Holding Space

To me holding space means creating a safe space to allow emotions to flow, the beautiful emotions, the dark emotions, the ones we want to hide, the ones we want to wear proudly – all of it.

As a yoga teacher, massage therapist, and energy worker, I believe it is my job to offer this safe space for my students and clients.

Last week I had the amazing opportunity to visit my best friend in California. I am a terrible flyer, usually experiencing quite a bit of anxiety during turbulence. This was the first time in a long time where I flew alone.

I was thinking about how I hold space for my students and clients and decided to hold space for myself on the plane. My usual instincts are to resist and run from my anxiety during turbulence, which usually doesn’t work well since there is nowhere to run. So I order cocktails or coffee, blast music, chow down on all the snacks, and binge watch movies and shows, squeezing my eyes shut and tensing as much of my body as I can through any tiny movement to avoid feeling it.

This time I decided to hold space for myself, allowing the emotions, the thoughts, the sensations all to be there.

It was scary.

My first flight, as if the universe were testing me, was full of turbulence not even allowing the drink service to be offered. I put on soothing music in my earbuds, closed my eyes, and rather than trying to think about anything but what was happening, I held space and tuned in. I repeated to myself to ‘feel everything’.

I found a sense of curiosity – a technique I often implement in my own yoga practice with tough sensations – to explore the eruptions of sensations through my body. Then as the turbulence smoothed out, I watched my breath level out and I watched the entire process slowly calming in my body. I allowed the emotions and sensations to peak, and I allowed them to ebb back down to calmness, which was something I had never experienced on a plane before. I had always avoided the peak which in turn never gave me the opportunity to find the calm after.

Each passing bout of turbulence went this way and I began to feel compassion and understanding for myself. By the next flight I didn’t fear the anxiety, I walked into it with compassion.  On the flight home, I felt a sense of calmness in the airport as I waited to board the plane that I had never experienced in an airport before.

Holding space for yourself or for others is not easy. It isn’t choosing the ‘pretty’ emotions to be there and being supportive of only those, while turning your back on the not-so-pretty emotions, it’s allowing whatever flows to flow, and still staying right there with yourself or with another even if it is so painful to do so.

What if we held space for ourselves and for others more often? What if we tuned into the discomfort, the unknown, the fear, rather than resisting away from it? Could we find out what is on the other side? Could we heal? Could we grow?

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