Holding the Space

August 8, 2008 at 8:33 pm | Posted in compassion and connection, learning and growing, meditations, observations | 1 Comment

My Friday yoga class is the one in which I include a bit of restorative yoga.

I’ve mentioned restorative yoga before – here, specifically – and I think that it’s an important component to my teaching practice. SO many people in our society just do not know how to be still and quiet with themselves. They can’t relax, even for ten minutes.

I give my participants the opportunity to practice settling their bodies and minds at the end of each Friday class, and I tell them that it’s okay if they don’t get it this week – or next, or the week after that. I’m going to continue to provide this as a part of our practice, and I implore them to not be harsh or judgmental of themselves if they can’t quite sink into these ten short minutes; what’s important is that they try-by-not-trying (just try explaining THAT to a group of over-achieving health club members!). I’m asking them to release, to exhale, to let go of themselves for a little bit, and I make a point of being firm but gentle in what I expect them to do. I want them to know that they are safe here with me, but I also want them to focus – I think that the effort is well worth the reward.

This morning, as I do every Friday, I explained what was involved in the restorative part of the practice.  I told people to get into whatever position was most comfortable for them, let them know that there were blankets and blocks and chairs and extra mats for their use, then went around the room making sure that everyone was settled.

One gentleman, who’s been in my class many times before, was lying with his heels on the seat of a chair.  I knew that his knees were going to hurt in just a few minutes, so I had him lift his feet while I slid the chair under his calves.  Then, I went to get a blanket for him – he was only wearing shorts and a tank top, and when the A/C kicks in, it gets cold in that room.  I laid the blanket gently over his chest and arms, all while talking the class into relaxation.  Then, I noticed that my gentleman was crying.

I know what it’s like to cry in a yoga class.  I can’t really tell you what it is about certain environments or certain situations that allows for the walls to come down, and I can’t really tell you exactly WHY I sometimes feel the urge to weep in a class – there’s nothing specifically upsetting; it’s more as if a hatch gives way and allows something amorphous to come bubbling up.

I also know that it’s terrible to have specific attention drawn to you when this happens; it’s hard enough to be crying without knowing why, but to have the entire class know it makes it even worse.  Finally, I know how wonderful it feels to feel connected, quietly and unobtrusively, to someone else.  Knowing that someone knows you’re struggling without having to explain yourself or feel embarrassed is incredibly freeing and, I think, helps to work out whatever emotion is trying to escape in the first place.  A nod, the touch of a hand, a smile, or a hug are really all that’s needed for that connection to be made, but those small gestures are profoundly important.

Knowing all of this, I continued to talk in the same tone and pace to my class, but I moved to kneel over my gentleman’s head.  I put my hands gently on his temples, all while directing the class to release their toes and fingers, to let themselves either sink into the floor or float above it, while I stroked the sides of his head.  I wiped tears away.  I stayed there until he began to calm, but I left before he was quite there because I didn’t want him to calm for me; where he went with this was entirely his journey, and I didn’t want to influence it in any way.  He knew I was there, he knew he was safe, and he knew that I had no judgment; I tried to vibe as much love and warmth as I could.

I let the class stay in their pose for about 10 minutes, then guided them to be brought back in the arms of a strong, loving presence.  I wanted them to feel light and clean and safe; held and loved unconditionally, the way a parent would carry a sleeping baby.  I asked them to feel themselves being lowered gently back into their bodies.  I brought them back to a seated position, thanked them for sharing the hour with me, and invited them to come to see me with questions or concerns, then I dismissed the class.

Before he left, I went to my gentleman, bowed to him with prayer pose, then wordlessly offered a hug, which he accepted.  I don’t need to know what his emotion was about, but I do need him to know that he is loved and cared for.

I’m feeling pleased and proud that I created a safe space for him to take this trip today.

He’ll be back.

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1 Comment »

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  1. Your class sounds so wonderful. One of these days I’m going to have to visit.


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