In yoga, we practice in front of mirrors.
Not every studio is like this; in fact, I think on the whole, most are not.
So, almost every day and often first thing in the morning, I am eye to eye with myself in front of floor to ceiling mirrors.
And, because my mat is placed closely by, it is a pretty close up view.
I see myself, then, like this, head to toe, in a little outfit, hair back, and many times with not much make up.
Basically, arriving at the yoga studio is like coming out of hiding. I am there on my mat with no armor, so to speak.
Seeing myself up close and personal on such a regular basis has been enlightening. It has made me see a clearer picture of myself, in general.
I have never considered myself vain, and after I am dressed and ready to go in the morning, I rarely check the mirror again during the day. I have never been the type to primp throughout the day.
In essence, I do not really look to see myself on a regular basis, but yoga is forcing me to do so!
For much of the practice, I am pretty oblivious of my reflection. In fact, at one point, there was a photo shoot in the studio, and the instructor gave me some photos. It was a kick to see myself doing yoga, and I realized that even though I practice in front of the mirrors, I never really see myself.
In many poses, we have to find our Dristi, or focal point, to help us balance. This happens in Eagle and Dancer and Chair.
Look at a stare point, the instructor says. It can be your eyes or a point on the floor in front of you.
Being in the front, I am forced to look at my own eyes, and I am surprised to find it is a little disconcerting.
I balance and my gaze flits. I look from the reflection of my eyes to that of the back windows. I look to the mirror at whatever is over my shoulder. And I glance once more at my own eyes before looking aside again.
Why is this so weird for me?
I always thought I knew myself so well, but I think the discomfort in seeing myself eye to eye tells me I might not really be as familiar as I think I am.
I cannot seem to pass my own the stare test.
If I were to be honest, I would say looking into my own eyes presents a challenge to really, really see myself. And, if it was easier to do, I would probably have an easier time letting others really see me, too.
Everyone loves you, Mom, says my daughter, repeatedly. She tells me I should see myself how others see me.
But, I know experiences can skew one’s views, and I think this is what happened to me.
Yoga has made me stronger. It has given me muscles, for sure; but, it has also given me the courage to see what broke so long ago. I had not really looked in years.
It has been difficult to look at my eyes in the mirror because when confronted with myself, I see those pieces, and I am critical.
Yoga is teaching me to have compassion for myself and to build my strength from there.
At the end of each practice, we hold our hands in prayer in a seated position, and we bow our heads and thank the teacher within.
I do so with gratitude because, through yoga, I am healing with some long overdue self love.