Thursday, January 21, 2010

Looking in the MIRRRur

Today I took on a little task that I've wanted to do for ages.  I sat down and made a recording of myself reading the dialogue.  (I got as far as the floor series before I had to take off; will finish tonight.)  I want to have a recording of myself delivering it verbatim, so that I can play it in the car and basically "sing along" to myself - get it rolling off my tongue like second nature, so I don't even have to think about it.  I've done pretty well at learning the words off the page, so now I want to get used to saying them!

The obvious side-effect of this exercise is that I have to actually listen to a recording of my own voice!  AUGH!  It sounds so weird!!  This is true for almost everybody, right?  You hear a recording of yourself on a voicemail and go, "Whoa, my voice sounds like that?!"  Well, now I'll have to start getting used to it.  I played some of it back, and started really noticing how I pronounce different words.  Like "mirror."  Oh man, that word is in the dialogue about 4 billion times (1 Sagan), and now that I'm paying attention, I don't even know how to say it anymore!  I really do not en-nun-ci-ate on that word.  When I'm talking fast, it practically turns into one syllable: "Look in the MIRRR." Or else it's just a little dying fall at the end of the word: "Look in the MIRRRur."  Now that I think about it, I doubt I've ever actually said "MIRR-OR" in my life.  (Should I start now?!)

Yes, this is the kind of thing that occupies my mind these days.  Yes, my life is pretty easy.  I know.

But I do have another observation to make here...

I've been noticing lately how many new people have an incredibly hard time just looking at themselves in the mirror.  (OR in the MIRRR.)  Their eyes dart around the room to land on anything except their own reflection.  And today it occurred to me that for many people, watching your body while you move it must feel just as foreign as listening to your voice while you say something.  I never had this problem because I came from years of ballet training, so I was used to studying my own movements in the mirror for hours on end.  I never quite realized just how weird it must be to observe yourself doing something - standing, sitting, speaking - that you normally do without self-observation.

I guess that looking at yourself - like listening to yourself - must be something that always feels bizarre the first time.  And then over time it become natural, because your brain starts to build connections.  "Aha!" it says.  "If I want to put my body in that shape, I just have to move myself this way.  If I want to make a word sound a certain way, I have to do this with my lips and breath."  In other words, the mechanisms of cause and effect slowly become transparent.  Instead of acting mindlessly, guided only by habit, you start to understand the technique.  And once you have techniques, you can apply them to create a very precise outcome.  You can direct every part of your body, down to your fingertips and toes, down to the motion of your lungs.  You can modulate your voice, its pitch and dynamic and inflection.  And it all starts with observation.  Looking in the mirror.  Listening to yourself, as you say, "Look in the mirror."

And this process is always so weird at first!  But it seems to work...

16 comments:

Mei said...

Best way to improve is to listen to yourself. But but but, if you're preparing so hard out NOW, what the heck ever are you going to do at training? Geek :P


Americans say MIRR-uh / MIRRRR , it's just the way the accents go :) [I find it so CUTE though! Californians say BEE-YOHN]

FYI I recorded my own class. And vomitted blood after listening to it.

Amber said...

Your observation about students looking around the room at others or the floor, or just everything but themselves I could relate to for so long. When I first started practising, I generally looked at my instructors thinking maybe they will finally show me the posture. Then I felt comfortable looking at the floor because the mirror seemed to be a "moving target" and then I looked at other students for motivation (mind you I still do that from time to time) but now my confidence and determination relies solely on staring into my own eyes. Great posting, you have amazing insight, it always gets me thinking. Love it!

Yolk E said...

Fabulous, as usual :-) I was wondering how you were going to tie it all back into a larger, relatable yoga concept, and of course you pulled it off!

On a random, sort-of related note, when I started teaching I was a little self-conscious, and this would get me a little tongue-tied/stuttery now and then. Of course, I would then obsess about it as I was trying to explain a comma rule. I got better about making a joke of my twisty tongue when it happened. Everyone loves a joke!

Yoga Talk said...

You're so right about the mirror being in there countless times...at TT -- I had fun and would say Hips forward towards Amir (LOL) --" since only I knew what the heck I was saying all others heard a mirrrrrr....

ariella said...

Listening to myself in the car was the greatest gift I gave myself before training. And after training. Lol. My first recordings were hard-edged voice but when I teach and at training I learned to soften the edges. They'll point out any weirdness there for sure but for now just get used to hearing your own voice... cause you're gonna hear a lot of it when you get back!

Duffy Pratt said...

Nice post. But there is one important difference between looking at yourself and listening to yourself. We generally hear ourselves largely through bone conduction. That's why we sound so different to ourselves when recorded -- because we do actually sound different.

As a beginner, I remember looking all over the place trying to find a model to follow. For me, at least, it didn't have anything to do with discomfort at looking at myself. Later, conquering the darting eye is just another aspect of keeping still.

bikramyogachick said...

First off, great idea to record yourself saying the dialog. I'm going to remember that for when I go to TT! It IS weird to hear our own recorded voice EVERYBODY has that feeling.
Looking at ourselves in the mirror is heard for all newcomers. The first two months I flat out wouldn't do it. I focused on anything else but myself. I also remember looking at the front row yogis focusing on their own two eyes in the mirror before class and thinking "wow, those people are kinda weird and trippy". Now I'm one of them. :)

hannahjustbreathe said...

I think it's interesting that some days you recognize your own reflection, and others days you are simply so deep into your practice and moving meditation that your own face could be any face. Do you ever experience that? Like if you stare at yourself long enough you don't recognize yourself. Same as if you say a word too many times, it starts to sound funny.

Some days, looking into my own eyes is the hardest part of the practice. Because you really are facing yourself---in so many metaphorical and literal ways.

I really liked this post, lady!

Anonymous said...

When I first started I found the mirrors so confronting. It showed all those bits inside you that you have hidden and buried for a very long time. Not to mention the horror at realising just how fat I had got.
Three and half years on I have learned to like myself and now find it easy (most of the time) to look in the mirror and meet my own eyes.
I hope that you come down to the Southern Hemisphere when you are finished training - we love guest teachers :)

Johan said...

BYC, that weird and trippy comment just made my day. Thank you.

I agree, looking at yourself in the mirror can be really hard. But now I find the opposite almost harder. Some days are great not being able to see yourself but those are the exceptions. Most days when I can't go front row I get really disorientated by not being able to see myself. I guess I adopted to the mirror very fast especially considering I lead an almost mirror free live.

cirita said...

J, recording yourself it's a great idea!! Just curious - how many pages is the whole dialogue, 26 (1 per posture)? Also, I wonder if during BY TT every single student in the room has a full visual in the MIRRur or just people in the first few rows, do you know?. BTW, I'll be visiting this year. I bet I won't be able to see anything from the last row :(

thedancingj said...

Mei - What am I gonna do at training? I'm gonna have FUN!! And help other people! And I'm sure TT will still kick my ass in some unexpected way.... there's always SOMEthing, right?

Amber - Thanks for describing your experience! Yeah, it sure does feel like a moving target sometimes, especially when balancing... but it does settle down. That's so exciting that you've come so far.

Yolk - Yeah, I can see myself doing that a little bit. Trick is to RELAX, I guess. I've learned that I do best if I just trust myself and trust that I'm going to know what to say when I get there.

Yelbs - FUNNY.

Ariella - You prepped the same way? Cool!! It does seem like a brilliant thing to do for yourself. I wanna hear about it when you finally record and take your own class...!

Duffy - Thanks for the trivia, I did not know that!

BYC - HAH. We ARE kinda weird and trippy. Ain't it beautiful?

Hannah - Thanks! Yes, the eye contact is STILL hard sometimes. Whenever I go through a weird patch in my life, I notice myself losing my eye focus, and that tells me a LOT about what's going on. And I usually recognize myself, but I definitely know what you're talking about . (WEIRD sensation!)

Anon - Yeah, you can't hide from those mirrors. That's one of the first huge challenges of the class, i think. It shows you the truth and there's no avoiding it. But it gets so much better as you keep going. Obviously you've made HUGE progress. (And yeah, I would love to do some traveling at some point...!)

Johan - Hehe. Yeah, once you get used to the mirror, then you get ATTACHED to it, and then eventually you have to reverse THAT! I can go either way these days... the mirror helps me, but sometimes I definitely do better without it, because it forces me to FEEL my body more.

Cirita - Dialogue is about 44 pages. Lots of postures have a couple of pages (2nd sets, additional corrections, multiple parts like awkward or half moon, etc.) TT classes have like 15 rows, so most people DON'T see themselves in the mirror! I really enjoy practicing in the middle of a crowded room. Losing the mirror makes you feel your body more, and I always feel like I just disappear into the room, in a good way. When I can't see myself, I feel like no one else can see me, and it gives me the illusion of real privacy (even if some guy next to me is dripping right onto my mat!) You'll have to let me know when you are visiting, by the way!!!

Meg VR said...

Three thoughts:
1.I find it more difficult to FEEL my body when I'm looking at it in the mirror. The visual feedback overrides what's going on inside of my body.

2. In floor bow, I'm working on getting the bottoms of my feet parallel to the mirror. It's interesting how challenging it is to figure out what to do with my body to make that happen. Not that I can't do it physically. Just that the path mirror-brain-feet seems long and confusing!

3. So amazingly powerful to confront myself in the mirror every day. This was very new to me. I really had to tackle some of my emotional and body baggage (which in the grand scheme of things is not particularly dramatic or exceptional, but nevertheless was hard to overcome). Very proud to be wandering around the studio in shakti shorts, not noticing or caring that my thighs are naked...

Meg VR said...

Also, I am definitely in the weird and trippy category these days. Keep trying to persuade myself to move back in the room and sort of blend in. But I want to get STRONGER and BETTER. And that means looking in the mirror. Every time I set up towards the back, I end up moving forward before class starts...

John said...

Hey!

I've been reading your past blogs and they're awesome! Thanks for your kind words about mine today - I take it you're in the LA area? One of your blogs about one liners and flatulence inspired the story I'm working on now - it's called "Fartriloquism", and it's about being able to project the sound and smell of your farts to someone else in the studio. I know, crude, but what do you expect if you let a cowboy into yoga?

Can't wait for your next post!

John
jwilliams@sonoradevelopment.com

cirita said...

J - I think I am going to be using your technique too 'cause I can't imagine memorizing the 46 pages down the road and then delivering them in front of Bikram. Wow. Kudos to everyone that has done this already!!


John, "Fartriloquism" = projecting the sound and smell of your farts to someone else in the studio? LOL Were you the one doing this to me during wind removing pose? See my last post
http://japanesehamsandwiches.blogspot.com/