Space. There are so many different ways to relate to that word:
Inner space. Outer space. Personal space. Safe space.
Wikipedia defines space as a “boundless three-dimensional extent in which objects and events have relative position and direction.”
I love that word—boundless. It gives me hope and a sense that there is enough space for me to be me.
Why, you might ask, does the idea of boundless space fill me with so much joy? Well, when I was a kid, I would have given just about anything for a space of my own. A safe space like the one in that movie “Panic Room” with Jodi Foster. Watching that movie in 2002, I envied the way Jodi and her daughter could enter their iron-clad room, deadbolt a door behind them, and be completely shielded from the outside world.
In some ways, I think my affinity for space is what caused me to fall in love with yoga, and why I now lead a yoga-in-schools training course. Adults learn how to bring yoga to youth. When kids practice yoga poses, breathing, and relaxation techniques, they become empowered to create and respect their own inner (and outer) space.
Four years ago, at the end of my first yoga class, I rested with my body stretched out on my mat and for the first time in my life I felt as though I had enough space to breathe—physically and emotionally. I felt as if there was finally enough oxygen in the room, enough space in my soul.
Part of this spaciousness came from not only the yoga poses and the breathing exercises, but more importantly the fact that I actually had a physical space of my own—a little rubber mat that was just for me, where no one could come near me or hurt me.
Since that class, I’ve laid down on a mat plenty of times after an intense yoga class, and it’s not always easy to feel that sense of space. In fact, at times it’s downright hard, because it gives me room to feel things that I may not want to feel, some of the emotions are feelings that my body has stored for decades.
There are times I’ll lie down at the end of a class and burst into tears, crying deep cries that start from the depths of my belly. And although those moments can be really hard to get through, I know that they are worth it because after the tears have dried, that familiar sense of space opens up once more and I have more room inside myself to breathe, to laugh, to play.
Right now, there are millions of kids who, like the little me, desperately need a space where they can feel comfortable and at ease. A space where they can let things go, move their bodies in ways that feel good to them, and where it’s okay to let their guard down. This is why I teach kids’ yoga, and why it’s critical that we bring movement, breath and relaxation into our classrooms.
Yoga can be a powerful tool in helping kids find their sense of inner space, to help them recognize and identify their emotions and to discover healthy ways to acknowledge and release those sensations. For so many kids, a yoga mat may be the only place in their lives where they feel completely safe and comfortable.
Bringing yoga to kids has helped me make peace with my own childhood. In the moments when remembering my past is particularly painful, I remind myself that it is the very trauma of my own childhood that allows and inspires me to make such a positive difference in other kids’ lives.
And, in some auspicious way, helping create that space for kids does, in fact, create more space for my own happiness. It lets me know that I am not a victim of my past, and that I can turn the darkness that I have experienced into light.
Author: Halli Bayer
Editor: Emma Ruffin