Are you one of those people that avoids mirrors, tossing your gaze in another direction as you quickly shuffle past your own reflection? I know the feeling well, because that was me too, before I found yoga. Yoga set me on the long, winding, and rewarding road to self-love and self-care. What an amazing outcome, when at first I only thought I was showing up to stretch and do a little light workout.
The lucky thing about starting my yoga practice in a typical large-chain gym was that, with its sprawling studio space, I could firmly plant myself in the back row, as far away as possible from the dreaded mirror.
The poses challenged me to stretch and twist my body into unfamiliar shapes, but that was the least of my trials. I could easily understand the directions about how to get into each pose. What really puzzled me were instructions like “listen to your body,” or being told that “less is more,” or “breathing is more important than posing.” Over and over again, I’d hear the gentle refrain of “This is your practice,” while I was still looking at the other yogis around me, comparing my practice to theirs.
After a few months, yoga had me sufficiently enthralled to commit myself to a dedicated yoga studio where I could deepen my practice. When I showed up for my first class, I quickly realized the small studio left me no place to hide from the mirrors. By the time I had filled out the required paperwork, I was the last yogi to enter the room–and of course, the only open space left was right beside the instructor, the front of my mat just inches from the wall and front mirror.
There was no avoiding myself that day in class, no hiding behind other yogis to escape my reflection. I would have just closed my eyes, but that would have made the already difficult balancing poses nearly impossible.
Little by little, week by week, yoga slowly pulled me into its deliciously warm embrace. Practicing yoga was so very different than my familiar methods of marathon training–there was nobody to beat, no score to keep, no hills to climb. Yoga required nothing more than simply and faithfully showing up on my mat each week. Sure, I loved the sweat of a hot yoga class and the trembling of my muscles letting me know I’d worked them hard, but the most rewarding part of each class was always Savasana.
Savasana happens in the last few minutes of class. You lie quietly on your back, relaxing every muscle, letting go of every thought, and getting grounded as you return to your original intention for your practice. During these few decadent and precious minutes of absorbing the energy we had created, the teachers would whisper little words of wisdom that landed straight in our hearts. The words were sometimes affirmations, often repeating mantras, and always ripe with inspiration and encouragement. It was rich, radiant food for my soul.
Calmness filled my days instead of chaos.
I had more room for gratitude and less for grumblings.
This gradual, yet monumental, shift in my mindset made me a better yogi than when I started. I can now do challenging poses, like crow or a headstand, but I find my deepest pride in all that my heart has accomplished and how profoundly my soul has grown over the last few years. Now, I embrace my practice and listen for subtle cues from my body as it tells me what it’s willing to give on a particular day. I recognize the importance of correct form, even if it means achieving a less intense stretch, and I realize that breathing through each pose is more crucial than how deeply I move into it.
So now, when I get to class, I like grabbing that spot right in front of the mirror. Instead of avoiding my reflection, I can now gaze upon myself as my heart swells with gratitude for all the wondrous and amazing things I can challenge my body to do each day. I find such profound delight in the sight of my arms extended above my head in victory, or watching my body gracefully move through a vinyasa series. I appreciate the sight of my legs as they hold me strong and steady in Warrior One, or simply enjoy the radiance I see glowing on my own face.
Through yoga, I have grown Soul Beautiful, and now I also See Beautiful in the mirror.
|Amanda is the Spiritual Gardener at Grow Soul Beautiful, a yoga, photography, and soul nourishment blog that’s passionate about helping women to embrace their beauty inside and out. Yoga connects the mind and body, and photography is a creative tool for self-love and sharing our stories. Amanda blends these two passions, and mixes in introductions to some of the most soul-nurturing coaches, blogs, e-courses, and workshops around to encourage readers to spend as much time and energy working on their soul as they do their sit-ups. Read the Grow Soul Beautiful manifesto, follow them on twitter @GrowSoulBeauty, or the Facebook page.|