One recurring theme I’ve noticed on yoga blogs is “pet peeves”, things that drive people crazy when they happens in a yoga class. (so much so that the NY Times wrote about it) I appreciate that for a lot of people, yoga is a refuge, a space away, and things that intrude on the refuge are tough to handle. But honestly, most of them don’t bug me at all. Cell phones- it happens, and if the teacher is sharp they make a joke about it. Singing along with the music the teacher is playing? I say go for it. Peace and be wild, right? (Okay, maybe not in savasana, but otherwise it’s cool in my book) Stinky people and short speedos, not my favorites either, but that’s another conversation. (And teachers, that’s what we get paid to deal with…)
However, as a teacher, I do have one big, rhinocerous-sized pet peeve. At least once a week, I’ll adjust a student’s alignment, or suggested some shift in a pose, usually to protect a joint. And they do, and they look at me very plaintively and say “Oh, I’m sorry”. As if they did the pose “wrong”, and/or somehow offended me. Which of course they didn’t, and they didn’t. And then, on the inside, I scream!
Teachers, students of all levels, don’t ever apologize for you practice. EVER! Your body, your pose is amazing as is, even if it looks nothing like what everyone else is doing. Your body has carried you for every minute of your life, right? And while it may not have behaved exactly how you wanted every second, it got you to class, and into this pose in one piece, yes? You are perfect as is. Yes, you, reading this now. That’s not to say that you (and by you I mean me) don’t continue to refine your poses, deepen your work, and allow some kind of transformation, but you have nothing to apologize for. You, in your pose, breathing, is enough. Everything else will extend from that.
As a teacher, and I hope I speak in harmony with the teachers I work with and admire, it’s our job to show you what you might not be able to see, and help you move in a way that is easier and freer. We’re not judging you- if I’m doing my job right I personally have no stake in what your pose looks like. I’m just doing my work, which in that moment might involve saying “try putting your foot here.” (or as my dad likes to say, “I think it’s your other left foot.”) So if a teacher adjusts you, or suggests something in your pose, smile, or just try what they offered. Don’t apologize, there’s no need.
P.S. Just to be clear, I think as a yoga student, in a class, on the mat, short of knocking someone over physically, you never have to say you’re sorry. But as a son of amazing and tolerant parents, and a man who has had the privilege of having some amazing partners in all facets of my life, being human (and certainly male) means having to say you’re sorry. Often. In fact, ma, about that hole in the basement door…