Space in Yoga Practice

In Ayurveda Space is the element in which everything is manifested and within which all other elements are held. Just as sound cannot exist in a vacuum, and chemical reactions cannot take place without oxygen around them, life and we as manifestations of living, cannot exist without space. Without Space nothing can happen. It does not *make* anything happen, rather it *allows* things to happen.  Space is everywhere and yet has no quantifiable existence; it exists only in the distance between entities. Thus, we can use our bodies to both create space and measure its effects.

How do we create space in our yoga practice? Firstly, in asanas we stretch and twist and bend to open up our bodies and release tensions. Tension causes the body to be tight and dense and releasing them brings lightness and softness to it. On a subtler level, within the postures we use our breath to further increase the space created. With each inhale our body literally expands, taking up more space in its surroundings as the space within it increases. On the inhale we are more aware of any tensions present. We then use the exhale to soften those tensions, to relax and let go. With every exhale tension is lessened and so the next inhale will go deeper as more space is found.

Breath is the moveable boundary between what is without and what is within and thus it takes us beyond the physicality of the body. There is a beautiful cycle in which the breath creates the space that softens and relaxes us and in turn the softening and relaxing allows the breath to go deeper in the expansion of even more space. Breath then creates the space and is the tool by which we can measure it.

What we do in our yoga and pranayama practice reflects what we do in life away from the yoga mat and what we do with our bodies effects our minds. In our practice we take our time entering and coming out of each pose using our breath and our full awareness to give balance and poise. We all know that we cannot clearly see a situation when we are fully involved in it. Through Creating space in our yoga and pranayama practice we change our perspective and can see more clearly where and when to act, and more importantly, where and when to withdraw from action and to feel and reflect instead. Anyone who has ever studied hard knows the importance of taking regular breaks to allow the learning to sink in, and new ideas to flourish. Indeed, Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple, credits meditation with helping him to create his era-defining, market-changing inventions. When we fight with a loved one, we need to have some time apart before reconciliation is possible. All these are examples of creating space between us and the incessant pursuit of the object of desire in order to allow things to happen in their own time. We need space for healing our bodies, our minds, our relationships. Without space we cannot achieve peace. Our yoga and pranayama practice teaches us Not to push or pull but simply to create the conditions to allow things to happen in their own time, to fall like a ripe mango into our arms.

Himalayan Iyengar Yoga Centre
Maria Chandler

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