Creating Space

Let me begin with thanking those of you who read my first blog entry and offered your support and comments. I am so excited for those of you who are choosing to get on your mat!  Please keep sharing your practice with this community; supporting and uplifting one another is my purpose for this blog. Now, let’s talk some yoga.

One of the many amazing aspects of yoga practice is that you actually begin to create space in your body, at a cellular level, in which you wring out old toxins and open up your body for something new, something better, something healthier, something that honors you. During yoga teacher training, we would repeat certain phrases during specific sequences of the practice. One of them was, “Create space for something new.” I felt like an idiot at times, thinking, “Why the fuck am I saying this over and over?” As the training progressed, the sequences came together and this phrase fit in seamlessly as a cue with specific poses (asanas).

But creating space goes beyond the physical body. Through my practice I am learning to create space not only within myself, but outside of myself, too. For example, allowing people around me to have space for their words and/or feelings...really listening instead of trying to “fix” their situation with my words. I struggle, however, with giving space to anger and grief. For me, I feel as if these two emotions often disguise one another, especially since it sometimes feels safer to be angry rather than sad. Both of these intense emotions often frighten me, especially if it is from those whom I hold closest to my heart. I would (and sometimes still do) either walk away, try to shut it down, or avoid it. I recognize that the habits I used to deal with my own anger and grief were to either smother them or release them in unhealthy and sometimes destructive ways.

Not surprisingly, depriving myself or others the space for strong emotions such as anger and grief has, at times, had a derogatory effect on my relationships. Why would I continue to do this--hurt myself and those I love? I didn’t do it intentionally. I did it because I lacked healthy tools to deal with life.  Yoga is teaching me how to create space for my own emotions and the emotions of others when I am off of my mat. But this is no easy task. In fact, sometimes it fucking sucks, feeling anger and pain that I have stored for so long within myself...worried that these intense emotions will swallow me whole.

For me, an essential tool in creating space is my breath. I think that I may have spent the majority of my life literally holding my breath. I am still learning how to fully breathe...allowing for complete inhales and complete exhales in my daily life. Yoga practice and mediation have been my greatest teachers in learning how to breathe. Don’t worry...I’ll address my love/hate relationship with meditation in a future post.

Donna Farhi is a renowned yoga teacher and author. I studied her work during my training and here is what she has to say about breath: “When we hold the breath and try to control life or stop changes from happening, we are saying that we do not want to be moved. In those moments our desire for certainty has become much stronger than our desire to be dynamically alive. Breathing freely is a courageous act” (Yoga Mind, Body & Spirit, p.30).

Damn. Go back and re-read that quote if you skimmed through it. Not breathing fully is actually an attempt at control--at least for me it is. Breathing freely is an act of bravery. Giving space to my emotions/words and honoring others with the same space is a totally new way of living for me, and it is not always pleasant. Sometimes it can by downright terrifying. However, becoming conscious of the fact that I don’t have to control everything in order to keep those around me and myself safe/happy/sad/angry is allowing freedom. Life is fucking life whether or not I delude myself with being “in charge” or “in control.”

I am grateful that yoga is teaching me how to breathe and “create space for something new.” Please share your thoughts on how you make space for yourself in the comments below because this is a process for me, and I’d love to hear about your experiences. Namaste, my peeps. Get on your mat, breathe, and create space for something new in your life.