a blog by Ellen Davies

Teaching yoga: Do you mirror the class?

Teaching yoga: Do you mirror the class?

Yoga teachers, do you use mirroring?

For those who aren’t familiar with the term, “mirroring” is when the yoga teacher “mirrors” the students. She will cue “Raise your right knee,” but really she raises her left knee, so it seems as though the students are looking in a mirror. 


Why mirroring is important


Mirroring is useful because it prevents confusion while still making eye contact with your class. If you are up front demonstrating a pose, you want to be facing your class. Just like an actor on a stage, a teacher never wants to turn her back on the audience. You want to watch your students, make eye contact (and smile!), and monitor them. 


Mirroring is especially helpful when teaching beginners, because newbies tend to watch the teacher all the time and do everything she does—including scratch her nose, fix her ponytail, etc. 


I taught yoga for three years before I learned about mirroring. At first I scoffed at it, because I thought it was way too hard. But once I started using it, I was shocked that I had never learned about it. (Way back when, YogaFit didn’t teach it.)


It was a challenge for me. I came to rely on my wedding ring–it was on my left hand, so I always knew which hand was my left. One woman in my 200-hour YTT actually wrote “L” on her right hand and “R” on her left hand. I don’t know if that helped her or not.


When you first learn to mirror, you’ll probably pause for a second before cueing: “Lift your… right knee, and…” Your brain, if it fires like mine, will need that extra second to zip back and forth: left or right? right or left? Before landing on the correct side. That slight pause will feel huge to you at first, but try not to let it bother you. Don’t dwell on it, or apologize for it. Because the more you teach and mirror, the easier it gets.


The problem comes when you’re not teaching, but you’re so used to mirroring that you mix up your rights and lefts. I’ve gotten strange looks from saleswomen and family members when I bungle this. “I’d like to try on those shoes on the right… No, not those! Sorry, I meant on the left.”


It is especially bad when giving directions. “Watch out, it’s a left turn! Oh sorry, it’s actually a right turn…” I always try to explain–I teach yoga and mirroring has messed me up!


But most people have never heard of mirroring, so they just think I was probably really bad at kindergarten skills.


Learning how to use mirroring is an exercise in coordination. Like everything else, the more you practice, the easier it gets. And your students will forgive your mistakes. Usually there is always one sticker in the class who keeps you straight: Didn’t we just do the right side? Do you mean the left leg?


And don’t forget that you can cue poses without demonstrating. Often this is more useful for your class, as they learn proprioception, which is a big word for that sense of knowing where your body is in space. 


What are your experiences with mirroring? Do you find it useful or confusing?


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