As I forced air through my nostrils, sounding like Darth Vader, I stared a hole through my forearms. Sweating… shaking… I pushed myself into a deeper version of Eagle and my body gently reminded me that I was alive. I try to use yoga as a time to erase my mind, create a blank slate, forget about the outside world… but for some reason, on Sunday, in-between inhalations of heavy steam, I found myself envisioning the awkwardness of the movement. Wondering how I actually looked in each pose…
The teacher boomed into my thoughts… “Feel the pose. Embrace it. Do with it what feels right to your body. Now Twiiiistt!”
I broke my trance-like stare for a moment and peeked around the room. We all had slightly differing versions of Eagle: some toes were neatly tucked behind calves, other feet were bent slightly, only half-propped over knees… Coming back to my breath, I absorbed the power from the room moving in unison and fell into my Vinyasa. But my mind continued to buzz with the idea of what a yoga studio would be like with mirrors… It’d be weird staring at myself. I assume that in some way, I’d begin to analyze and critique each fold… in fact, I was already evaluating my self-believed ungracefulness… and just the thought of what I’d look like in a mirror was already allowing judgment to creep in rather than forcing me to live in the moment, look inward, trust, breath… embrace my body as it is.
Wringing my innards into twisted triangle… it occurred to me that there aren’t mirrors at Crossfit either. Bringing into question, what is the function of mirrors in a gym anyways? One would say that they allow you to visually check form… but from my own personal experiences, they also encourage judgment, enforce stereotypes and even sometimes build insecurities. One might say that it seems counter-intuitive to have a gym without mirrors… but I’d argue that without them, we learn how the motions feel, how our body moves… We might grunt. But we don’t stare at ourselves. We don’t inspect or criticize. Instead, we trust our coaches and buddies to help press us into the precise positions. We engage…we connect… We are forced to develop the ability to feel how to do the movement correctly. And we adjust it slightly for each person based on their own body capacity. By removing the mirrors we also become blind to body image… we remove personal profiling. Mirrors don’t measure success. Mirrors don’t lift the weight. Mirrors don’t teach how to flip into wheel. Mirrors build boundaries; they push us into categories, when in-fact, size doesn’t influence ability and looks don’t impact ones willingness to test limits.
Over the holidays, I’d hoped to share a pre/post comparison of my body since this adventure began, but as I started rummaging through the pictures and putting them side-by-side, I realized that the mirrored images of me in a sports bra and shorts don’t do the transformation justice. They don’t show the way my clothes fit or how powerful I feel. They don’t depict the amount of energy I have or how restfully I sleep. Mirrors can’t tell you how far I ran, or how much I can squat. Mirrors might point out the flaws in my crow, but they don’t explain that a year ago, I couldn’t do one at all. Sure I physically look different… but I think that my friends and family also see a bigger change, one that comes from the self-awareness shift that’s happened. Simply stated: Mirrors just don’t have any ability to reflect the way that I now see my own reflection.
As I jumped in the jeep jeep after my practice, I glanced in the rear view mirror. There I was, just as I expected… crazy hair sprouting out of my headband, mascara in black blots under my eyes and running in streaks down my cheeks. The reflection held a million miles worth of things to judge… and Sarah version 1.0 might have. But in all honesty, these days, I think I look pretty sexy just as I am… sweaty as hell in mismatched workout gear…the version of me that I’m most proud of. Success is measured by benchmark accomplishments, rather than the ‘look of me’, it’s something much more than surface deep. In fact, I’ve begun to see fitness as something much simpler. Forget looks. Forget weight. Eat well. Do work. Get strong. Build from within.
I’ve gotten faster. I can lift more than I weigh. I bend deeper and twist further. I trust myself. I’ve improved. I truly believe that I am awesome. No mirror tells me any of that.