Lately I’ve been reflecting on how my yoga practice on the mat has changed my life off the mat. I think the biggest lesson I’ve learned is the idea of ‘making space’. Not sure what I’m talking about? Let me explain…
In a yoga class you’ll often hear the teacher talk about creating or finding space, for example:
You will often hear cues like ‘grow tall through your spine’ or ‘find space in your side body’. It’s been said that yoga can even help you grow taller. I don’t have access to studies to prove this but I know, from personal experience, I ‘feel’ taller after a class.
You’ve no doubt worked on opening your hips if you have taken a yoga class. Pigeon, squat, happy baby… all of these poses help us release tightness and find space in our hips.
And we can’t forget the space in our breath, the space between the inhale and the exhale. Try it. Inhale for a count of 1-2-3. Hold for 1-2. Exhale for a count of 1-2-3. Hold for 1-2. You can work up the count as you feel more comfortable.
So that’s in a yoga class but how does that translate to life off the mat? Let me share with you two GREAT BIG lessons for me.
Finding the Space:
“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 our freedom.” ~ Viktor E. Frankl
Have you ever been in a situation where you received an email that didn’t sit well? Right away you hit reply and sent back a curt response. After hitting send you started to think that maybe you shouldn’t have responded like that. How about in person when a co-worker, friend or loved one said something that pushed your buttons and you responded in a less than calm manner? Oh and how about this one. At the grocery store you’ve gotten annoyed by the slow cashier, the pushy person behind you or the fast driver in the parking lot. Your mind was full of negative thoughts and when you opened your mouth you were impolite and maybe even rude. You felt justified for a little while but in the longer run you didn’t really feel any better, maybe even a little ashamed of how you reacted. I can think of many situations like this, can you?
But here’s what I’ve learned. There is a space in there that if we access it, can give us time to process the information we’ve received and decide how to respond. That space gives us time to think about the other person involved. What might be going on in their lives at the moment they sent the email or made the comment? What is their view on things? People say things based on their view of the world and I would venture that MOST of the time it’s about what is going on in their lives and heads and has very little, if anything, to do with us.
I have realized that by finding and making use of that space I most often respond in a calmer, less defensive manner. It sometimes takes a few deep breaths, tongue biting and walking away but in the end I am happier with myself and the situation is usually diffused.
So on to my second big learning…
Making the Space:
“I’m choosing happiness over suffering, I know I am. I’m making space for the unknown future to fill up my life with yet-to-come surprises.” ~ Elizabeth Gilbert. Eat, Pray, Love
How many of you lead lives that are full of activities and chores from morning to night? Hands up.
A comment from one of my teachers in my yoga teacher training has really stuck with me and has changed the way I look at things. He said that we need to make space for things to happen in our lives. It was related to a question about becoming a full time yoga teacher. He said that you cannot go from being a full time business analyst (me at the time) to a full time yoga teacher; you have to make space for that to happen. That space for me has meant not taking a full time contract which, of course, translates into a lot less money coming in. Eeekkk… that was (and still is) the hardest part. BUT my teacher has been soooo right. If I was working full time in business how could I ever start a career in yoga? I needed to make space for teaching classes, learning and business development. And sure enough, my yoga career is taking off and my time is filling up with things I love.
Making space is essential in inviting the things you want into your life. But it is definitely not easy! It may mean ending a relationship that you know is not working in order to make space for one that will. It may mean cutting back your hours at work to pursue a dream career. It will mean more time on your own and with your thoughts. It will mean being uncomfortable for a while, maybe a good while.
Making space means letting go and letting go is never easy. So acknowledge that and allow yourself to be sad and scared and whatever else you may feel. Cry and scream if you feel like it but know that you are on the right path and that on the other side of the empty space is a placed filled with happiness and contentment.
Space – not outer space but that space in our thoughts, actions and daily lives is maybe the real final frontier. If we can explore that space, who knows what greatness lies beyond?