To Hold Space

Our yoga psychology teacher gave us homework: to write personal code of conduct for close relationships with students.  There is of course the Yoga Alliance Code of Conduct, and, at the basic level, the boundaries are clear.  But it quickly becomes non-trivial.  What if teaching is a huge part of your life, and the main place where you meet like-minded people?  What if you do run into someone special, whatever that may mean.  What if, you know, you are human sometimes?  How close is too close anyway?  And why?  No, not because it’s written somewhere, but for real – why?

The answer came as I walked down the street one evening.  I was thinking about a lover, with the apprehension that always seems to come with the territory, mostly irrational yet very real debilitating fear of abandonment. Then this song came up on whatever I was listening to.

The song is played in pretty much every other yoga class.  I might have rolled my eyes when I had heard it before: come on guys, aren’t there other songs?

Now though, as the percussion joined Krishna Das’s voice and harmonium around 3:10, the anxiety gave way to peace and joy.  With those came the answer.  The studio has been the place where I’ve felt safe and secure.  Therefore, my subtle yet cornerstone responsibility and indebtedness as a teacher’s is to offer that to the students.  This is why whatever doesn’t align, stays out.  My classmate Monica used the words “sacred space” once.  I don’t know what it meant to her.  To me, a safe space to cultivate bliss sounds pretty sacred.  Who would have thought I’d even consider the word.

Tom asked why I practice yoga: public classes, teacher training, practice teaching.  A large part of it is simply that this feels like a well balanced intelligent work out.  Back in 2009, I dropped by a good yoga class and left it feeling stronger and more agile than ever after going to the gym.  Who wouldn’t want more after that!

More preciously though, there have been days when I was choked by anxiety, fear, self doubt, anger, you get the idea, and then I arrive on the mat, do my work, and, an hour later, it all retreats.  The circumstances are the same, but the thoughts don’t have a grip on me any more, I am free.

Better yet, there are days when I am choked on all that, arrive on the mat, do the work, and the fears and whatnot don’t retreat.  But, having spent an intimate hour with them, I figure, we can live together, if we have to.  Their grip loosens a little bit.  As I stop fighting, I recognize that my life is seriously good, and that everyone has ten thousand sorrows and ten thousand joys, everyone.  I can live with my fears, and together we can make a little room for kindness.

That’s why I practice.  To learn to hold sacred space for growing strong, agile, free, and if not free, at least kind.  Maybe one day I will build, along the way, strength to relate fearlessly.  Maybe, maybe not.  Either way, I’ll remember that my work is to hold space.




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