Hi friends, welcome to May! This month, our yoga teacher trainees are completing their last requirements before graduation. Over the past 12 weeks, they have studied the physical anatomy and energetic qualities of a wide range of yoga poses, learned about intentional sequencing and structuring well-rounded classes, and practiced using efficient yet supportive verbal cues to take students through their journey on the mat. What I am most proud of, however, is the inner work they’ve each been doing throughout this training, the work that will prepare them to do one of the most challenging yet rewarding things a yoga teacher can offer her students: to hold space.
If you’re reading this newsletter, I’m willing to bet you’ve heard of this term – it’s become a bit of a buzz word in the yoga community. But what exactly is it?
Holding space means creating a safe container for another’s emotional state and allowing/ accepting whatever journey or process they’re on to naturally unfold. As an article I read in Elephant Journal put it, “it is kindly and selflessly lending both your ears and your heart to another in order to truly hear them and welcome the sharing of their truth without the need to give insight, offer advice, “fix” the situation, impact the outcome, or receive anything in return.” When we hold space, we show up with compassion and curiosity, checking our egos, judgements, biases, and need to control at the door.
The best example I can think of in regards to holding space is what one of my dear students did for me recently. I’ve been working privately with this student for years now, and over time we’ve become very close friends. After getting devastating news about my cousin who’s battling cancer a few weeks ago, I called her in tears to cancel our class. She responded: you bring the coffee, I’ll bring the tissues, I’m here for you.
So, we set out our mats down, Starbucks and tissues in hand, and simply sat together. I talked, I cried, I asked questions that have no possible answer, and she listened. She didn’t give advice, try to make it better, tell me it was ok, or even talk about her own painful experience losing someone to cancer. She held the space for me to deal with my emotions, giving me a sense of safety and support without ever making it about her. The two of us, over 40 years apart in age, from two different religious backgrounds, finished our “session” with a prayer from a book she brought with her – a special gift she received on her wedding day.
I honestly don’t think I’ll ever forget this brief but incredibly powerful act of love and compassion. It touched me deeply, and taught me so much about what it means to be there for someone else.
I think we can all agree that the past year has been unlike any other, but that’s where consensus ends. While some may have experienced heartbreak and tremendous challenges during the pandemic, others may have finally found the time to slow down and build a more intentional life around the things they truly care about. All that to say that “bouncing back” from the past few months will inevitably look different for each of us. As we begin rebuilding after the chaos, let’s keep in mind that the best way to support each other might simply be by holding space, creating a safe container for one another to move forward in our own ways. Although resilience and courage are necessary to reimagine our outer reality, I believe it is only through compassion, non-judgment, and radical acceptance that we’ll be able to heal our inner worlds.