I have been so blessed and grateful for the opportunity to be the lead instructor for a 200 hours yoga teacher training and to create Choose2be yoga school. It has been amazing to spend 8 weekends with these 12 beautiful beings, like Hilary, and also incredible to have 15 different instructors to come lead part of the training. It was alreadyIt has been a really rich and amazing journey in so many different ways. This Spring 2019 YTT was the second YTT that Choose2be had offered and had already improved so much from Spring 2018 YTT. Stay tune to see the headline and details from Spring 2020 YTT.
Part of the participants homework was to write an essay on the topic of their choice and they were aware that I would be posting it on my website. We also did an exercise in the first weekend to create a life affirmation and core desire feeling, I invited them to share it with us. I am so humbled and touched that I got to support these amazing beings on part of their journey and I am looking forward to witness how life unfolds for them.
To mirror or not to mirror: evoking the mind/muscle connection in yoga. Op-ed By Hilary Simpson
Yoga is a practice of turning in. So, why do studios have walls of mirrors showing us the external version of ourselves? Conversely, what about when there are no mirrors and we can’t seem to feel comfortable in our alignment? Where then do we turn for reference? Perhaps the reference is within us. It just takes practice and trust in your body.
Mind muscle connection is the scientifically backed theory that we are to engage specific muscles with our mind as well as through targeting exercise, in order to reap the maximum benefit of the exercise performed. Studies have shown that when people are asked to focus on a specific muscle before performing the corresponding movement, they use a higher percentage of muscle fibres to perform the movement. This in turn yields greater results in the building of muscle mass and strength as a larger amount of muscle fibres are taxed and thus repaired. Mind/muscle connection not only engages, and thus taxes, more muscle fibres in the corresponding muscle group, it also limits the muscles that jump in to help and only end up dispersing the load, i.e.; the load is dispersed away from targeted muscle so it isn’t working as hard. The great thing about mind muscle connection, as you know how the movement patterns feel and you replicate them, this is how you perform that exercise every time. Practice makes permanence.
The mind/muscle connection, which governs over your body’s actions of intention, shouldn’t be isolated to building muscles in the gym. Yoga, in particular can reap these benefits. And this, our answer to our conundrum: To mirror or not to mirror a studio or practice space. I sadly am in the middle and will offer no one side the option to be the winner. The asanas, our physical practice, is about balance and strength and alignment. We need the mirrors so we can be externally cued about our form in space. We need to practice with this form; our stacked bones and reaching fingers. But we need to actually see it to be sure that it looks the way we should. Here is where I digress and allow us all to remember, our physical make up varies between people and the form a pose takes may differ, but a pigeon is pigeon (regardless of the angle of front shin placement) but a pigeon is not a headstand.
To evoke the form of a pose we also need our mind to connect with the muscles they were designed to evoke power from. We are reminded by our teachers not to hold tension in our jaw or our breath or antagonist muscles (the one opposite to the one working). These cues tell us to relax so the energy can be directed to where it needs to be. This is mind/muscle connection cued in yoga terms by letting the tension drop away from where it should not be.
Putting these two together; our form in space and our mental connection to appropriate muscles firing (or lengthening or feeling) we can form a memory within our body to carry forward to a practice with no mirrors. Mirrors are a tool to be used so we can step away and know our external form is healthy and safe. The repetition, maybe more visual to start and then less as we dare to step away, or even just look away, will ingrain in our brains and muscles and bones and tissues what your balanced, strong, and aligned form looks like without needing a mirror.
A mirror can’t show you what a yoga practice can show you about yourself. And yoga in its entirety is a practice for the inside, not a reflection of someone looking at you in a studio. You have practiced, and practice makes permanence, not perfection.