Holding Space

August 2022

A few years back I wrote an article as part of my Mental Health Aware Yoga training. It was aimed at new yoga teachers, to build awareness around the difference between teaching a yoga class and facilitating the journey of their students by being PRESENT, with no agenda and simply holding the space for each and every one of them to feel comfortable enough to explore their own body, breath, and practice.

Letting go of preconceived ideas of how things should look, how things should be and how they should progress is not easy. Think about a time when you have been excited to share something new with another…. As the holder of the knowledge we have already assimilated this knowledge into an easy formula for us to interpret, compartmentalize and use for a desired outcome….


We don’t all think, feel or act in the same way….AND we don’t all interpret, compartmentalize, or see the end result in the same way. Furthermore, even within our own individual psyche, we may be more open, closed, focused or resistant to what we are learning on any given day, depending on our mental/emotional and physical wellbeing.

So, the recipient of our news may be not ready to receive…. but they may want to please us, to save face or not really be interested at all, so they nod and look like they understand, in order to move on, escape or avoid upsetting us.

Whether you are reading this as a yoga teacher, student, parent, child, colleague, etc, before we begin to TEACH anything, we have to really SEE our students and decide in that moment who are we there for?

As yoga facilitators, it’s important that we observe our students so as to know how to begin the class to either lift energy or settle busy minds. If we launch into a carefully themed class beginning with a breath practice, and a number of students are showing signs of agitation as they try to calm themselves, there’s a good chance we’ll be fifteen minutes in before half the class are settled in their bodies. The same premise goes for work meetings, family gatherings or discussions with loved ones. When we launch into our agenda, and they are not ready to receive, we’ve possibly lost the opportunity of really connecting in and being PRESENT for them.

Here’s a little exercise to try next time you find yourself in a teaching/sharing situation.

Observe how they move into the space; are they relaxed in their body, is their breathing regular or do they appear a little on edge, glancing around, moving, or fidgety.

And then…. how do you respond to this…at a physical, mental, and emotional level?

Take a breath or two, feel and sense into your own body. How do I feel? Tense, irritated, oblivious, focused on the end result, or aware but not wanting to let go of the agenda prepared?

It is in this very moment that we have the POWER to choose how we respond. And this moment can make all the difference to the individual or group.

As Viktor Frankel’s states in ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’

Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and freedom’

There are a number of ways we can respond, to lessen the burden we place on ourselves and others, but the real response comes from within. When we stop long enough to SENSE the energy in the room, to really SEE ourselves and others in that moment and act from a place of total compassion, non-judgement, and openness for what is…we are holding space for others. 

However, it that brings up a sense of unease then here are a few steps, adapted from a blog written by  Heather Plett. on How to Hold Space.  

  1. It’s important here to calm our own nervous system first, so we are better able to SEE what is right in front of us.

  2. Ask yourself ‘Am I able to let go of my attachment to the outcome if it clearly isn’t going to work at this time?’ 
  3. Can I begin the class/ meeting in different way, perhaps a walk around to invoke a sense of grounding and stability, a joke to uplift spirits, or some self-hugs or placing our hands on our heart or belly to feel connection to self?
  4. Can I be prepared for ‘good enough’ rather than ‘perfect’? We may not be able to meet everyone’s needs, but by letting go of our ego, we  may just be a little closer to connecting with another. 

                     Find the one that most resonates with you and the rest will fall into place.