Mirrors and Mindsets

To be truly honest, much of my yoga journey started with what I saw in the mirror. Yes injury and recovery played a role, but after six months with a cast on my right arm, I needed some freedom of movement (and firmness of body) back in my life. There was nothing inherently wrong with my appearance a year ago–I was 155 pounds, 5’3″, and built like a study Italian woman. My physical features never stopped me from making friends, achieving educational benchmarks, or altering my exercise habits. But how I characterized myself–by weight, height, and proportions–is an unhealthy mindset that periodically had the power to destroy my self confidence.

This bipolar relationship with my personal perception of my physical body was nothing new. It was a habit I had built over years of fluctuating weight, growth, and hormones. Where or when it started, I couldn’t tell you. But it grew into a series of habits that I would manifest on a daily basis. I systematically avoided mirrors, but had an addiction to checking my reflection in the storefront windows. I would avoid an intentional assessment of my reflection, yet seek out fleeting opportunities to evaluate myself based on physical appearance alone. It was like my own personal viewing of Mean Girls, and I was playing the Regina George to my Janis Ian. Talk about chicken and the egg.

But when it comes to self-perception, only one person has to power to change it. The negative body talk was a product of my own doing, and there’s no running away from the things that you allow to inhabit your mind. My reflection was projecting exactly what I wanted to hear, so I needed to change what I was asking of myself. In order to take a first step–any step–in the right direction, a tri-weekly regimen of ultra-hot bikram yoga sounded like a great way to whip myself into physical shape. And it was. The heat completely flushed the toxins out of my body, the focus on static balance was a new and dynamic challenge, and I was never alone in my practice with a room full of people. But after three months, that began to evolve.

I needed a place to practice that offered more than physical challenge. This is where my mind began to move beyond a self-conceptualization of predominantly physical attributes. Me, Kate, the person, could only grow to a point based on superficial desire alone. I moved my practice to a power vinyasa flow studio, which, after some research, sounded like a great combination of physical strength and mental stamina. That is when my mind began to blossom.

I found the power to melt away all the negative things I thought about myself with just an inhale. I found freedom in the ability to actively listen and surrender my trust to a member of my community. As for one of the biggest changes, when I look in the mirror today, I no longer judge myself. Instead, I check that my body is safe, my mind is at ease, and my spirit is smiling. Did these changes happen over night? Of course not. I have been practicing for a year now, and am beginning to realize that these changes are only the beginning of my evolution, sprung forth and supported through yoga. This is a blessing and a gift, and my practice is constantly adapting to honor the growth in mind and body that I recognize in my reflection every day.