Never tell anyone to breathe [in a yoga pose]. If they could be breathing, they’d be breathing. Your job as the teacher is to set up the conditions for the breath. — Abbie Galvin, Katonah Yoga teacher and owner of The Studio in NYC
This concept of “setting up the conditions” is both literal and metaphorical.
As a yoga teacher, one of my primary responsibilities and intentions is always to help my students find the archetype of a pose so that they can experience the deeper flow of breath that they aren’t getting otherwise.
The fundamental purpose of any yoga pose is to facilitate the flow of breath.
This concept is also a metaphor. If you’re a teacher, trainer, coach, parent, or other type of “space holder,” it’s your job to create the conditions for your clients or students to achieve success — in whatever way that means for what you do.
When I teach yoga classes, one of my primary responsibilities is to help my students find the archetype of a pose that allows them to experience the full flow of breath.
But “creating the conditions” isn’t limited to the physical practice of yoga.
Here’s an example of how I apply this concept as a metaphor, by creating the conditions in the space that facilitates my clients’ success.
Case Study: How I Set Up the Conditions For My Students’ Success
When I teach yin yoga classes, which rely on a lot of props, I arrive early to set up the space. I place bolsters, blankets, and blocks in neat stacks around the room as markers for where students should roll out their mats. When my students come into class, all they need to do is roll out their mats behind a stack of props.
This serves three primary functions:
(1) Creates Clarity on Direction
I set the space based on how many people are registered. I know how much space people will need around them. When students walk into the studio, they have clarity on where to place their mats.
It also avoids the situation where students are too spread out around the room. By setting the spaces, I can contain the energetics of the space.
(2) Allows Students’ Nervous Systems to Relax
Perhaps you’ve had this situation: you arrive early to a yoga class, set up your mat, and settle in with a restorative pose before class starts. Suddenly, the room around you is filling up, and then someone asks you to scootch your mat over. It interrupts your vibe.
My students know if they come early they can set themselves up without worrying about having to move their mats if someone comes late. This allows their nervous systems to totally relax before class.
On the other end of the spectrum, perhaps you’ve had that situation where you’re running late for class or can’t find parking. You rush in at the last moment, but then scramble to get your props. Your inner state is in chaos as you struggle to settle in.
By setting up places for my students before class starts, I aim to alleviate that inner chaos. My students can simply walk in and roll out their mat, knowing they have what they will need for the practice.
Does it work? Absolutely.
My students routinely tell me that they appreciate how I set up the space, and that they feel a little more calm even when they are circling around trying to find parking.
(3) Allows Me to Be Present and Nurture Connection
I can pretend that setting the space is a pure act of altruism, but the truth is that there’s also a benefit to me. Setting the space has become my pre-class ritual; a way for me to decompress from what I was doing before class and transition to teaching mode. It’s how I bring my mind and body together in the space.
As I set up the props for each student, I envision how they will feel when they walk into the space and feel its energy.
With the props set out at each space, I don’t have to continuously repeat for students what they will need for class. This allows me to be present to my students as they arrive, to engage in conversation with them, and to nurture connections.
I also don’t have to worry about gathering props for students who might come in late or at the last minute, which would disrupt my energy while I’m starting to open the class. This keeps my nervous system relaxed and regulated.
Because I am able to be present to each student as they arrive, the space is imbued with a grounded energy that creates the conditions for my students to have an experience in their bodies that is nurturing and healing.
How Can You Apply This?
How can you apply this concept to your work to help your clients or students achieve successful outcomes?
How can you apply this concept to create the space for yourself to achieve success?