07 June 2014

The Mirror

"Don't get upset with the mirror. 
Change the reflection."
-- Unknown

It is a sentinel, ever watchful, tirelessly waiting.

It is a window into your mind -- and your soul.

It can be as warm, open, and seductive as any lover.

It can be cold, harsh, and unforgiving as the Arctic.

You see it every time you walk into a Bikram studio, and it "sees" you.

It's the mirror.

The mirror is omnipresent. When you enter the chamber, the mirror is always in front of you. It is always to one side of you; in some studios it is to both sides. While you unroll your mat, spread out your towel just so, and stretch before class, you may not pay the mirror much mind at all. Your too busy trying to acclimate, to calm your breathing, to clear your mind. 

The mirror stands silently.

Will it be welcoming, accepting, and benevolent?

Will it tear you apart and leave you in pieces? 

Will it be a stern but loving taskmaster, or will it be a ruthless czar torturing you until you give in -- or give up. 

That depends on one person. 


Everyone has a... dynamic relationship with the mirror. For myself, it is difficult to look at myself for an entire class without a bit of disapproval... and some self-loathing. More often than I care to admit, I look away and focus on the floor, or my feet, or the piping on the ceiling... anywhere except on my own eyes. 

Here is a normal class for me. I start out OK in Pranayama and Half-Moon... I can look into my own eyes or focus on the "third eye" on my forehead. In Awkward, still not too bad... even though I have difficulty with the second part (I have so much trouble just standing on my toes). Eagle Pose is where the "fun" begins. Even if I can get my foot behind my calf, my reflection still presents that big blob around my midsection that reveals just how poorly my abs look. From there on our relationship goes downhill. In Standing Head to Knee, I dare not look up from the floor or I will lose my balance, even though the dialogue clearly asks to focus on your locked out knee in the mirror. Even in Standing Bow, I tend to look at the tip of my extended arm rather than at my visage. Usually it gets worse from there, as I look down after each successive posture, especially if I'm having a lot of difficulty that particular day. For the floor series, I tend to avoid the mirror altogether until final breathing. 

What am I thinking when I look upon my reflection? Well, on a bad day:

"When are you finally going to do something about that damned gut?"

"By the way. a push-up or two might help those pecs..."

"That breakfast at McDonalds really wasn't the best idea..."

"I don't care how fucking long you practice, you will NEVER do Triangle correctly, you idiot!"

On a good day, well, I still think a lot of the same things. The difference is that I try to be mindful of why I'm there. I remember how fortunate I am to have this chance to heal my body, mind and spirit. I think about how special it is to practice with a wonderful group of people from all walks of life, all working together to improve themselves and, in turn, the world. I remember that despite the sweat, pain, and sometimes the heartache that I face in that room, that blasted oven is the best place in the world!!!

One last thing. A blogging friend recently asked me for a tip to improve one's practice. My answer: 

"Thank yourself. Making time to take care of yourself takes courage."

Do me a favor. At the end of your next class, before you fall into that blissful final Savasana, look into your own eyes and thank yourself. Don't just think the words. Whisper it to yourself. Let the words slip into the ether, a tiny piece of positive energy you are giving back to the universe. Imagine how much the world could improve if everyone gave just a little bit back....



  1. Mark, I love this piece! It is a love hate relationship with the mirror!

  2. Thank You Lindsay!! Absolutely true.

  3. Love this Mark! The mirror is something that we all struggle with in one way or another. I can relate completely. The challenge is to be stronger than the mirror, the reflection. Great post

  4. Lisa: So great to hear from you again!! I have to work on that every class. Be well and I can't wait to read your latest!