Each practice that exceeds the mere stretching of muscles, the mobilizing of joints or the strengthening of the physical body requires a certain quality of “space” to flourish. Yoga does exactly this: It goes very quickly beyond the physical realm and can easily open doors for any practitioner to explore one’s emotions, mind and energy levels. This is a very precious gift and a great chance for everybody involved – students and teacher alike.
The first duty of a Yoga teacher is therefore to create a safe place, where every student feels valued, respected and completely safe. Without this sense of safety, it is impossible for the student to really let go and allow the practice to unfold fully.
It is this kind of situation when we come to talk about “creating space” or “holding space”. Space in this context means a sacred circle, a kind of virtual container, a psychological or spiritual space, or simply a safe place for the personal exploration of one’s body, emotions and mind with no verbal, emotional, physical and sexual coercion or abuse whatsoever.
HOLDING SPACE IN A NUTSHELL
– Setting an intention and staying connected with it throughout the whole class.
– Letting go of personal expectations, desires and judgement.
– Opening the heart, connecting to qualities like empathy and compassion.
– Being totally present, giving the complete and undivided attention to the process.
A short moment of internalization and reflection about an intention for the class just before heading out to teach can be very powerful. At the same time we can consecrate the outcome of the instructions, the impact of the teachings or just the simple unfolding of the process to a higher purpose, such as wishing sincerely it being beneficial for everybody involved. By refraining from doing, achieving or performing, presence may become the driving force of the process, instead of our ego.
If we manage to detach from the possible result, if we can let go of our own personal expectations and desires, we become free and open for what is actually happening and what is needed. After a consecration we naturally become more present and connected to our heart!
“Do not be concerned with the fruit of your action –
just give attention to the action itself.
The fruit will come of its own accord.
This is a powerful spiritual practice.”
Eckard Tolle, Practicing the Power of Now.
Preparation and setup
Prepare yourself before you go. It can be very helpful to get yourself into the groove by doing your own Yoga or meditation practice just before you teach – at least a short version of it. When you feel insecure or shaken, not able to focus, angry or restless, use any appropriate technique which can support you to come into a calmer, more balanced state.
Make sure that the actual physical space supports the intention of the class. Calming a human’s mind in meditation is easier in a clear, orderly and clean environment. Removing clutter in the physical realm helps to remove clutter in the mind. This may include to encourage students to leave bags in a designated area near the entrance or somewhere in the back or at the sides of the room.
Beautifying the space, introducing nature into the room by bringing in flowers and plants can have a soothing and uplifting effect.
Respect the created space can also mean that people don’t walk through the center, don’t step on the mats of other practitioners and generally show awareness around everyone’s personal space – physically and energetically.
Expect the unexpected! Don’t worry if things don’t go according to your plan. This is actually happening more often than not. You keep holding space by:
– being totally present and attentive to what is happening
– not getting distracted from outside interferences
– dancing energetically between your intention and your plan – detach swiftly from details, which suddenly don’t fit any more while still sticking to the overall purpose (time!)
– staying open and spontaneous, creative and flexible while not forgetting the intention
– providing clear instructions and agreements
– intervening or setting appropriate boundaries when necessary to keep the space open
– supporting and encouraging all sides
– keeping the space safe
– maintaining its flow and energy