Let’s face it. What we do is not easy. We love our practice so much we are willing to walk into a screaming hot room, in very little clothes, to stand under bright lights, staring at ourselves in the reflection of the mirrors in front and to the side of us, and be told what to do by a bossy, but compassionate teacher for a large chunk of our day. For the Bikram yogi that is devoted to this practice this is part of your day similar to the way taking a shower or brushing your teeth is part of the day to most other people we come in contact with. It’s part of our routine. You come in, give what you have, and then go about your day. It’s business as usual.
But one thing that isn’t talked about too much is what you are actually telling yourself during the class. Sure, you go through the motions, or work to explore a new part of a posture, but what is that mind thinking about?
So often within my own practice, I have caught that monkey mind of mine telling me some pretty awful things. First, my mind chattered about how silly I looked in these short shorts and sports bra and how much better my thighs and my tummy would look if I could cover them up. Then, it whispered about the injuries that I had accrued long before I found the hot room and how, though some of these postures were fine for some people, they weren’t for me and it was never going to happen. Somedays my mind would yell at me, that there was no point to any of this and that I was wasting my time.
This was at the beginning of my practice, years and years ago now. And as I take the podium day after day to teach, I notice how the students react to their own reflection in the mirrors. It varies from person to person, but you can kind of tell where they are on the road to loving and accepting themselves (which is my favorite benefit of the practice) by how they use or don’t use the mirrors in front of them. Talking with teachers and students over the past week about where they look when they practice I received a variety of answers, but found that most them are covered in one of the scenarios below.
You don’t look at yourself. This usually is the student that has only practiced for a few months or maybe a year. It’s normal to avoid looking in the mirror or even hating what you see when you first start. It’s a beginning and you should honor that. This will change as you become more interested in working on a posture than on tearing yourself apart.
You avoid your eyes at all costs. You look at your feet, you look at your hips, you look at your shoulders, you look at the ceiling, you look at your neighbor. You close your eyes for part or all of class. You set your mat up in the back row even though you are nearsighted so that you are only a blur in front of you. You are starting to look though, and that is the first step forward to being at least comfortable with using the mirrors.
You concentrate on your most hated part of your body. You concentrate on only the body part you wish would change and kind of curse it through the whole class. I used to be like that about my thighs, someone else told me it was there stomach. This will evolve and change too. You can’t keep up this practice for long and not start to feel proud of your accomplishments in the hot room, maybe leaving all of that disdain for some part of you behind.
You concentrate on everything but the most hated part of your body. This is where it starts to turn around. You are starting to see everything that is working for you. You are appreciating the muscle tone you have gained, the self-confidence you feel in and outside of the studio, and are starting to see the whole picture.
You use the mirror as a tool. You no longer hate any part of your body. Your stomach is cool and your thighs are strong. Now you are using the mirror to create precision within your practice. You are a technician and are watching for even the smallest nuances of each posture. You are teaching the body in front of you, much like a teacher teaches the bodies in front of them when taking the podium.
You focus on your eyes and mainly feel the postures. This is usually a seasoned practitioner that has been at this for years, if not decades. The series of 26 & 2 is truly a meditation for you. At times, you glance at certain parts of the body to check in, but mainly you are noticing your Self in front of you, seeing You with love and compassion. You feel your hip pushing forward or your toes flexing back. You no longer have to look at it to make it happen. Maybe this happens for you some days and not others. Be patient. It will come. One day we all will gaze at ourselves during our practice and have nothing but gratitude for this space in our lives and the people we get to share it with.
Do any of these scenarios sound like you VFTP Readers? What do you look at during your practice? Comment below or on the Views from the Podium Facebook Page…
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