By Sarah Newman

“The best artist has that thought alone which is contained within the marble shell; only the sculptor’s hand can break the spell to free the figures.” – Michelangelo

Look in the mirror. Concentrate. Meditate. These words are at the beginning of every Bikram Yoga class.

​But what do you see?

In the words of Jesper Clement, a Danish professor researching brain and behavior, “the brain translates the information it receives from the eye into something that we can understand. In fact, the brain receives just three ‘images’ every second, which are sorted and combined with earlier information to create the reality that you experience.”

When you look at yourself in the mirror, to begin with, that earlier information is everything you have learned to be true about yourself – physically, mentally, emotionally, energetically – whether or not it is the truth.

Michelangelo grew up in the care of his nanny. Her husband was a stonecutter, working in Michelangelo’s father’s marble quarry. He would have seen lumps of marble, freshly hewn from the quarry as a child.

Statue of David's head
animated glasses
calacatta marble block

Just lumps of marble

That was their immediately apparent reality. Just as when you look at yourself in the mirror, there you are. The reality that you understand to be true.

But when Michelangelo grew up and became an artist – a sculptor, he saw something more. He saw what was contained within the lump of marble. And by chipping away at the stone, concentrating, meditating, observing, he revealed what he saw in there, and let the essence of the marble emerge from what only appeared to be itself, into the beautiful, moving figures we know as his created works.

When you look in the mirror, you have to look with all three eyes! The two that see the image you always see, and the one, more subtle, that sees what is contained within.

look to the mirrors to find what's contained within

Observe yourself as you do the postures. The mirror is not there to be your judge – it is only there to reveal, to shed light. First, are you trying to put your body in the correct position to get the benefits of the posture? Then, with concentration and meditation, you begin to see something you like, perhaps something you didn’t realize before. Perhaps you see an obstacle in your way, and it’s okay because you know, little by little, you can break the spell and free yourself. Because Bikram Yoga gives you the tools, the sculptor’s chisel, to do the work you need to do until your inner being reveals itself, from the inside out, and you can see yourself again.

How does it show up? In the room, you might look in the mirror and think, “how cute I am!” Outside the room, to your surprise, you might effortlessly no longer get angry with a family member or in traffic. Generally, you might feel more at peace with yourself and what goes on around you. These are just examples: you will find your own obstacles, your own path, and your own spirit within the shell.

Don’t worry if your chiseling makes a mess from time to time – it will, and that is what is necessary to let yourself shine through.

Look in the mirror, Concentrate, Meditate. Prepare for the best journey of your life – the one where you meet yourself.