I was at a yoga class with a friend the other day and the teacher kept saying ‘give space’.
‘Give space to the feelings’
‘Give space to anything that arises’
‘Give space to the discomfort’
“Give space to the sensation’
Every time this phrase came up I noticed my friend physically wince; her shoulders tensed up, her mouth twisted, her jaw clenched and she furrowed her eyebrows.
Post-class debrief, she mentioned how this ‘space thing’ frustrated her: she didn’t get it or knew what she was meant to do.
As a Japanese Yoga teacher known to sprinkle this phrase around liberally (ok, I confess, I was the teacher of the above story!), here’s my take on ‘giving space’:
1) ‘Acknowledge’ the thought/feeling/sensation that has come up (without judgement or letting the mind run off with the story of why you feel that way). EG: Right now I feel angry, sad, furious, frustrated, tension in my lower back etc.
2)’Feel’ in your body where this thought/sensation/sensation arises. Often it could be a heat sensation, it could feel like there’s something stuck in the throat, a tightness in the belly, tenseness in the shoulders, clenched jaw, squinting eyes etc.
3) Take a few moments to simply ‘Experience’ the feeling and body sensation (without judgement). Don’t try to ‘replace’ it or gloss over the discomfort with a more positive thought or feeling. Don’t wish it away. Don’t judge it as right or wrong. Just be there with it and in it. And remember to breathe (or you’ll die!)
4) (more advanced) After a few moments of experiencing the thought/feeling/sensation: if it’s relevant and if you’re feeling game, ‘Go Deeper’ and ask yourself ‘what’s underneath the anger, sadness, frustration etc?’. Feel into it. It might be hurt, rejection, resentment, abandonment etc. Once you reach one level lower, go deeper again. And ask again ‘what’s underneath this ______?’ Then keep going down as far as you can.
5) Sometimes by this point you can feel helpless, frustrated or annoyed because you’ve identified the true feeling but you feel stuck in it and don’t know how to get out of it. You might turn to prayer if that’s your thing, or for me, I say “I have no idea how to get out of this feeling of _______. But I’m open and willing to let it go and I’d love some help right now”. Then I release it to God/the Universe/Spirit and do my best to let go of my attachment to the outcome.
6) After that, do something physical to change your state: shake the body, jump up and down, go for a walk, take off your shoes and walk on the grass or sand, dance etc. Of course if you’re in a yoga class already you’ll be moving and that’ll support you with whatever came up.
It might seem like this process takes a long time, but with practice and awareness you can move through it quite quickly- in less than a minute.
If you’re a fellow fiend of essential oils, Doterra’s ‘Console’ blend is my favourite go-to when I need support to ‘give space’ to my challenging feelings/thoughts.
You can get this blend here
And if you’d like to try Japanese Yoga from the comfort of your desk, check out my Neck and Shoulder Release video here
How did you go with this exercise?
Let me know in the comments.