breathing, women, yoga

In the Safety of a Circle

holding hands

We all returned to the circle; sitting cross-legged we scooted in a little closer in order to reach the hands of our neighbors. Right away I noticed her hand, with her knee touching my knee, was trembling, so held on a little tighter. She responded with a tighter grip. I lowered my hand to rest on my knee, to provide some grounding for her.

Our teacher instructed us to breathe — in through the nose and out through the mouth. With each breath I heard coming from her mouth, the trembling subsided a little more. After a few more breaths, her grip eased a bit. Then, slowly, without conscious effort from me, our hands lifted off of my knee. With each breath they lifted a little more.  

Our teacher spoke about how necessary it is to make time for ourselves. That this isn’t just a good thing to do, but it’s our right as human beings to take time to be with ourselves — to really listen to what our Soul and Heart has to say. As she said this, I heard and felt the woman next to me begin to cry harder. Something about what our teacher said touched her in a deep place.

My natural instinct is to comfort. I could have easily broken the circle and put my arm around her. I could have stepped out of the circle and gotten her a tissue. I could have opened my eyes and tried to get the attention of our teacher to help this woman. I could have done any of those things, but it would have been a disservice to do so.

I sat there, continuing to hold her hand, letting the energy flow between us. And, even though she was crying, I felt a small smile appear on my face. I smiled because I knew she was providing the love and comfort and support to herself. If I had stepped in, I would have taken that beautiful moment away from her. The moment she needed to offer herself compassion and love. It wasn’t my job to comfort her. My job was to provide her a safe space to feel and let go. My job was to hold her hand and remind her she’s not alone. My job was to be present for her.

We’ve practiced yoga together before. We’ve spoken to each other in passing, but our relationship was surface at best. When the circle ended, we were asked to hug at least two people before we left. She was the first person I hugged and it was a real hug — the tight, “you know what I’ve been through”, “thank you for being here” kind of hug.

There were more tears for her after everyone was saying goodbye and gathering their things. In that moment I felt more comfortable providing a few tissues, but that was all. If she needed more from me, she would need to ask, and she didn’t, so I moved on.

How many times do we step in a little too soon? How many times do we take away someone’s opportunity for growth? I know I’ve done it many times. When my niece says she can’t zip up her jacket and I swoop into help but her mom tells me, “let her do it!” It’s so hard to stand back and wait, but when she does it herself — Victory! When our younger dog appears to be beating up on our older dog and I so badly want to make him stop and then all of the sudden the older dog lets him have it — Victory!

It doesn’t benefit anyone when I step in too soon — not them or me. Just because I think I can fix the situation doesn’t mean I should.

I know what it feels like when someone steps in too soon. Another woman, with a heart full of love and kindness, told me after the circle closed that she knows someone who does bodywork specifically for women dealing with infertility. Advice — advice is always too soon, especially when it’s not asked for. She wants to take away the pain, I get that. But she doesn’t know my story or the way I’m finding gifts in the suffering.

I wish I could spend more of my life inside a circle — one without advice or solving other people’s problems. Inside a circle where everyone is supported and safe to feel and be present to themselves.

But, life doesn’t work that way. We have to step outside of the circle and practice what we learned with people and in places that may not feel as safe or supported. There will be opportunities to return to another circle at some point, but until then I keep practicing. I keep showing up. I keep reminding myself that I can provide for myself the love and support the circle provided.


Do you ever step in too soon? Has anyone ever stepped in too soon for you?

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