She was ripe with apologies.
“I am so sorry that I cannot do this.” She said in multiple iterations, over and over again, over the course of the class.
And then, calmly, one of my favorite Pilates instructors (who is filled with wisdom) at my YMCA looked her in the eyes and said, “Don’t apologize. We all have our stuff. And each of us is here right now because we want to work on our stuff. You are here. You are trying. That’s all that matters.”
Just like that, the angst went out of the woman practicing Pilates in front of me. And she settled in, no longer looking for what her body couldn’t do but paying attention, appreciating what her body could do. And just like that, her whole practice looked different because she wasn’t fighting any more; she was engaging.
We fight our bodies so much. We complain about them. We punish them with our minds and words. And when we do those things, we find that our body balks at us. It is only when we shift our energy, shift our thinking and approach, that we make way for something new. It is only when we say, “Oh, I see you hurt hamstring. What can I do to make that better?” That we then can actually feel relief because we are finally ready to give it ourselves. It is only then that we say, “You’ve been doing so much” instead of “You always let me down.”
And, so today, I am paying attention to my practice. We call the return to the yoga mat our practice. When we get on that space, our little magic mat, what we are doing is not just strong-arming our way into crow in one fell swoop. No, we are practicing, practicing paying attention to what our body feels and then trying to give it some of what it needs and we are also practicing paying attention to what our mind thinks and trying to temper the stuff that doesn’t serve. The same is true, I have found, in my Pilates practice, too. I realize what’s tight one day, where my mind is daring and throwing off my breath the next. No two yoga sessions look the same for me, neither do my Pilates sessions, different stuff comes up and I have to respond to that day’s needs. But I practice that as much as I can on the mat so that I can live it as much as I can off the mat.
We all have our stuff. That’s why we show up everyday and try to break it a little bit more open. Today, I am practicing. Can you join me?