If you've ever been to a class at The Yoga Room, you most likely noticed that we don't have mirrors on the walls. Some studios do, some studios don't. It a philosophical choice. We made a conscious decision not to have mirrors. One time we received a sort of negative review on Yelp from a woman who had a "real issue with there being no mirrors whatsoever in the studio." Her complaint was that she was accustomed to looking at herself in the mirrors at the gym so that she could check if her form was correct while lifting weights or taking a group fitness class.
I can understand that. Weight lifting is an individual endeavor. Unless you have a personal trainer, there's no one to tell you if your form is correct or not. And in a group fitness class, there's typically one instructor for 20-30 or more participants. It's not likely the instructor will be able to help each participant with their form and alignment.
That's why we intentionally keep our classes small. Usually we have not more than 12 students in a class. There are rare exceptions, but for the most part the classes are small enough that the teacher can keep an eye on everyone and help each person individually as necessary.
Our other concern about mirrors is that watching oneself in a mirror during yoga practice creates a visual distraction and an opportunity for competitiveness and self-criticism. And yoga is not about competitive and self-criticism. Yoga is about building a connection between your mind, body, and spirit. It's about having love for yourself and others. It's about finding your peace.
Mirrors can introduce doubts in your mind about whether you're doing the practice "correctly" or if the person on the next mat is "correct." And mirrors can introduce self-judgment about your abilities compared to the other people in the class.
Yoga is a practice that you should feel rather than think your way through. When there's a mirror in front of you, there exists the risk of having to see and think. When there's not a mirror in front of you, your only option is to feel.
At first it may seem awkward not being able to see if your alignment is correct, but your teacher is available as a "mirror" to guide you, and with practice your body awareness will improve and even with your eyes closed you'll know when you're in your own best version of a posture.
Plus, the big benefits in yoga come when you can get out of our mind and into your body. If you'd like to read more about that, please check out my last blog post, Are You In Your Head or In Your Body?
And you know what? Yoga's not about being perfect. There's a cliche that says "Yoga is a Practice, not a Perfect." As much as I dislike cliches, this one is right on. Maintaining your peace is more important than striving for a "perfect" pose that may not suit your body, or a "perfect" anything for that matter.
This is my take on mirrors in yoga studios, but I'm always open to others' ideas and perspectives. I'd love to know what has been your experience. Have you ever practiced yoga in a studio or fitness center that has mirrors? Did you prefer being able to see and adjust your alignment, or did it make you uncomfortable having to watch yourself practice? What did you learn from practicing with mirrors? What have you learned from practicing without? Please help get the conversation started by posting your thoughts in the Comments section below.
Lots of love, my sweet friend.
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