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Pam is away. I’m pretty sure this shouldn’t be allowed.
To stave off yoga withdrawal, I slink into a posh downtown studio. Outside the comfort of Pam’s cozy basement, the glare of bright sunlight and skinny blondes is blinding.
So is the wall of mirrors reflecting me back at myself.
A yoga studio where I can constantly watch myself is more than novel, it’s . . . distracting.
I’m not a narcissist. But the image of my posed limbs—so correctly aligned! so toned after months of dedicated effort on the mat!—proves irresistible. I’m intrigued, ashamed, but most of all distracted. The instant my mind hones in on my reflection in the mirror, my entire practice falls apart.
The poses become mechanical and disjointed. My mind disconnects from my body. I’m not even thinking about my breath—the foundation of yoga. Suddenly what matters is how the poses look in the mirror. That’s all.
It’s backwards yoga. What I look like should be the last thing on my mind, yet now it’s the only thing.
Pam’s not here to reprimand my wandering attention. It’s my job to correct myself. But I can’t stop. I’m berating myself for shallow egotism even as I continue gazing at the mirror.
Then I remember something Pam says: we can simply accept what is, or we can create a story around it. Suddenly there’s another story here. I like the way my body looks. In my younger years, I never reacted to my body’s appearance with pleasure or satisfaction. How strange and wonderful that at 37, I do.
But no matter how healthy and positive this realization, it has no place in my yoga practice (although it’s a result of that practice). Besides, the other story— I’m a soulless narcissist!—could just as easily define today’s experience.
I try again to wrench my gaze from the mirror, to focus on my practice.
Isn’t that, after all, exactly what the best yoga teachers try to teach us? That distractions are inevitable, but they don’t need to define us, and we don’t need to give in to them forever?
“Keep drawing your attention back to your ________ [breath/right heel/etc]” is what they say.
Which means that every day—every minute!—we have another chance.
So I bring my gaze to the drishti a few feet ahead of me on the floor, and breathe.