HOLDING YOUR SPACE
by Janna Leyde
Energy flows in all directions, and the good yoga teachers know what to do with it. Depending on the class, the students, the day, the planets, and a thousand other factors, good teachers know when to rein it in and when to let it fly. It’s that clichéd yogi term—holding a space.
Holding a space is like magic to me. I’ve been watching and studying the greats—Elena Brower harnessing the energy of hundreds at Brooklyn Bridge Park, my teacher training teachers at Sonic Yoga grounding us through sweat, sirens and rock songs on 9th Avenue, and Christina, Stephanie and Angela as they lead us through mat-to-wall-to-mat classes at Mala. Their talent captivates me. And, as a student, I trust them. I come to class and I know that whatever I bring to the mat is in good hands.
Until this last holiday adventure home, I thought that holding a space was only for yoga teachers. After all, it is the yoga teacher’s responsibility, right? I am one now, so I should know. I certainly know the classes I teach where I have at least caught a grip on space. I can’t be too hard on myself when it comes to this—I’m young in yoga teacher years.
In Mercer County, Pennsylvania, yoga classes are hard to come by, so I was elated to find a New Year’s Eve morning class at my local gym, the gym with the picture windows that overlook the winery. The view is reason enough to go. When I got there, I recognized the teacher. This past spring I took her class and afterwards she and I had discussed whether I thought it was good idea for her to get yoga teacher certified. Yes, absolutely. Yes, even in po-dunk western PA.
That morning her class felt different. Not only was she moving us through each pose, she was energetically guiding us through them. She was holding the space. Once class ended, she was eager to tell me that she was now, officially, Yoga Alliance Certified. She asked me bunch of yoga-teachery questions and we talked about the elusive talent of holding of a space. How can you magically control the energy you emit and the energy that surrounds you? And then I realized that it wasn’t just us yoga teachers who can hold a space. Anyone can. My dad can.
In fact, I’d been teaching my dad to hold a space all along. I just didn’t know that’s what I was doing.
“Yoga makes things smoother,” he told me last week.
Smoother. I liked that word, but I wasn’t sure what things he meant—his brain, his joints?
“Just what’s around me. How I do things, interactions with people.”
Ah, yes. Yoga is helping him harness his energies. Finally, we’d found something to help him to control his impulses, his attitudes, his conversations, his actions.
Yoga is helping him hold his space.
It’s hard to define, that feeling of when you start to hold your own space, when you are controlling the energy that spins around you. My dad calls it smooth. My mom (who, to my great happiness, has picked up a beginner asana routine every a.m.) calls it better. Maybe it’s control or calm or release or ease or balance. Boring as the word may be, I call it good. When I can hold my space, it just makes all the rest good.
Call it whatever you please, that feeling of when you roll up your mat and your energies have shifted towards the better.
Janna Leyde is a yogi and writer living in Brooklyn. When she’s not on her mat or at the front of the room teaching, she is working on publishing her first novel, He Never Liked Cake, a coming of age memoir that tells the story of growing up with her father’s traumatic brain injury. Oscillations: A Yogic Exploration of the Brain offers her perspective on the practice through the lens of the complex human brain.