community, and connecting the tangible self to the intangible mystery. In our body-centered culture, it’s easy to forget this and have the mind drift into all sorts of judgments (either praise or blame) about the reflection of physical forms found in a mirror. So often people spend their entire yoga practice, minus supine floor poses, watching their bodies move. As a yoga teacher who hopes to guide her students into deeper meditative spaces, this concerns me.
The commodification of yoga via media images of predominately white, young, thin, and flexible women also concerns me. So, I do what I can to keep the spirit of yogic inquiry and integrity alive for people of all races, sizes, and ages.
We begin in a circle. We touch base as a group and speak aloud our intentions for practice. Students see each other in community. They take a break from sitting alone on their mats to listen and share face to face. We don’t start practice staring at ourselves in the mirror. We look at each other. We speak aloud our intentions for the evening. We become each other’s mirrors.
Tonight I took the mirror metaphor even deeper. After working thoughtfully with the practice of headstand, students practiced tree pose in pairs. Rather than looking at the mirror to find a focal point of concentration to aid balance, students looked at each other in the eyes. Suddenly, the eyes of another yoga practitioner offered steady, friendly, and at times playful grounding. Each person stood on her or his own mat and, with a steady gaze, mirrored tree pose with another. We stopped midway to bring hands together in front of the heart, close eyes, and center.
“What is it like to breath, feel, and practice while connecting to another human being in a safe and supportive way? How can you bring your awareness to your breath as you enter into relationship with others? This is yoga off the mat. We mirror each other.”
Yes, we mirror each other all the time.
May our practice enable us to mirror gentleness, acceptance, and peace.
In her articles and personal blog posts, Amy reflects upon birth, death, motherhood, ethics, and religion/spirituality. She is a regular contributor to PhillyVoice and has blogged for Attachment Parenting International, The Birthing Site, Philly.com, and Holistic Parenting Magazine.
Author and educator Peggy O'Mara observes: "With her triple identity as yoga teacher, doula, and chaplain, Amy Wright Glenn brings a one-of-a-kind tenderness and empathy to her writing and she's not afraid to talk about the difficult parts of life."