I strongly dislike mirrors.
This is probably because I grew up in ballet, staring at my imperfect reflection and spotting my own face in pirrouettes for hours every day. When I’m practicing yoga, I want to be in my body rather than experiencing it from the outside. I’d rather feel Warrior II than try to make the shape of Warrior II in the mirror. To me, yoga is less about making your body contort into a certain pose and more about making the pose work for you.
Not everyone shares my distaste for mirrors. While home for a wedding last week, I took a class at the beautiful Metta Yoga in Phoenix. I spent the first half of class like the kid who doesn’t want to be called on, avoiding eye contact (with myself) so that maybe I wouldn’t be noticed.
You can’t avoid eye contact forever though, and eventually I started to pay attention to my postures in reflection. Right hip, too high. Left ankle unsupported. Ribs in, ribs in, RIBS IN. Eagle is more balanced than I expected. Chair looks deeper than it feels. Sometimes my body still surprises me.
But not everything is obvious in the mirror. Just because my pose looks like the poster doesn’t mean it maintains the same integrity; I can be in a super-looking Parsvakonasana that hurts my hip like hell. A mirror can never tell me what I really need to know in a three-dimensional way. And there is so much I could never, ever see in reflection.
These are the things I think about in Phoenix – mirror images. My darling nephew has my sister’s eyes, and my sister has our mother’s eyes. Like when you face one mirror towards another and it just goes on forever.
I don’t really look like my mom, as evidenced above. I have her shape, and the same straight hair, but mostly I resemble my dad (this is also not to say that I don’t love my father dearly, too, but that post is for another day).
Instead, I inherited my mother’s love for books and fresh flowers, her love of chocolate and berries and citrus and baking. I hold babies in the same sure way, and I swear (loudly) when I get lost while driving. When I read storybooks aloud, I hear my mother’s voice, as she read them to me; I have inherited my mother’s intonation.
If I am ever so lucky though, I have inherited her goodness. If I am lucky, I have absorbed her compassion, her insistence on doing the right thing – without expectation and certainly without a need for acknowledgement (my mother likes to care for people in secret, so they don’t know who to thank).
I hope, I hope, I hope I grow to become just like my mother. I hope I remember to make chocolate chip cookies after every audition – so that there is a celebration for a job well done or a good try, either way. I hope I remember to buy a ticket to every show (not just the opening night) and sit through every single performance like I’m seeing it for the first time. When I am my mother, I hope I remember to take care of my children but also myself; I hope I remember what a beautiful example that sets. I hope I remember to let my children fail sometimes, but to celebrate their failure with pure maternal optimism.
When I am my mother, I hope I remember to enjoy all of the best little things – wine on the patio, fresh flowers, and a good hike in the mountains. I hope I remember that my partner is my ally. I hope I remember that when I bear the brunt of my daughters’ bad days, it’s not because they love me any less but because they trust in my love completely.
If I am the absolute luckiest, I will reflect my mother’s love. I will love my children in the same way my mother loves me -
fiercely, surely, confidently, and completely.
If I am lucky, I will always see my mother in my mirror.
yogini and the city
PS In New York, I am lucky to teach both children and their parents. Sometimes I’ll see a mother in class and remark that she makes the same faces as her daughter. I am lucky to see these mirrors. I am luckier to have the opportunity to see some of them together, next weekend, in our Mother and Daughter workshop. Join us if you can!