We asked therapeutic yoga teacher and teacher trainer Nicole Marcia to share her incredible knowledge on holding space. Teachers, don't miss this!
To me, ”holding space” means that we bear witness for our students, friends, clients and colleagues. We become a container for them as they move through their unique process of healing and personal or professional development. We let go of being attached to what we think is best for a person and allow them to lead the way. In the context of a yoga class, this doesn’t always look like traditional asana.
Whether we teach in studios, community-based organizations or work in private practice, yoga teachers are keenly aware that our work is about more than just teaching asana. More and more we are called to be present, non-judgmental and hold space for our student to work through their experiences. If we consider that traumatic experience is universal and that yoga is becoming a widely recognized complementary therapy for addressing trauma, then it makes sense that yoga teachers become space holders for students processing emotionally and psychologically complex experiences.
Opportunities for holding space can show up beyond the yoga class—in relationships with a partner, a co-worker or someone else in your life. This can be challenging for some people. Being called to hold space can take us by surprise when we find ourselves in the company of someone who is in a vulnerable place and needing support. Our instinct is often to jump in and try and “fix” the situation. Instead, holding space is about remaining present, being non-judgmental and letting the other person stay in control.
As teachers, supporting our students without a community of support ourselves can be complicated and isolating. One of the benefits I have experienced volunteering with Yoga Outreach, a nonprofit offering trauma informed yoga programming, is having access to a community of teachers who often face the same challenges. Over several years I have noticed yoga teachers working in studio settings don’t always have a significant support system. Just because we teach in a studio doesn’t mean we won't face challenges or feel the need to discuss circumstances that arise in our classes.
Navigating professionalism in yoga settings requires community support to help us develop the tools we need to look after ourselves while still being able to meet the needs of others. Look out for workshops, mentors and other learning opportunities that can help navigate the student/teacher relationship. If you are in the Vancouver area, you can sign up for my Holding Space Workshop with Yoga Outreach. This workshop will provide great resources for yoga teachers who want to support themselves, their students or clients, and ultimately their whole community.
Nicole Marcia, MA, C-IAYT, ERYT-500, YACEP is a teacher trainer at Yoga Outreach, a faculty member atAjna Yoga and theVancouver School of Yoga and a project coordinator and instructor atLangara College Continuing Studies. Nicole has a master’s degree with a specialization in yoga therapy from Lesley University in Boston, MA and has completed over 300 hours of training and supervision through theTrauma Center at the Justice Resource Institute in Brookline, MA. Nicole is the founder and director of Fine Balance Yoga. She conducts therapeutic yoga classes and individual yoga and EMDR sessions to trauma survivors and trains yoga and health care professionals in trauma informed yoga theory and techniques.
Gratitude is an attitude that can be cultivated not only around Thanksgiving for blessings in our lives, but during each moment of life — towards ourselves! Our brains are programmed to protect and to survive, and when we live a life out in the world it is nearly impossible to avoid feelings of self-judgment or unworthiness.