Mirrors: a yogi reflects on mirrors

(updated version with a link that works!)

Every year for Christmas, Rick and I each get a gift from our friend, Herb Sundvall.  The gift is a chapbook of poetry called Crow Tracks.

Crow Tracks is filled with Herb’s poems.  In the latest volume of Crow Tracks, I fell in love with his poem, Mirrors.  Instantly, I recognized the place to which he was referring.  Years ago, I occasionally taught classes at the University District YMCA.  At the University District YMCA, the placement of the two mirrors in the yoga room is enough to drive anyone mad!  Or you would think!  I asked students about it once, but not everyone had made note of it.  From my perspective, the mirrors made it look like I had 300,000 students with their hands and feet flying every which way, every limb duplicated 100 fold!

Arms Hands Infinity

Arms Hands Infinity

Just yesterday I was in the U District and decided to pay homage to the crazy-mirrored room. I had to explain to Chelsea, the employee who greeted me at the front desk, why I was there and asked permission to take photos.  She agreed to let me take photos of the room as long as it was empty.  Luckily, no one was in the room! After I took a few photos myself, Chelsea came in, excited by the idea of the blog and the new perspective she had with the mirrors, and took a few more photos for me while I posed in my raincoat and boots!

Not everyone sees their reflections quadruplicated to infinity....hard to believe there are only TWO mirrors...

Not everyone notices their reflections quadruplicated to infinity….hard to believe there are only TWO mirrors facing each other…

Boots and More Boots

Boots and More Boots

Here is Herb’s poem:


The mirrors on the walls
of the yoga class
facing each other
repeat themselves into
and the old man sees himself
and old-looking
He moves to a far wall
where he does not face
the mirrors,
the old man,
the wall clock
so he can stretch out
feeling young inside himself
and timeless

by Herb Sundvall

Unfortunately, WordPress doesn’t let me retain the breaks in the lines the way Herb wrote them originally!  Log on  to Herb’s blog site where you can see Mirrors  in its original format and where you can read other poems written by Herb.

Herb’s poem, Mirrors, reminds me of how conflicted I am about having mirrors in the rooms or studios where I teach yoga.  On the one hand, looking at yourself in a mirror while doing yoga can help you see your alignment and give you an honest perspective about how deep you are in a pose.  For example, there are certain poses I do, like Dancer’s Pose (Natarajasana) or Bow (Dhanurasana), and I swear it feels like my feet are about to touch my head, but the mirror tells me the sobering truth: that I am nowhere near such elasticity!  On the other hand, the mirror can make one terribly self-conscious about one’s weight, how one looks in general, how tall or short one is, how young or old (often in comparison to others since the class is filled with many people also reflected in the same mirror).  I know, not everyone feels this way, but I have gotten enough unsolicited feedback from students to get the picture that reflections can be helpful with alignment or they can be a not-so-pleasant distraction leading to self-deprication.  About half of my classes have mirrors.

Yoga and Self Photography (sans tripod)

Yoga and Self Photography (sans tripod)

Chelsea comes in and saves the day:  A Billion Warriors

Chelsea comes in and captures this image: A Billion Warriors in Raincoats and Boots, preparing to combat Seattle rain!

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6 Responses to “Mirrors: a yogi reflects on mirrors”

  1. frangallo Says:

    The first time I published this, the link to Herb’s website didn’t come through! I edited it, so the link now works! See above. I feel bad for my subscribers who got the non-edited version! Darn! Maybe you will go to write a comment and find mine! Fran


  2. Kathleen McHugh Says:

    Interesting insights about reflections Fran! Nice that you added a link to Herb’s site!


  3. Rick Says:

    Silvia Plath’s poem from the point of view of the mirror itself:


    I am silver and exact. I have no preconceptions.
    What ever you see I swallow immediately
    Just as it is, unmisted by love or dislike.
    I am not cruel, only truthful—
    The eye of a little god, four-cornered.
    Most of the time I meditate on the opposite wall.
    It is pink, with speckles. I have looked at it so long
    I think it is a part of my heart. But it flickers.
    Faces and darkness separate us over and over.

    Now I am a lake. A woman bends over me,
    Searching my reaches for what she really is.
    Then she turns to those liars, the candles or the moon.
    I see her back, and reflect it faithfully.
    She rewards me with tears and an agitation of hands.
    I am important to her. She comes and goes.
    Each morning it is her face that replaces the darkness.
    In me she has drowned a young girl, and in me an old woman
    Rises toward her day after day, like a terrible fish.

    Silvia Plath


  4. Stephanie Says:

    Good one Fran!
    I appreciate your efforts with the camera!


  5. miatagrrl Says:

    I have always called mirrors reflecting mirrors ” infinity mirrors,” too. They seem to be present in high-end public restrooms, like in nice hotels. When I was a kid, I was so fascinated by this illusion… Maybe I still am. You look adorable doing yoga in rain boots! They let you walk on the floor in boots?! :-0


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