You may have believed that talking mirrors could only be found in fairy tales, just like me. Yet, here I am in my living area, wearing gym gear, doing lunges, in front of a large, full length, and yes, talking-mirror.
No, I’m not as vain (quite) as Snow White’s wicked stepmother, but I am listening rapt to the tiny and enthusiastic woman inside the mirror who is telling me what to do to make myself look, ahem, fairer than them all.
Let me explain. It might as well be magic to me, but it’s not — it’s a high-tech, interactive ‘fitness mirror’ called Vaha, and it’s the first of its kind in the UK. It measures 5ft 6in x 2ft (1.7m x 0.6m) and looks like a giant left his iPhone in my home by accident.
Created in Germany and costing nearly £2,000, the futuristic device aims to be the hot new thing in the booming world of home exercise equipment.
Giulia Cruch (pictured) gives her verdict about the Vaha mirror. It allows users to access home exercise classes.
Like Peloton — the interactive exercise bike that lets users race each other virtually from their homes — Vaha works by subscription. After you’ve bought it, access to classes — which are live, pre-recorded or direct with a personal trainer — start from £70 a month.
It’s not cheap, that’s for sure, but it is, as founder Valerie Bures-Bonstrom, 42, explains, very convenient. Her target audience is the time poor — busy parents like her, people for whom a daily class at a gym presents too much of a logistical challenge.
‘Basically this is about efficiency,’ says the mother of three, who looks like she practises exactly what she preaches. ‘There are no time barriers. It’s for people who know they need to move their body each day for their health, happiness and energy levels.’ She believes daily exercise should be considered as vital as eating, sleeping and brushing our teeth.
I think privately about the fitness regimen that I had the previous day, consisting of a short walk from the pub.
But here I am, ready to start my first class using my spooky talking-mirror. I select a 20-minute high-intensity interval training workout and up pops my instructor — a strong-looking woman, floating in the middle of the mirror and on top of the reflected image.
It’s odd because, unlike looking at a TV or a phone, I can see the slightly translucent instructor, like a little energetic genie, but I can also see myself. We do push-ups, backwards lunges and shoulder taps. Being able to see our reflections simultaneously is both strange and useful.
On one hand, I can work out whether I’m doing the moves correctly by looking at my body, and on the other it feels a bit narcissistic, gazing intently at myself while I exercise.
My teacher ends the session by saying “Well done!” and then disappears from the home screen.
Valerie Bures Bostrom, 42, is the founder of Vaha. She said Vaha is for people who know that they need to move each day for their happiness, health, and energy.
Time to up the ante on my narcissism and take a call through the mirror with a private trainer who’s there just for me. I’ve always wanted one, but felt self-conscious. What do you talk about while you’re focusing on your abs?
A trainer in a mirror feels like an excellent — albeit weird — compromise. There are many options available, each focused on different goals with different areas.
I go for one who says she’s got a ‘good sense of humour’, a quality I feel will be necessary to train me — except I never get to find out what her jokes are like. The signal is so bad, it sounds as if she’s underwater.
After several failed attempts to reconnect, we gave up. Even talking mirrors can have technical problems.
I try again the next day and connect with Ben, a trainer in the UK. He’s good-looking and I’m suddenly aware of how tired my face looks. It’s a half-hour call and he begins by asking about my exercise regime and fitness goals.
I tell him I’d like to get fitter and stronger, especially in my upper body. I point to my puny arms, explaining that it’s a source of much hilarity to my friends that I can’t do a push-up. He says he’s going to design a five-week training programme for me, led by an avatar, consisting of daily half-hour sessions Monday to Friday. It’ll be ‘full body’ with an ‘upper-body twist’.
He is engaging and funny, and I begin to believe that this mirror is worth the price. Now, he’d like to check out my ‘form’, he says. I feel concerned — I don’t think I have any form at all.
Giulia (pictured) said she finished a training session using Vaha with a trainer called Ben, feeling unexpectedly motivated and smug
He asks me to do some squats. ‘Shocking,’ he says, confirming my theory. It turns out I’m doing more of a ‘sumo squat’ than a regular one but, getting me to demonstrate from different angles, he helps to correct it. ‘That’s more like it,’ he whoops once I’ve nailed it and I feel pleased.
‘OK, let’s see your push-up,’ he says. Wow, I think. This isn’t going to be fun. I do one on my knees, knowing that’s my only hope of success. I manage three, but am sure I’ve done them wrong and glance sheepishly back at the mirror for the verdict.
‘Low in quantity and low in depth,’ he says, ‘but technically very nice.’ I’m both amazed and delighted, and immediately commit the quote to memory.
I feel surprised and smug when I leave. Would I have been so excited if he hadn’t been so beautiful? It’s hard to say, but I’m not going to claim the moral high ground. It worked, which is what matters most.
Now back to the mirror. I click around the interface — a touchscreen, naturally — and find there are classes to suit all tastes: yoga, barre, stretching, strength, even a whole section dedicated to meditation. That’s more like it, I think. As a long-time yoga fan, my ideal of exercise is to de-stress and not look good. To my surprise, Valerie agrees.
‘There’s so much focus in this industry on weight loss, making your body beautiful and being healthy, but people don’t stick to it. I am addicted to fitness and I thought “Why have others not felt this addiction yet?”. Do I do this to lose weight? No, I love mousse au chocolat too much.
Giulia (pictured) said the mirror can also track indicators such as heart rate via a monitor and has other apps including Spotify, Instagram and Zoom
‘At the end of the day most people don’t really care how they look. I drink alcohol, I enjoy good food, I eat sugar — we all want to live. So what is the real reason that people stay with sports? I realised the addiction comes from a feeling of flow.’
She explains that ‘vaha’ means flow in Punjabi. Valerie defines flow as a combination of mindfulness and the buzz that comes with progress. It’s about being fully absorbed in the moment and at one with your body. Finding the perfect challenge — something not too difficult but not too easy.
I chose a stretching class to help me tune into this transcendent state. I feel zen as my body moves to the right positions on a mat.
Mirrors can also monitor heart rate via a monitor. If fitness isn’t your thing, you can use other apps on it, including Spotify, Instagram, a web browser and, best of all, Zoom. I think we can all agree on the fact that calling from a full-length mirror makes it even cooler. You may feel a bit pressured to choose the right outfit.
If you’ve got the space and the money, a Vaha is undoubtedly a great gadget to own and, for the time poor, a truly efficient way to access a huge range of classes without leaving your home.
A real yoga class is my preference over a virtual one. Yoga is all about the camaraderie, the sense of accomplishment and the building relationships. To accomplish all that, a mirror would be magic.