Mirrors in Yoga Class
Whether or not to use mirrors in yoga classes is a popular topic of discussion among teachers.
This is the first episode in my new yoga and movement research series. I talk to Jules Mitchell about the efficacy of using mirrors when learning yoga asana. We discuss a study entitled, “Effect on performance of learning a pilates skill with or without a mirror.” The study examines a pilates move called the STAR movement, but what we learn from it can also be applied to yoga. The STAR move is similar to Vasistasana (side plank) while raising and lowering the top leg.
The stated goal of this study was to “use an objective measure of performance to look at the effect of mirrors when learning Pilates star movement that must then be done without the mirrors.”
What do you think? Is it best to learn a motor skill with or without mirrors?
Jules Mitchell is a Yoga Educator, Biomechanist and contributor to the Yoga and Movement Research Project (YAMResearch.com)
- The study consisted of 20 subjects that learned STAR in a pilates class over the course of 8 weeks. 11 subjects learned with a mirror and 9 learned without.
- This study is looking at concurrent feedback in a skill acquisition. There are different ways you can get feedback. We talk about these ideas in yoga but we don’t use the terminology you might find in a research paper.
- Whether or not we should use a mirror in a yoga class is not just a dogmatic belief. This is actually researched in motor learning.
- Skill acquisition is something that can be quantified, analyzed, studied and then altered.
- We also discussed some limitations of the study. For instance, what other poses were taught in the class and in what order? That all matters.
- The results showed performance was good for those that learned with and without mirrors. Mirrors used to provide immediate visual feedback during learning do not necessarily enhance the subsequent performance of a skill when mirrors are not present. There was no significant difference between the two groups.
- As teachers we can choose what will be better based on the student.
- The academic information processing model and somatic approaches to yoga asana are not that different. The 3 stages of processing: perception, decision, execution.
- How do we measure “performance” in yoga? Choose the variable you want to study.
- If we as yoga educators could incorporate more of this type of stuff where we’re not just taught “this is how you do it,” but to question the process we would all have a more empowered community.
- We’re not reducing a yoga pose to simply right or wrong by looking at research like this. We’re looking at what it takes and what changes in the nervous system occur to learn something new.
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