Anything is possible when walking into a yoga studio for the first time. Studios vary greatly in a multitude of areas: the yoga styles and services offered, locations, teachers, teaching experience, studio ambiance, or the kind of music played, if any at all. When all of these building blocks of a yoga studio are cared for and in place, a studio becomes a place of personal inspiration and deep community gathering.
As you find your way through the yoga world, it’s natural to follow a specific practice, studio, or teacher. Interestingly enough — whether or not you notice — you may also gravitate toward a particular place because it does, or does not, have mirrors on the wall.
A primary benefit to having mirrors in a yoga space is that it provides a visual learning tool, which can add to the auditory, demonstrative, and hands-on teaching techniques. This is extremely helpful in learning the how-to’s of yoga. Mirrors allow you to visually follow the teacher, and look into the mirror for reference and comparison. This multi-dimensional learning style allows for deeper clarity and understanding for visual learners, and classes where teachers frequently demonstrate postures.
Secondly, mirrors provide a way to check and verify your alignment. Mirrors allow you to actually see what you are doing, or not doing, rather than what you think you are doing, or not doing. This is especially helpful for newer students looking to memorize body mechanics and deepen body awareness. By seeing yourself repeat the movement in the mirror, you deepen your muscle memory and proper body mechanics and begin to feel the alignment in the body, first by seeing it reflected back to you in the mirror. You have the opportunity to see your postures in the mirrors, in real time, and put the teachings and cues into immediate practice.
Lastly, mirrors provide an opportunity to set your focus on your own eyes in the mirror, and deepen your vision of seeing your powerful selfs. You have the chance to deepen your positive conversations and relationship with yourself in the mirror, and look right into the eyes of what matters to you most. It is often said that the eyes are the mirrors to the soul. By creating a practice of looking straight into your own eyes, you are deepening your connection to self, and your ability to set your eyes on the horizon of self-realization.
One of the main disadvantages of practicing in front of mirrors is the tendency to get caught up in how you look while practicing, versus how the practice feels. Mirrors, by their very nature, encourage us to check in on our reflection, how we look, and are often used to verify that we have put ourselves together in a certain way. Often, we consider how we look in a mirror in relation to how we want others to see us, or how we think others are seeing us.
This is also true in the yoga practice space. When mirrors are present, there is a high probability that at some point, or several points, or throughout the entire practice, you will be checking to see how you look in your pose, rather than how the practice feels on the inside. This can be distracting — or even at times all-consuming — and rob you of your opportunity to “get out of your head” and more in tune with what lies within.
Additionally, the presence of mirrors may amplify feelings of insecurity or competitiveness. You might begin to focus on the external view of yourself, and how others see you, rather than work inward to access your vitality, power, and freedom. You might begin to fret about your messy bun, the sweat dripping off your face, your sweat-stained clothes, what your body can and cannot do, and how it is all being seen by everyone else who sees you in the mirror. In reality, more likely than not, they’re looking at themselves in the mirror, thinking about how everyone else, who is also looking at himself or herself in the same said mirror, is looking at them. You get the picture.
Mirrors tend to have a mesmerizing, captivating quality to them, and silently demand the primary presence and authority in a room. The mere physical presence of mirrors can thus perpetuate a disconnect from the collective yoga environment and limit the level of communal growth. If mirrors are at the front of the room, there may be a tendency to walk into the yoga room and immediately look at yourself in the mirror, rather than at the person in front of you. This might last throughout the entire class, causing you to miss opportunities to connect with someone or meet a new friend. Without mirrors, and only bodies and mats in front of you, there is a greater possibility of creating personal connections and striking up valuable conversations within your yoga community.
Three Ways to Take Advantage of Both
Yoga teaches us to show up fully for our lives, on and off the mat: to arrive and be present, to listen to ourselves, care for ourselves, do what we need to do, when we need to do it, be of service to others, stay and be with our growing edge, and be an all-around better human being. Yoga is the art of listening and a path to self-discovery and realization.
The next time you walk into a new yoga studio and find that the studio either does, or does not, have mirrors, consider the following opportunities and ways to take advantage of both:
- It is up to you to be mindful of what you create, see, speak, and focus on in any given moment. Be invincible and unaffected, with or without mirrors, and aspire to be a kind, generous, and open-minded yogi.
- Expand your growing edge. Learn to be comfortable with the uncomfortable. “Level up” your humanness and adaptability in any given situation.
- Be ready for anything, on and off the mat. Your practice is always occurring, and you never know what will be, or what is possible, the next time you step on your mat. With an open heart and willingness to learn from what is right in front of you, you may just discover something new about yourself, as well as the reflection of the world around you.
Jessica Stein, E-RYT 500, has been teaching yoga since 2005 and is the founder and director of Kauai Power Yoga, a Baptiste Affiliate yoga studio in Hawaii, established in 2014. She is the creator and lead trainer of Kauai Power Yoga School, a 200-hour registered yoga school committed to empowering bold leadership and vibrant yoga communities.