In my own yoga practice in recent weeks, this simple, repeated instruction has resonated strongly. Each time I step upon my mat, I dedicate the next hour and fifteen minutes to trying to achieve more space in every way that I can. In my spine, by striving towards that one extra inch in length, and perhaps, once there, even one more. In my mind, by eliminating the clutter of thoughts that have no bearing upon the present moment. In my heart, by purging those emotions and tensions that no longer serve me.
While we often think about space in the physical sense, it is the temporal aspect of this construct that I regularly find myself, off of my mat, trying to expand. More often than not I find myself wishing for an extra hour, even five minutes, to get to a meeting on time, complete an assignment, or soak up every last moment with a loved one before parting ways. The feeling of being starved for time has far too often been the root of a rushed interaction, a missed opportunity for a gesture of kindness, or allowing a phone call from a close friend to go to voicemail.
And it can influence larger decisions as well, for example, whether or not to take on new opportunities and challenges. When Blackbird posted an announcement seeking new barre instructors last fall, I found myself reflexively making excuses — despite teaching barre being something I had aspired to since my first class left my muscles quivering and sore for days. I convinced myself that there simply wasn’t enough time – enough space – in my life to take on a new commitment. That my research, coursework, or personal relationships would suffer. Thankfully, a wonderful friend who knows me better than I know myself convinced me to take the plunge: I completed the teacher training that winter and spring, and began teaching at the studio this summer. And while I hadn’t underestimated the time commitment that was involved in training, that is still involved in the ongoing process of learning and teaching and striving to improve, my miscalculation lay in the assumption that teaching would negatively influence my other obligations.
The funny thing about creating space is that it can be achieved in multiple, seemingly inconsistent ways. Often we create space through a process of elimination: we seek to purge our closets of clothes that have not been worn in years, our file cabinets and desks of no-longer needed notes and journal articles, our hard drives of files that have become irrelevant. And yet sometimes we find space through a process of accretion, for example, by creating space in our rib cage by filling our lungs with breath that feeds every cell in our bodies.
The same can be true of taking on new challenges and opportunities. Far from making me compromise other aspects of my life by taking up space, teaching barre has done the opposite. It has had the wonderful effect of creating space by adding a meaningful commitment to my life, while forcing me to be more efficient and engaged in my time spent on other obligations. Of course, we should avoid spreading ourselves and our time too thin, or allow ourselves to be pulled in too many directions. But by trusting ourselves and making time for those activities, relationships, and challenges that most nourish us, we may just find ourselves achieving that extra inch of space.