Dear Yoga Student,
Please don’t be sorry. Don’t excuse your knee replacement, weight gain, or fading pedicure. Please don’t beg pardon for neglecting to practice as much as you think you ‘should’, for using props, for being ‘too tight for yoga’, injured, or tired. Do not apologize for your human-ness.
I get it. I understand the inclination toward apologizing for one’s existence. I’m certain it began for me sometime in childhood…preemptively begging forgiveness for some imagined misdeed or small error at home, school, and as an aspiring dancer. You and I both could splinter the “hows and whys” of that whole story into multiple directions, filling volumes of journaling and hours of therapy, but the story is not important. The awareness of the story and letting go is what’s important.
When a student indicates a roadblock or I notice a point of tension, awkwardness, discomfort in a posture I often ask, “So, why are you doing it that way?” Sometimes the answer is that they saw someone else do it, they were taught in that fashion, or they just aren’t sure. I think it’s pretty important to know why you’re doing something the way you do it. If you’ve taken my classes, you know that I love to correlate the microcosm of how we approach asana practice to the macroscosm of life, so this is where I ask you to approach your tendency to apologize with the same spirit of curiosity:
Why are you apologizing?
Can the situation be helped?
Are you really at ‘fault’?
Come to your conclusion and stand strong in your decision to discontinue apologizing for you just being you…or utilize what you’ve learned as an opportunity to spark genuine and lasting change in your life.
If you are a runner and bend your knees/ utilize blocks to aid ‘tight hamstrings’ in a standing forward fold, celebrate your active lifestyle and applaud the conscious decision you made to embrace yoga as a valuable cross-training regimen. If you missed two weeks of class to attend to the needs of your child, celebrate your role as a dedicated parent…then pat yourself on the back for coming back to a space which fosters self-care so you can continue being that wonderful parent. However if you find yourself regularly apologizing for being late, you may want to examine the habits which lead to tardiness. If you are continually injured as a result of pushing yourself past safety, rather than apologize, you may want to take a deep breath and a long hard look at your motivation and aggressive approach to asana practice.
I am not judging you, and no…do not apologize for apologizing. My hope for you is that you discover the beauty of each moment by embracing the authenticity of your mindbody as is. Become aware of your resistance to accepting your beauty and create a plan of action to unblock your awareness of your perfectly imperfect being as is.
I’d like to share an excerpt from The Wisdom of No Escape by Pema Chodron:
Being satisfied with what we already have is a magical golden key to being alive in a full, unrestricted, and inspired way. One of the major obstacles to what is traditionally called enlightenment is resentment, feeling cheated, holding a grudge about who you are, where you are, what you are. This is why we talk so much about making friends with ourselves, because, for some reason or other, we don’t feel that kind of satisfaction in a full and complete way. Meditation is a process of lightening up, of trusting the basic goodness of what we have and who we are, and of realizing that any wisdom that exists, exists in what we already have. Our wisdom is all mixed up with what we call our neurosis. Our brilliance, our juiciness, our spiciness, is all mixed up with our craziness and our confusion, and therefore it doesn’t do any good to try to get rid of our so-called negative aspects, because in that process we also get rid of our basic wonderfulness. We can lead our life so as to become more awake to who we are and what we’re doing rather than trying to improve or change or get rid of who we are or what we’re doing. The key is to wake up, to become more alert, more inquisitive and curious about ourselves.
When I look at you, I see your ‘basic wonderfulness’. I want to thank you for your spiciness and craziness. Thank you for your ‘tight hammies’ and for sharing your vulnerability, loss, and insecurities. Thank you for offering your bodies with many different shapes, sizes, and movement backgrounds which keep me on my toes and challenge me to accommodate all beings. You teach me to be a better teacher. You are my teacher. Above all, I want to thank you for apologizing so I could ponder on my own tendency to do the same, and then reflect this back to you to let you know that you don’t have to do it anymore.