Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Never apologize, never explain!

"Never apologize, never explain. It's not a bad two-rule maxim for life, all things considered, but it's not very helpful when it comes to writing afterwords for books. After all, the only reason people read afterwords is for some kind of explanation for what they've read, if they haven't understood it, or for some kind of apology, if they have."  - Neil Gaiman

I am currently in the process of missing (or rather skipping) my last opportunity to go to a Bikram class today.  (In the middle of a 30/60 day thingie, no less.)  Instead, I am sitting on my couch digesting the guacamole, cheese, and chips that I decided to eat about an hour ago.  I was hungry, they were leftovers, and they were delicious.  But you know what?  Never apologize, never explain!!  I am not going to apologize for this!!  (Though technically, I guess I did just explain it.  Clearly, I am not taking myself literally.)

I think a lot of us have this knee-jerk need to explain or apologize for our "bad classes."  I've certainly done it plenty of times, sidling up to the desk after a wobbly class and dropping a comment about dehydration or sleep deprivation or burritos.  But why?  I've never had a teacher respond with, "Oh good, thanks for apologizing, cause I was really annoyed about that part when you fell out of standing bow."  Our teachers don't mind that we have "bad days."  They understand it, they expect it, and a lot of the time... honestly, they don't even notice it.  The world doesn't revolve around me.  There are plenty of other people in the room to draw the teacher's attention, and from the outside, most "bad days" look pretty similar to the normal ones.  So the apology isn't REALLY for the teacher's benefit, is it?  So why DO we have the impulse to say these things?  Misplaced guilt over our imperfections, over our own humanity...?

This yoga, with the hard work and sweat and intensity, can feel like an atonement sometimes.  We go in there and sweat out our sins - the foods, the booze, the sleepless nights, the emotional baggage - right?

The thing is, I don't really want to atone.  I'd rather just own the things that I do and the choices that I make, even when they are stupid or silly.  Especially then!  Because none of us can be perfect.  That's not even an appropriate goal, at the end of the day.  All we can be is ourselves - struggling, sweating, trying, standing up, falling down, fucking it up, putting it back together, trying again.  Human.  So be human.  Unapologetically.

My friend reminded me of a lovely line from my favorite book this weekend: "You have to do the pose wrong a thousand times before you can do it right once."  I like this, because reminds me that we are doing the right thing by being imperfect.  The only way to "get it right" is by making a hundred, a thousand, even a million mistakes first.  Never feel badly about that!  Just accept it, appreciate it, and keep on keeping on.

DISCLAIMER: DO, of course, remember to mention something that might be relevant, like an injury or surgery, to your teacher before class... help them to help you!!


Cristina said...

Thanks for the nice line "You have to do the pose wrong a thousand times before you can do it right once."

It is so true.

hannahjustbreathe said...

I used to apologize for my bad classes all the time. I also used to come to yoga seeking forgiveness, absolution---atonement.

It wasn't wrong to do these things.

But, I am so happy I learned and now embrace that my yoga---and, really, my life---is as much about the mistakes I make as it is about how I go about correcting them.

This was a truly wonderful post to read, my friend. Thank you.

tracik said...

Love this post! And I was just thinking how I was going explain to the instructor tonight before class that I might not be 100% due to a spasm in my back. But now I will just go and have the best class I can tonight for me! Thanks!

bikramyogachick said...

Wow, thanks J! This post is great. We are our own worst critics, flogging ourselves for our perceived "bad classes". I love it when teacher Lacey says "It's yoga practice, not yoga perfect". Or when teacher Frank says "have fun, smile. It's only yoga".
Oh, and yes, I've been that yogi who stumbles out and "explains" to the teacher. You are right, they probably didn't even notice, and most certainly don't really care! :)

thedancingj said...

Yeah, we all do it for a while. :) And there's nothing WRONG with it, but it is nice to become more accepting of ourselves and move past it! I'm glad this resonated with you all.

tracik - I hope you DID have the best class you could!! Though your comment reminded me to add a disclaimer - if something is truly WRONG, then of course it's a good idea to mention it to your instructor, because that way you can help them help you! It's not "apologizing" if it's constructive. :)

tracik said...

Thanks...Just on ongoing injury from a car accident 2 plus years ago. Comes & goes. Just soft tissue damage. I know Chiropractic helps some people, but I did it for 6 months and I think it made it worse!

thedancingj said...

Gotcha. Sorry the chiro didn't help - I hope the yoga does better!! I've seen people have REALLY good results using Bikram to recover from those sort of injuries, so there is reason to expect good things. :)

Duffy Pratt said...

And of course, if you do apologize or explain something, then you shouldn't offer an apology or explanation for the apology or explanation, and so on...

Danielle said...

Great post. You are so right. One teacher, prior to me goign to training said to me, "Don't forget, this is YOUR practice. Nothing else matters." It made a profound effect on me... and I think I have finally stopped apologizing.

Scratch that. I did apologize on Tuesday's 6am class, when I decided to take a nap after half tortoise. Totally unacceptable as a teacher, I think. But damn it I was tired!

Ok, so now I'm thinking - did I have to apologize/explain?

thedancingj said...

Hmmmm Danielle - tricky as a teacher! I dunno. DOES the principle REALLY change? You are still a student when you take class. And for the other students in the class, I think it can sometimes be a real relief for them to see their teachers struggling occasionally. It shows them that even rock stars can have rough days, and it's ok to be human! I very rarely go down in class, but when I do, sometimes I practically feel like I'm doing a public service, cause then other people don't feel so guilty about having a tough time!!