TODAY’S RANDOM THOUGHT: Yoga, Mirrors, & Proprioception

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis morning a yoga teacher I’ve studied with posted this article on her Facebook feed. It’s by an Indian yogini who moved to the U.S., and it offers five differences between the practice of yoga in India and in America.

It occurred to me that one additional difference that’s frequently commented upon is that mirrors are ubiquitous in American yoga studios, but a rarity in Indian studios.

There are many possible explanations of this point of divergence. Among the more cynical interpretations is that when yoga spread internationally it was never explained that there are no asana (postures) whose drishti (focal point of gaze) is the reflected “bootilicious”, yoga-panted backside of other students.

The explanation one is likely to hear, however, is that a student needs mirrors to be able to see whether his or her alignment is correct. Sounds logical? Actually, it’s lazy in the same way as saying, “I wanted to know what Lord of the Flies is about, so I rented the movie.” (Read the damn book.)

Yes, looking in the mirror will give one instantaneous feedback, but it won’t help one develop the bodily awareness that’s a huge part of the value of yoga. One should be seeking to enhance one’s proprioception. That’s a fancy way of saying, “know where your parts are.” Proprioception is defined as:  “the ability to sense the position, location, orientation, and movement of the body and its parts.” The body has a built-in ability to determine where one’s various parts are in space and whether said parts are straight or crooked. One may not realize this because one may have poor proprioception… because one looks in the mirror instead of closing one’s eyes and listening to what one’s body has to say.