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April 1, 2020

A Letter to the Yoga Community: How to Hold Space for One Another.

Recently, I stumbled across an article, about the “sweetness of holding space for others.”

Truthfully, I just skimmed the article, but it got me thinking about how the “sweetness” and compassion that comes with sitting alongside someone fully present and without interruption can be incredibly moving and humbling.

Often in silence, the gesture of holding space for another can leave quite the imprint on one’s heart. A fellow yoga teacher once reminded me that it is not “that you do it, but how you do it.” So, how exactly do we hold space for another person, both near and far? And why is it so powerful?

If I were to explain the undeniable power that exists in being present with another human, I would write it in a letter. I would explain, as best I can, that it is so incredibly important to show up for yourself in the same way you are capable of showing up for others. As I fully believe both student and teacher live within us all, we can often feel an incongruence between the two—sometimes feeling as though we can’t be both at the same time. However, both practitioner and instructor are experiencing the same energetic exchange simultaneously, but from two different perspectives.

From an instructor’s viewpoint, the interaction requires both giving and receiving. So, written with empathy and honesty; the following is a letter for you from your teacher. Perhaps, written from the teacher within.

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Dear student,

I believe in you. You are capable of so much. 

Did you know there is a powerful energetic exchange between student and teacher, and it occurs long before any sort of physical adjustments take place? It begins when an instructor steps into the room and willingly takes the seat of the teacher.

It’s important for you to understand that when I walk into that room, I am fully present. I am choosing to teach and hold space. I am showing up intuitively aware that the room is filled with a myriad of personalities, energies, experiences, and needs. To the best of my ability, I will provide guidance, support, and unconditional love.

This class isn’t about me.

It’s about you.

I also want you to know I’ve got you, and I hope you can extend this same kindness to your neighbor. In my opinion, holding space for a complete stranger can be one of the most compassionate things you could do for another soul. Holding space for another person means committing to honor their individual and unique experience. You do this by setting appropriate boundaries. You do this while still being fully present in your own yoga practice. You can also do this more than once a day and for more than one person.

For whatever the reason, you were drawn to this space today, in this exact moment. Although you may not have awareness as to why you are here, my hope is that through physical movement, intense breath work, connecting the body, mind, and soul, you are able to shift your perspective in some small way. Maybe you needed this today. I know that I needed you today; you also play a significant role in my own transformation.

As a practitioner, I often show up to my yoga mat with more of a self-care intention of practicing yoga; however, I inadvertently also become an active participant in creating and shifting the collective energy in the room as a whole. As a practitioner, I move and breathe and allow my own messy, fiery, and beautiful practice to unfold right in front of your eyes. My hope is that you also know as this transformation occurs in my space, I wish the same messy, fiery, and beautiful transformation in yours. 

Today and any day, I want you to know when I step in this role of offering compassion and kindness to my students, I will also do so without judgement. I will not give up on you. I will not try and fix you. I will simply hold space for what is coming up for you. This is your own unique experience, and I recognize the vulnerability in what you are moving through in this exact moment. 

My intent is to hold space using my own intuitive guidance and teachings. I will encourage you to fall in and out of the asanas, while also experiencing the raw beauty of getting to know your body in a way you haven’t before encountered. Your body is strong and amazing and I hope you deeply believe this to be true. 

My dear student, I believe in your magical healing power. To create light where there is darkness and extend love when there is mostly sorrow. Did you know that? You are a shining light and when you intend to support another human, you do so with love, empathy, and humility. Keep showing up for you, and you will also keep showing up for others. The two are married together like lovers, unable to keep their hands off each other or to spend a moment apart.

Showing up for yourself is showing up for others as well. Today, I will not judge you or shame you. I will hold space for you and believe in all the ways you are capable of love, of harnessing your magic, and shining your light to the rest of the world.

When I say I can hold space for you, I mean I am here. Right now. I am here with you for as long as you need or as long as I am capable. You and I believe that there is space and time between us all. Constant and unwavering, yes? So, with this space let our intention be to fill it with deep love and gratitude. With our time, let it be intentional and spent guided by empathy and integrity. 

I will always intend for you to feel loved, to find healing, and to feel supported by the Universe. I totally and completely believe in you.

~

What is it then about holding space for someone that can not only be so powerful but also a difficult practice for many. Is it the discomfort? The vulnerability? The possibility of saying the wrong thing? Or the doubt in saying anything at all?

It is not “that you do it, but how you do it.”

As both a middle school teacher and a yoga instructor, I am gifted with this opportunity, in sporadic moments throughout the school day, to hold space for all my students. And I am always incredibly conscientious of how I do this through my interactions and intention. I am fully aware of the power and energetic exchange that occurs during such a close moment between two souls. Each experience is different from the next.

The magic then that exists in holding space for others is most significant when you learn to do so in all aspects of your world. In your personal and professional relationships, and especially in relation to yourself. Can you recognize different roles within you, both student and teacher, even when they appear to be dissimilar? In moments when you’re not sure exactly what to say, most importantly, when you are not sure what to say, you show up anyway. 

In my opinion, the power is in the vulnerability and the willingness it takes to create such an intimate moment with another person. When we hold space for another soul, both near and far, we participate in being truly human.

I believe, in these moments, we are experiencing a piece of our fundamental humanity. And this ability, which literally is interwoven into our DNA, produces cathartic and transformative encounters. Whether it be something as small as a perspective or perception shift, or a larger change in a core belief, it is a shift in how we connect to and with other humans. The energy exchanged can be reshaping and dynamic.

So, when I say I can hold space for you, I mean it. I intend to say: 

I am here.

I am fully present.

I am here and fully present for the experience you’re having at this very moment.

I got you.

~

“Empathy has no script. There is no right way or wrong way to do it. It’s simply listening, holding space, withholding judgment, emotionally connecting, and communicating that incredibly healing message of ‘you’re not alone.” ~ Brené Brown

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