Holding space means that we are present for others or ourselves. We hold space by witnessing “what is,” without distraction, desire, or judgment.
“Yoga is the ability to direct the mind exclusively toward an object and sustain that direction without any distractions” – T. K. V. Desikachar, The Heart of Yoga
Desikachar describes this as an aspect of pratyahara. Pratyahara, the fifth limb of yoga, is the withdrawal of the senses from any distractions and a sharpening of them toward the object or purpose at the same time.
As teachers, we may have a class plan prepared, with a theme, education, asana sequence, breath, and mudra practices, etc. We walk into the class and sense the energy of the group, and our carefully prepared plan goes out the window. What happens next, for me, is a moment of panic followed by a moment of grace in which an internal shift takes place. The distractions—my plan, my ego, and my desire to control—slide to the side and get put on an energetic shelf somewhere. Holding space for the class becomes my focus; I settle into the space and respond to the needs of the students so they can explore their bodies, their breath, and the workings of their minds based on where they are instead of where I wanted to them to be. It’s a “going with and being in the flow” kind of feeling of total calm and focus at the center while right action comes through. Both are happening at the same time.
Excerpts of www.yogauonline.com article, Holding Space in Yoga Class: What the Yoga Sutras Can Teach Us by: Beth Gibbs, MA, E-RYT 500