What is Your “Mirror”?

Each time I step to my mat, I open myself to the “mirror” of yoga. Reflecting back to me my divinity, my devil, and, my dreams. There are some days I have expectations before walking into class and, as the practice unfolds, I find myself in a completely different place. Other days I am able to go in only with an intention to show up.

I titled this post “Find Your Mirror” because I think it’s important that we all have “space” in our lives that we are able to look into the reflection of self – a space that allows us to explore who and what we are in the present moment. Sometimes we think we are our thoughts. Other times we are consumed with feelings, so much so that we feel as if it will last forever.

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Our mirror is our starting point to examine and explore. Asking ourselves, is there a presence of persisting thoughts, feelings, and/or sensations in the body? If so, what are the contents or categories of those thoughts? Are they memories? Fantasies? Judgments? Are there consistent themes to my thoughts? For example, when I am doing passive poses, such as sitting forward bend, my thoughts then to go into planning or judging. When I am in more active poses and any pose that has to do with legs, such as full crescent, I notice feeling more confident with less thought. I have enough insight and awareness to recognize where these patterns originate as well as mindfulness to bring myself back to my breath and movement. Some days are better than others but each time I practice I am able to see something different reflected back at me. As one of my yoga teachers said “no two yoga practices are alike, so welcome what shows up without judging it.”  Time and time again my yoga teachers encourage the students to “just show up” to the mat and your intention to arrive will carry you through the practice. I started my yoga journey on June, 25th 2014 and since that time I could not have imagined that 2.5 years later I would still be practicing and using it as a tool for spiritual growth and self-examination.

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Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung theorized, “that we each have a persona – an identity which we wish to project to others.” The persona is likened to a “mask,” an act that we put on, and/or an identity that is developed by the ideas of social roles in society. We project (into the world) our personas, not our true personality but an aspirational, idealized version of who we would like to be…” These personas can play out consciously or unconsciously i.e. with or without our awareness. Carl Jung “felt that disunity among thoughts in the personal subconscious and the conscious could create internal conflicts that could lead to particular personality traits or anxieties. Such inner conflicts could be resolved, claimed Jung, by allowing repressed ideas to emerge into the conscious and accommodating (rather than destroying) them, thus creating a state of inner harmony, through a process known as individuation.”

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Yoga, I believe, facilitates this process of individuation. It allows for repressed thoughts, emotions, and sensations to rise to the surface of awareness. Many times we do not need to DO anything about repressed experiences that become conscious other than to compassionately recognize that they have arrived (accommodating). This is not an easy thing to do if we are a person who gets so caught up in believing everything we think and feel i.e. bought into the permanency of our persona. This is why I think people have difficulty with meditation and/or yoga. I’ve heard time and time again from athletes who go to yoga class and say, “it’s so boring.” Boring is a state of mind, one that can be examined. They have difficulty sitting with their internal experience, which then leads to an increased drive to control their external experience. The more we go external to more we distract and even stifle the internal growth.

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So, I’m asking that each one of you find or identify your “mirror.” It may be meditation, prayer, journaling, sport, therapy, yoga etc. I think for a time triathlon was it for me. It was a sport that helped me push past physical and mental limits. It challenged my beliefs of what I thought was possible for myself. Training gave me the time to check in with what I was feeling, versus being a distraction. It was also my athletic identity for a long time. Nine years later (my first triathlon was September 16, 2007) I have to say that it no longer serves that purpose for me, and that’s okay. As we grow and evolve our old approaches may not work for us anymore. And what works for me may not work for you and it does not need to.

All I’m asking is that we all do the work of becoming aware of our unconscious patterns that are keeping us from being our best selves. There is no better time than now to get real with our selves. When we look into the mirror, do the work, take personal responsibility and accountability and we offer up more of what the world needs- love, self-acceptance, compassion, understanding and kindness.

Keep shining, and be good to yourself and others,
*Dr. G
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Dr. Gloria Petruzzelli

Dr. Petruzzelli is sport and performance psychologist and mindfulness meditation teacher located in Sacramento, California and works with elite sport teams and athletes across the country. She is competitive athlete herself and enjoys practicing yoga, spending time with her family and traveling.