Tending the Sacred Space in Your Yoga Classroom

The spiral staircase inward
The spiral staircase inward

This is an absolutely wonderful article by Carol Horton, Ph.D. found on the 90 Monkeys news forum.  It speaks to the very important concept of holding sacred space for emotional and psychological evolution in our yoga classrooms.  Here’s the article link: Holding the Sacred Space: Yoga Teachers and Emotional Safety, Part 1.

Reflecting on 30 years of teaching, Judith Hanson Lasater concluded that the most important work of a yoga teacher is to transform her class into a “sacred circle”: that is, “a safe place for the personal exploration of one’s body, emotions and mind.”

“No teacher is a good teacher if he/she does not create this sacred circle in which every student feels valued, respected and completely safe. This means that the class is free from verbal, emotional, physical and sexual coercion or abuse. The first duty of a yoga teacher is to create this safe place. Without this intrinsic sense of safety, it is impossible for the student to let go and allow the practice to unfold.”

For me, the incredible emotional and psychological healing I experienced in my first years of yoga practice were completely life changing.  I was on a path of self-denial and was totally out of touch with deep patterns in my life caused by traumatic events from my past.

Yoga gave me tools for moving these patterns up and out of my body before I even realized it.  I remember repeatedly breaking down into a puddle, on my knees, when my Iyengar teacher Dianna and I worked with the Warrior postures, specifically.  These hip openers were drawing out past hurts like old splinters, and it was grueling and un-graceful for awhile.

I realized I wasn’t being truthful with myself, and was denying difficult pieces of my past.  This caused a chorus of problems with my self-image, relationships with the opposite sex, my ability to deal with stress (denial), and my ability to just be myself.  Yoga brought me face to face with my own shit, finally.  I got myself into therapy, and worked with my therapist, and my difficult yoga postures right in her office.  I felt the traumas rise to almost unbearable frequencies in my body – and then they would plateau and then subside.  It took awhile.

I wouldn’t have been able to do this work if it weren’t for the sacred space that my first teacher cultivated in her small studio space.  It was like entering a womb for me after awhile, where I was given permission to grow into the adult I wanted to be.

We have a duty as teachers, I believe, to make sure – above all else, that this space is intact at all times, and nurtured.  We will never know when a student will have a similar breakthrough, and we want to make sure there are soft feathers lining the nest of our classrooms, just incase they need to come to their knees.

Please share your stories about your breakthroughs – what was your most tender moment as a student or as a teacher?

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