As yoga teachers most of us don’t just bark out the next posture, the next sequence, the next Next NEXT thing over and over. There is an underlying energy to our guidance that results in an energetic exchange between student and teacher. This exchange is part of the art of holding space for the student and the class at large. Staying grounded and focused while maintaining a comforting and strong atmosphere in which students feel comfortable letting everything go and diving deep.
Holding Space for someone means staying engaged and present with them while they undergo a process of self-inquiry and discovery. The process can often be pretty darn tough, involving emotional releases connected to the physical asana. It can be as intense as experiencing a rush of anger or resentment in an extended pigeon pose, self-defeat in repeated balancing postures, or finding unexpected fear and joy in urdhva danhurasana. The key to holding space is to be empathetic to whatever arises without allowing it to affect YOUR emotional state, or degrade your own judgement in the class.
Holding space often encompasses setting the example and pace with deep audible breathing (Ujjayi breath), a gentle and encouraging tactile or visual assist, or simply standing in the same space with the person(s) without losing physical presence. Showing that while you empathize with the situation you are still strong and stable, able to be there as their support system. Very little of space holding is verbal although gentle verbal reminders can often guide the student(s) to the openness and place of surrender that brings these reactions about. Remember that this is a necessary process in our culture, where we hold on to SO much that it becomes embedded in our joints, tightens our muscles, and alters our sense of physical balance.
The gift of being the “holder-of-space”
To be the holder-of-the-space is an opportunity to see the divine unfold before your eyes. Often you can feel the evergy of the release “dark or light” radiating from the persons physical body into the room. It is important to recognize the release while grounding yourself enough to let the energy flow THROUGH you. Plant your feet on the floor, feel the stable connection and then come in to your own center. Sense your own wholeness and then dive in. When it is asked for, you might also provide comfort by holding hands or embracing -allowing the contact to flow unguided by you. This is a mutual gift of energetic exchange and it is beautiful! 🙂
Celebrate this release into clarity and higher awareness. Let your heart *smile* and eventually the energy of the room will *smile* too.
When students express gratitude say “Thank You”…while realizing it comes from a higher place. Remove the ego and accept the gift.
Who do you know that is great at this art in your life? Yoga teachers, friends, family members? Share them in comments!
Here are some teachers I know that are phenomenal at this art. Its so natural to them…
Erich Schiffman (even online you can tell!)