Mirroring yoga students


I am not technically mirroring in this photo. (Well, I could be if I had a student in front of me.) I took this self-portrait while in Vrksasana (Tree Pose) when I noticed my reflection in the sliding glass door of the hotel room patio in Las Vegas where I recently stayed.

I learned a lot of great things in my yoga teacher training.
Mirroring your students as a yoga teacher was highly advised.
I get why that is a good idea. It makes it easier for your students to follow you in something, especially if the pose or action is complex and/or has a lot of moving parts and language just isn’t enough.
But for the teacher it can be quite challenging.
I already have issues with right and left. Yes, I know they are basic and we all learned that in kindergarten.
The first time I tried mirroring with a student was a home yoga practice with my mom a little more than a year ago when I was still in school.
It was a complete disaster. But it was just the two of us and at least we got a good laugh at it.
When teaching (especially a twist, which is the ultimate challenge) I look at … say my right arm and tell myself it is the right so I should say left. I tell them to bring their left arm and hug the right knee for a seated twist while I bring my right arm to hug my left knee.
Yea, see why that can be a challenge?
The more I do it with my students the better I get at it.
And still sometimes I tell them to go the wrong way. And usually when I mess it up the class gets a laugh out of it. So no harm. Humor in yoga is important. And I don’t mind laughing at myself and getting my class to laugh.
Even as a cycle teacher I mirror my students when we stretch.
Funny thing is now when I am in a class and the teacher tells us to go to the right or use the right foot I go to the left …
You could be on the same side as your students. But I don’t think that is as beneficial to the students and some will think you are mirroring and go the opposite way you want them to.
And frankly, me mirroring keeps me more present as I have to be really there with my language with my students. It keeps a mind-body connection.
You could be on the same side as your students and have your back to them. I personally don’t think that is a good idea. First, your back is to them. You can’t observe your students and see what they are doing. Plus, I would feel disengaged. Plus whatever is going on with the front of the body, they are missing out on.
Sometimes I need to show my students something specific and if I need to show at different angles I will. So that may mean I have my back to them. But only briefly. Like if I want them to see where the shoulder blades are. I turn around and poke around my shoulder blades to show them. Then I have them poke around their shoulder blades.
When I teach a yoga class I do some of the poses with the class. Other times I walk around and just use my language and observe my students while making adjustments and suggestions.
Someone wrote into the Yoga Journal website asking about mirroring while teaching. For some reason only the answer appears. What the answer really comes down to is what are you observing in your students when looking at them. The more you teach and observe the more natural it will be to notice your class is on their right side (or left).
In my research on mirroring the majority seem to agree that mirroring is a good idea. Some don’t think it is necessary. And that is their right to think that.
I will continue mirroring as a teacher. As a student, I prefer the teacher to mirror the class. But it’s not a deal breaker for me.