To me, yoga is all about space. As a practitioner, yoga helps me increase the space between my shoulders and my ears, behind my shoulder blades, around my hips, and even between my toes. When I inhale into that space, oxygen permeates into every corner of my body the way that warm chocolate melts into every crease of a mold, and I’m able to fill the previously cramped corners of my body and my mind with new energy. Closed spaces open up to create room for growth, and I discover the abundance of space that exists within my body.
As an instructor, yoga is about creating a space where practitioners feel safe to move beyond the seeming limitations of their bodies. Too often we feel trapped within our bodies, as if we’re caged inside our arms and legs and can’t break out of our skin. Yoga causes those barriers to disappear, so that not only can we physically move our bodies into shapes that once seemed impossible, but we cease to feel the line where our bodies end and the universe begins.
Einstein proved that space is relative, so our task is to discover how we can create and control space instead of being controlled by space. Here are four tips that I use to create space in my body, in my yoga classes, and in my life:
1. Move. Nobody has ever felt more alive because they sat on a couch and watched a movie. In winter, I’m always tempted to curl up under the covers with a good book, but my body actually feels much better when I get my blood flowing.
Move in a way that you’ve never moved before. Turn off the lights and swirl your body around in the same patterns that children scribble. Up to 60 percent of your body is composed of water; 70 percent of your brain is water; and your lungs are nearly 90 percent water. So, let it flow! Move like the oceanic waves, move like a river, move like ripples in a pond. As Michelle Williams said, “I want to be like water. I want to slip through fingers, but hold up a ship.”
2. Get rid of clutter. It’s a simple mathematical equation – the more space you empty out, the more space you can fill with positive energy. Think of everything that’s clogging the corners of your desk; then imagine everything that’s clogging the corners of your mind. I have 849 friends on Facebook, many of whom I barely remember meeting, yet I still read their status updates daily on my newsfeed – that’s some serious clutter. Cleanse your body to detoxify your organs, cleanse your home to make room for new space, and cleanse your Facebook (and your real life!) to make way for new relationships and experiences.
3. Let go. It’s hard to have space for new, positive relationships if that space is still being filled by old, negative ones. Imagine a bookshelf filled with all of the people in your life, overflowing as they fight for the limited space on the shelf. Perhaps it’s time to donate some of those books to charity and make room for books that hold more meaning for you today. I’m not suggesting that you dump all of your old friends and throw them off the cliff, but letting go of your attachment to old experiences provides space for new experiences, new friendships, and new joy to fill your stale bookshelves.
Forgiveness is a necessary part of letting go, so forgive that boyfriend who cheated on you at high school prom and that ex best friend who stabbed you in the back in junior high, and make room for new, positive relationships to fill the void.
4. Have a space that is your own. Even if you live in a co-op with eight friends, there’s always a way to find personal space. For me, my yoga mat is my 71-inch sanctuary, my magic carpet that I can roll up and take on my back wherever I go. It’s my space, and I determine the energy that flows around it. If you happen to have more than 71 inches of space to call your own, then make it something that you’re proud of. Surround yourself with candles, art, flowers – whatever makes you feel like the space around you is a space that you want to be in.
At the end of the day, it’s about the quality, not the quantity, of the space where you reside. By increasing the space within your body and your mind, you create a space around you that others want to hang out in, a place whose positivity can only spread. By cleaning out old corners of your life, you make room for new energy to spread throughout your body and your world.