Mirrors are a big part of the workout scene, and there are excellent reasons why. Personally, I want to make sure that I don’t look like my hair has been attacked by a thousand angry crows while I kill it at the gym. Or maybe it’s just fun to check out our angry face when we’re lifting massive amounts of weight.

Obviously, the best and perhaps the ONLY reason we should be using mirrors during our workouts is to check our form. Alignment is crucial for effective exercise. The problem is, if we are leaning too much on our sense of sight for feedback, we lose connection with the messages and sensations from our bodies. For example, when was the last time you focused fully on how a squat actually feels, rather than how it looks? Try the exercises below looking into a mirror first, and then with your eyes closed for the next few sets. See if you notice a difference, and if so, notice how that inner (read, Inward!!) connection might impact the efficacy of your workouts.

Squat

First time, eyes open in front of a mirror.

  • Find a strong foundation in your feet.
  • Slowly sit your hips back and feel the weight pour into your heels.
  • Lengthen your tailbone down and draw your core in and up.
  • Pause at the deepest moment in the squat for a breath.
  • Press down into your heels and very slowly straighten your legs, fully engaging your core the whole way.

Try this slow-motion squat four more times with your eyes closed, and notice the impact of drawing your attention inward, to the sensations in your body.

Push-up

First time, eyes open, gazing about 6-10 inches in front of your nose.

  • Set up a strong high plank.
  • Spread your fingers wide and smush your palms into the ground. Yes – smush.
  • Press your hands into the earth to broaden your shoulders.
  • Lower all the way to the ground as slowly as possible:
    • Keep your legs and trunk super-engaged the whole time.
    • Energetically press your heels away from you as you lengthen the crown of your head forward.
  • Pause at the ground for a breath.
  • Activate your legs to lift your knees, then slowly press up to a plank with your belly, back, and legs firing.

Four more times, with your eyes closed. Continue to focus on activating your muscles and mindfully lowering to the ground.

Tree in Kickstand/Baby Balance

Try this with your eyes open, but only in the kickstand variation. Practice mindfully aligning your foundation and internalizing all of the cues before closing your eyes – this is challenging!

  • Bring your hands to a prayer position at your heart and transfer your weight into your left leg.
  • Kickstand your right heel against your left ankle with your toes touching the ground for balance.
  • Press down into your left leg to lift higher out of your hips.
  • Draw your inner thighs back and wide, and cinch your rib cage tighter around your core.
  • Stay for three breaths.
  • Switch sides.

Practice the kick stand with your eyes closed, and if your breath is steady and you aren’t wobbling, try to slightly elevate your toes off of the ground so that your lifted foot is more or less resting against your standing leg’s inner calf muscle. Keep your toes low enough so that you can quickly go back to kickstand if you start to wobble. Feel your standing foot work to balance your body! Engaging your legs and core is crucial to balancing with your eyes closed.

Written by Katy K