What does it mean to hold space?

Sometimes I get asked, what does it mean when people say “holding space?” Like, they are holding space for someone or something? What I understand it to mean is this: not projecting conditions over anothers’ experience in order to feel good.

I was a student in a yoga class a few months ago, and the teacher instructed us to go into Tree Pose by lifting one foot and placing it on our leg. If you’re familiar with Tree Pose, it’s a balancing pose and can be challenging.

One student was wobbling, so the teacher suggested the student lean her back against the wall. The student was still wobbling and so the teacher lifted the student’s foot off the ground to attempt to bring the student’s foot to her leg. This is an example of the opposite of holding space. (And a really good way for a teacher to cause injury to a student.)

Holding space means letting go of the expectation. Holding space means being un-attached to the result of a student, client, parent, child for the sake of feeling good. Holding space is to give and allow someone else to life in their time, without micro-managing. Holding space is clearly communicated boundaries, holding one another accountable, standing in our own power. Holding space is empowering.