Mirroring and Partner Yoga
Good morning! Hope you are living in peace and ease during this transition into fall (if you’re located in an area where that applies right now). It’s the hardest transition for me and I’m determined this year to really take it easy, live in tune with what my body and mind are telling me, and support my health with yoga, meditation, celebratory time with friends and family, and nourishing foods, herbs, and teas. More to come on those things! For now, the other day in the herbal medicine class I’m taking we did an awesome activity that I’d like to share. We chose partners, and then shared with each other what is going on for us in that moment and in our lives in general. Then based on the themes/feelings we were working with, we created herbal teas to help fortify us and give us what we needed in that moment. Afterwards, we shared our process with the larger group, discussed our teas and why we chose the specific herbs we did, and passed around the mugs for all to try. I’d like to translate this practice into a partner yoga exercise – though you could do just the mirroring part alone and receive a lot of benefit!
So, choose one or two partners and find a nice, comfortable place to relax and talk. Outdoors is great – we did our mirroring on the farm by the lavender and tulsi – but anywhere you can be unbothered is fine. Next, take turns sharing for 3 minutes. Have someone set a timer (you don’t want to be watching the clock). Now while one person is sharing, the other is to listen completely and intently to the words and feelings without judgment. Really be present with that person, allowing them space to be open and honest. Afterwards, you will repeat (mirror) back to that person, almost verbatim if possible, what he/she has said. Try not to let you own interpretations or experience get in the way. Just listen. For the person sharing, it can take some courage. There may be things you feel slightly uncomfortable sharing, but getting them out may be exactly what is needed. Go with your heart and just let the words arise. After each person has talked about what’s going on for them, sit in silence for a few moments. Let the feelings sink in. Notice any energetic shifts that have occurred. After the silence, mirror back to the person what you heard. Then allow more silence. Once everyone has shared (again, it’s really best to do this in groups of two or three at the most), decide what will support you as a team in terms of yoga asana, meditation, mantra japa, pranayama, and then practice together, offering hands-on assists if you know them.
In order to come up with a yoga practice, you need some familiarity with different asana groups (standing poses, backbends, forward bends, for example), pranayama (ujjayi, nadi shodana, breath of fire), chanting, and meditations. If you are just starting out, there are so many references it can be overwhelming. A good place to start may be the Yoga Journal website, where they have listed many yoga poses and their anatomical benefits and therapeutic applications. There are detailed step-by-step instructions on all the poses, as well as articles on pranayama, meditation, and other aspects of yoga and a healthy lifestyle. You Tube obviously has tons of information as well – you can find videos on almost anything! Use your discretion – I’m sure there’s a lot of bad information out there as well. Feel free to ask me for other references or check out the “resources” link on this blog. There are way too many excellent books and videos out there to list here.
So if you’ve been feeling depleted and run-down, a gentle, restorative practice is best. You might just sit in a heart-centered meditation; you might use lots of props like bolsters and blankets to relax into supported forward bends and take a long shavasana. On the other hand, if you feel tired but it’s not because you’re necessarily run-down or have been ill – you just feel stagnant maybe, you can do a more active practice with sun salutations, standing poses (warrior I, II, II; triangle; standing splits) and backbends (bridge; wheel; reclining hero pose). If you feel constricted with too much contraction physically or emotionally, you might try some heart-opening poses and meditations (like the Inner Smile Meditation). Hopefully you get the picture.
As I mentioned, even just doing the mirroring part of this exercise is extremely beneficial. How often do we get the chance to honestly speak our minds and be thoroughly 100% seen and heard? How often do we listen completely to someone who is speaking with us? How often are we truly present, not thinking about our own interpretations or what we will say in response? Sharing is powerful; being validated and heard is healing. Sometimes just speaking about something aloud allows it to transform and make more sense. Being on both sides of the process is very therapeutic – and this exercise allows intense PRESENCE to arise, which is the doorway to lasting peace and one of the main goals of yoga.
I’d love to hear your feelings on this practice if you try it! Enjoy!