Where are your eyes?

The more I teach, the more I see it.  A new student comes into the studio ready to face the challenge of their first class, braving the 105 degree heat and 40% humidity for the first time.  They may be in the back row or if they’re feeling courageous the second row, beginning their sweaty adventure, following along with the words and watching those in front of them.  But the sure-fire way to spot a first time student in the room is not how they move through the series of postures, just the plain simple fact that they are unable to meet their eyes in the front mirror.

It’s kind of interesting in a world of Facebook, Twitter, camera phones, websites and blogs that 9 out of 10 people that take their first Bikram Yoga Class can barely look at themselves in the eyes.  You would think that we would have gotten used to looking at ourselves at this point.  But to look at ourselves with no make-up, hair pulled back, red-faced, sweaty and quite vulnerable while surrounded by others is a challenge that even the most experienced Bikram yogi struggles with at times.

To accept where we are today – what we look like, how we feel – is an incredible lesson to learn through your practice.  Acceptance does not mean apathy or feeling hopeless, but knowing that once you entered the doors of the studio you have altered the path of your health, well-being and therefore, your life.  By taking that first class (no matter how grueling it may feel at the time) you have to accept where you are today, but you already know that there is more to your tomorrows.

One of my favorite things about being a Bikram Yoga instructor is seeing that first time student avoid their eyes in the mirror and then little by little, class after class, come to fall in love with their own reflection.  To have a student that always chooses the back row, finally drag their mat to the front of the room, unapologetic for what their practice may be in that moment and taking ownership of their health, self-esteem and overall wellness is a powerful moment in the course of their yoga practice.

So next time you hit the hot room ask yourself, “Where are your eyes?” – you may realize that they are everywhere but in the mirror.  No worries – just noticing a habit in your practice is the first step to changing it.  And remember – those mirrors aren’t meant for you to spend 90 minutes telling yourself everything that’s wrong with you or what you would like to change.  Make it an opportunity to really focus on all of the many things that make up the wonderful, thrilling, positive aspects of your own personal journey.

10 thoughts on “Where are your eyes?

  1. I was thinking about this in my class today! I always start my class loathe to look at myself, critical of my flaws, seeing myself bloated and deformed (obviously I’m neither of these things, but I have bad body image). But by the end of the first breathing exercise, I’m in love with my body. It’s not as skinny or as smooth as others I see around me, but it’s mine, it’s me, and I’m pushing my breath into every corner of my body and watching it come alive. I have thought a lot about writing on this topic, on how Bikram yoga has been improving my body image. The first day I walked into the room those mirrors made me cringe and I hid beneath t-shirts, confident I would never strip down to my bra. Now, I see my body exactly as it is (only during the classes though…) and I love it and accept it as my own vehicle, to be scrutinised but only in order to adjust what is there, not to criticise. Maybe I’ll write it up one day… Thanks for this blog post!!

    • I’m so glad you liked it! The yoga has helped me a ton with my body image as well and I’m so fortunate to watch others change their mind about themselves through each class. Thanks for taking to the time to read it!

  2. Hi! I came to your site after seeing that you liked my first post on my new blog site – thanks for reading it and I’m glad you liked it! Your posts are great and I just had to comment on this one because it is the exact same thing that I am writing my second post about…from the student’s point of view though. Reading this really made me realize that I am not the only one who goes through this – focusing on myself in the mirror is hard but I am working at it. 🙂 Thanks for this post!

    • I know if I keep my eyes as still as possible through class I find my mind doesn’t wander and the 90 minutes seem easier.

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