Tuesday, March 8, 2011

I Bet You Think This Song Is About You

Bet you folks thought I'd lost the grip, eh? Thankfully, it's been tight and right on the practice front, and as for the blogging front, well, I'm baa-aaack! With a toxic employment situation now behind me (square one, here I come!), it's back to the business of blogging BIKRAM.

Several factors distinguish Bikram Yoga from other styles: the heat, the dialogue, the sweet smell of success. One factor I hadn't given much thought to, until recently, is the mirrored wall. I sort of overlooked this feature as a given in yoga--how else am I supposed to align myself? But it turns out that the mirrors aren't universal. Some styles rely instead on the initial adjustments of the teacher to accomplish the alignment objective.

Some oppose the mirrors as part of a larger criticism of Bikram's culture of vanity, and perhaps they have a point. I've certainly been guilty of self-pity and of surveying the room with the mirror's help. Hey, I wouldn't kick a room full of Bikram yogis out of bed. But the mirror is an alignment tool--a pretty good one if you ask me, especially for beginners. One of the goals of yoga is to strengthen the mind-body connection--in some cases build it up from practically nothing--and the mirror provides a powerful visual aid.

As beginners, we set up at the back of the room behind the veterans who provide guidance when we're unsure of something in the dialogue, eventually bringing the focus back to ourselves. That's the idea, right? Yoga's the oldest self-help book on the shelf! The challenge then becomes ignoring our critical mind. One of my teachers frequently starts class with: "Use the mirrors not to judge yourself or those around you, only to fix the natural alignment of the postures." A lovely turn of phrase, no? But so difficult to accomplish with a senior teacher to your immediate left. Look at her! She's locked out in standing bow! Wow! When will I lock out in standing bow? Will I ever look good in those tiny shorts?! Time out. Breathe. Eyes on yourself. And so it goes.  

The mirror's also good for confronting yourself and your choices. Maybe you had a few too many last night. Maybe your couple spoons of ice cream turned into a pint. Maybe you said something shitty to your friend or mate. Well, now you've got 90 minutes to deal with it in the mirror. Sometimes keeping your gaze is the greatest challenge, but also wholly illuminating and, therefore, satisfying.

So, yes, we wear tiny outfits, suck in our gut, and check ourselves out in the reflective surface. We ARE so vain. But we're also trying to fix ourselves, and isn't it easier to fix something you can see?

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