Looking in the mirror is always a crapshoot, isn’t it? Some days you can do it and feel pretty good. Other days you do it with no noticeable reaction. And then there are the days when you look in the mirror and think “Oh my heck, what happened to me?” Depending on who you are, the proportions of one to another experience can change pretty dramatically. But, there is another way to look at yourself, and that’s from the inside out.
I’m not talking about who you are emotionally or socially, though that is important too. I’m talking about your body awareness and the image of body that you carry around in your head. Now, I would guess that for most of us this is not a static thing. There are times when we think about our bodies from the inside and the image we get is bad – very bad. But, there are other times when it’s not. When you are very happy and enjoying yourself, if you try to picture your face, isn’t it a nice face? Isn’t it a lovely face – with no bad judgments about wrinkles or bags or age spots? And for the rest of the body the same is true. There is probably some thing, some time, that produces for you the internal image of a beautiful body. Perhaps it’s when you are running. Maybe it’s during meditation. It could be when you are pushing a child on a swing. Maybe it’s when you are performing on stage or even during sex. Whatever it is, at that moment, you see your body from the inside and it’s beautiful.
For me, not too surprisingly, this most often happens during yoga. At some point during many yoga practices, my body suddenly “looks” graceful, fluid, long, and lean. I don’t see saggy arm backs, or belly wrinkles, broken capillaries, or a slouchy back. Recently, I was trying to check how I was doing a pose and what I needed to adjust to get my shoulders/hips in the right position, so I did some yoga in front of a mirror. And, I was shocked and not so happy. During poses where my internal image was of a beautiful flat back, I was still slumped over. During the forward bend split, where my leg felt like it was beautifully extended high into the air, it was barely above my hips. It was not a pleasant surprise.
So, here is my plan. I’m not doing yoga in front of a mirror any more. I have good instructors who don’t hesitate to give me tips about what I can adjust and how, so I will trust them to do that when they think it’s right. Otherwise, I’m just going to go with what my internal image says. Because it doesn’t matter. Maybe I’ll consider this issue more when I make my decision about pursuing certification (because I don’t want to create a whole new generation of yoginis with bad posture) but for my own practice, what I see on the inside is good enough, and those moments when my body is a beautiful thing to me are rare enough. Why let them go for the sake of a more “realistic” view?