Learning to Take Up Space

Meditations in MotionHubby and I usually take turns being the first to shower after running for a very good reason.

Both of us hate wiping down the glass walls that enclose our shower. The last one to shower gets stuck with that chore.

Lately, I have voluntarily gone last in the shower every day. Not because I am a good or generous person, but because I have started doing a short yoga practice after each run.

I have an on-again-off-again relationship with yoga. Right now it’s on.

It’s kind of like my relationship with spinach. I know it’s good for me. When I am on a spinach kick, I really love all things spinach – spinach salads, spinach quesadillas, flounder florentine, spinach cheese omelets.

When I am over spinach, however, I am really over it, if you know what I mean. It may be months until I eat spinach again.

Anyway, yoga…

Meditations in Motion
I call this the “Wobbly Crooked Star Pose”

As a runner with very tight hamstrings, I understand well the benefits of stretching and strengthening. As an older runner, I appreciate the need to improve balance.

The best things about yoga for me, however, are the pithy sayings casually thrown out by the yoga instructors. It’s like they are tossing diamonds onto our yoga mats.

I wind up pondering these gems dispensed with such abandon that I miss the next three poses.

A few days ago, as I wobbled and sweated in star pose, the instructor encouraged us to “take up space“.

I was so blown away by that thought, I immediately fell out of the pose.

OK, maybe that’s not the reason I fell, but I have been thinking about the concept ever since.

On my long run this week, a run that has been full of emotional minefields for me lately, I could feel my distress level rising. Rather than giving in to the hopelessness which has plagued me for months, I did a body check.

My shoulders were hunched, I was bending forward at the waist, even my toes were scrunched up inside my running shoes.

I was making myself smaller.

Stress and anxiety can do that to you.

When I was a teacher, I can vividly remember students (often girls) trying to disappear as they sat in the classroom.

They would sit with their legs crossed at the ankles, and their arms crossed across their chests, looking down at their desks, trying to vanish. If I called on them, they answered in a voice so quiet and small, I could barely hear it.

Those were the students I worked with all year, both in class and one-on-one.

You have a lot of worthwhile things to say,” I would tell them. “Speak up,” I would declare, looking into their eyes and smiling.

At the end of the year, they would ask me to sign their yearbooks. I always wrote about a personal story we had shared, then added some version of this quote by Marianne Williamson: “Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.

And now I needed to give myself that same advice.

There are many reasons we attempt to shrink. We believe others will like us more if we are not perceived as threatening. We want to portray ourselves as respectable. We lack self-confidence. We don’t want to be judged for being ourselves.

We are afraid that if we speak our minds, others will reject us. We may apologize for things that are not our fault, “Sorry-ing” all over ourselves. We may even dress in a manner we believe will be acceptable to others.

Here is the ironic thing about that philosophy: it doesn’t work.

Oh, there may be some people who would be put off by hearing you speak what you really believe or dressing in a way they disapprove of, but do we honestly care what those people think?

If someone doesn’t like who you really are, do you really want to contort yourself into a tiny box in order to fit into their mold?

I don’t.

In this post-social media world, we must get used to the fact that we are going to be judged, sometimes unfavorably. If we can become comfortable with our true being and have the self-esteem to accept ourselves as we are, maybe we wouldn’t feel the need to make ourselves smaller to fit someone else’s ideal.

We must learn to take up space – our own space.

Meditations in MotionAs I ran, I uncurled my toes, squared my shoulders, and stood up tall, chest out.

The feeling of anxiety passed.

I am learning to take up space.

Maybe in a Standing Star Pose this time.

 

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116 comments

  1. I love this thought and love what you did for the girls in your classes with the note and quote.
    I have been trying to “take up space” and be more vocal about my political convictions, hopefully without driving it into the ground. I’m tired of being quiet and letting others speak without comment.

    And re the shower thing… I got a Good Grips squeegie that has a suction cup holder, that I keep tucked in the corner of the shower. It makes drying the shower so much easier! πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  2. wonderful. Take up space, as if you deserve to. As if… I think girls shrink so they won’t be attacked for being too “whatever it is”
    I’m afraid around here to say an opinion because I could be shot. Sound outlandish? It ought to be. I was verbally attacked for saying I believe in climate change.
    I love your image, reaching outward, being yourself, lowering anxiety. I believe what you say is the way it ought to be, but I’ve become gun-shy of being myself in a topsy turvy world. I know you’re right, I’m going now to go look for Marianne williamsons teachings.
    As to the dadgum shower walls… oy vey! They get cloudy immediately with our Colorado minerals and I can’t keep up, better go try again to clean them.

    Liked by 1 person

    • So true. Women and girls are more often subjects of ridicule and criticism for being too…

      I have been verbally attacked for my views too. I had one reader tell me she would never read my blog again because I included the word “socialist” in the post. I wasn’t advocating socialism or describing the benefits of being a socialist, I simply said that Hellen Keller (who I was writing about in the post) was a socialist. OK…

      We got a water softener, which helps, but we still have to wipe the shower walls down. 😦

      Like

  3. I was similarly impressed when my yoga instructor encouraged us to “take up as much space as you can” at the end of class before we transitioned to Shivasana. It brought up similar thoughts to yours. Now I am trying to encourage others to feel comfortable taking up space ….

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I also have tight hamstrings and calf muscles but I have been trying to stretch and foam roll everyday and that’s been really helpful! I also have an on-again/off-again relationship with yoga but I know I need to get better about doing it.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Did I ever mention that I like your writing style? I like the content, obviously, but I also like the way you write.
    I still have to fight against the disappearing stunt. I’m so comfortable with my husband being the outgoing type and I can hide behind him. But I know it’s not healthy and that I have to square my shoulders. It’s work in progress! 😊

    Liked by 3 people

  6. I recently viewed a ted talk where the speaker said that time spent in poses like the start pose will actually give you more confidence. They backed this up with a study of people in mock interviews. I’m one of those people who close themselves in. I never realized that I do it until I saw the talk.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. I think your students were blessed, that you had the vision to see and that you did something about it. I don’t imagine myself doing yoga, although chair yoga may be in my future, I really appreciate the reflection on the difference between taking up space vs. shrinking into oneself. Thank you! Blessings, Michele

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Electronics make it even easier to shrink — it hunches us over, and we forgot all about eye contact.I love that you get so much out of the things Yoga teachers say!

    I’ve always found it odd that people often comment that they didn’t realize I was so short from my online photos (i’m 5’1″). I guess it’s because I work hard on my posture . . . it’s amazing the difference in mood that good posture can make (which isn’t to say I can’t slump with the best of them at times, too).

    Liked by 1 person

  9. You are so much nicer than I am… I’m always scheming ways to get into the shower first so I don’t have to squeegee the glass. You are also much better at yoga poses πŸ™‚ I love the idea of taking up space (except in my quarantine sweat pants). Too often we try to blend in and not make waves. How wonderful that you helped to instill confidence in your students.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha! I have to admit that before I started doing yoga after running, I rushed to the shower to get in first. I think the most important lessons I taught had nothing to do with chemistry! πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  10. We got our bathroom redone and I opted for a curtain rather than that stupid door lol

    I am on and off with yoga. I prefer being in the class and enjoy the personal connection with the instructor.

    I was reminded often when I started running to stand tall and keep my shoulders down and arms loose. I often still find myself tight.

    Thanks again for your thought provoking post.

    Liked by 1 person

    • My BFF is a yoga instructor. I used to go to her classes, and I like her as an instructor, but that yoga was more of a workout than I wanted. I already have some tough workouts with running and Body Pump (when my gym was open). I don’t want another big workout with yoga. I just wanted some stretching and movement. I like the personal connection too.

      Like

  11. That star pose is a toughie! Because coyotes are rampant here, I often am conscious of making myself large and loud in order to scare them off. It feels weird but its effective. I am on and off with yoga as well and right now I’m off the wagon. Ugh.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. ugh…full disclosure…I have kind of been on a yoga sabbatical lately. I”m doing it once in awhile, but am rushing through the poses, etc. But, I have been doing much better with warm-up/cool-down, foam rolling and stretching, so I have given myself (maybe too much?) grace. I tend to scrunch my toes, too…and have no idea why or how to ‘fix” it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You do so much, Kim. Running, biking, power-walking, stairs, workouts…there is only so much time in a day! I am a big believer in giving yourself grace. I am trying to remind myself not to scrunch. I think it initiated all the hip problems I had a few years ago.

      Like

  13. This really resonated with me – almost as though taking up space is being too big or too much. It’s a concept that came up a lot in a book I read last month & one that continues to come up…meaning it’s one that I need to do more than read about and comment on.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I’ve been told that I have a ‘big personality’. I guess that means I take up a lot of space, lol! I need to get back to a regular yoga practice. Now that I’m training for Ice Age, I haven’t had as much time. I need to make time! Your star looks great, BTW.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ha! Good for you, Wendy. I need you to teach me how to take up more space. Training for a 50k does tend to dominate your free time. You will have a chance to do more yoga when the ultra is over.

      Like

  15. That is a great post Laurie and so pertinent to many of us as we age. We don’t want to be a burden or a problem, we don’t want to be threatening to others – everything you said is so true!! I remember when I worked in the prison education system, i was so amazed that inmates and staff found me to be intimidating – little old me!!!! I still can’t quite believe I had that impact but it was my way of saying ‘I’m here, I’m a woman of a certain age, I know what I’m doing and I’m confident with that!!’ Thanks for sharing these thoughts. #lifethisweek

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I’ve had a bit of a funk of a day and this is a good and timely reminder that taking up space is and can be very good. Not usually something I have an issue with but it was an off day.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Laurie,
    I had to laugh as my husband and I do the same thing with our shower lol. I, too, find that a good stretching routine after, in my case walking, is something my body loves. Great job on your wobbly sideways star pose! God didn’t design us as fearfully and wonderfully made in order to be shrinking violets. Especially now, in these times, we need to stand tall and tell of the reason we have hope. Great post!
    Blessings,
    Bev xx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ha! I thought we were the only ones who race to get in the shower first! πŸ™‚ You are right, Bev. God made each of us to take up our own space. I just need to remind myself of that at times. Thank you!

      Like

  18. I know what you mean about spinach. I mostly use it when I make eggs or add it to a smoothie. Then I take a break from it cause I don’t want to see that green stuff anymore.

    I love hearing your stories of when you were a teacher. Those students were lucky to be in your class.

    I’ve never had glass walls in the shower. I prefer a curtain since it is so much easier to clean.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Fantastic post, Laurie. I’ve been talking with a friend about some of this–the shrinking, the small… And though I can’t point to direct messaging over the years, it is so clearly in us, on a cellular level, to NOT offend–just be BEING. I recently finished Glennon Doyle’s _Untamed_, and it’s interesting & inspiring to see how much she grew in this department over the course of her 3 books.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Carolyn. I think women of my generation especially were expected to make themselves small. when I used to teach, my students knew I ran and often asked me if I ran cross country when I was in high school. I always told them “No. Cross country was only for boys when I was in high school.” They could not even imagine! Untamed sounds like a very good read.

      Like

  20. Your bathroom is gorgeous! We don’t have a glass shower so no worries with cleaning it after which is good since I always shower first (Jason does additional stretching) after running. I feel you on the on again off again with yoga… I’ve recently become that way with strength training as well. It sounds like you were a very positive influence on so many of your students, particularly the girls!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Tracy. I would have second thoughts about getting a glassed-in shower if I had it to do over again. I’m too lazy! πŸ™‚ I haven’t done Body Pump since the lockdown began. I guess yoga (and now swimming) are taking its place. Our town’s outdoor pool is now open, so I can go there but the rec center is still closed. You are a positive influence on the girls you coach too!

      Liked by 1 person

  21. The Marianne Williamson quote is a great thought to pass along to others, especially those forming their image of self. Letting your light shine to give others permission is so inclusive and liberating. Nice post. Oh, and thank you for being a teacher and helping shape our future.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. I so relate to this, Laurie. I’ve definitely been more about shrinking than taking up space through most of my life. Part of it is my natural tendency toward introversion, but another part is being female in a patriarchal culture. My early years in church were definitely ones of being seen and not heard (and that particular denomination remains that way; I left it).

    I want to want to do yoga. πŸ™‚ My husband and I were going to do it during the lockdown phase. But the first night it instigated his vertigo so he gave it up, and then I only did it a night or two more on my own. Sigh. Maybe one day. I do stretch after my workouts but nothing as graceful or athletic as your yoga example! πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think maybe shrinking, being small, was encouraged for women of our generation. We need to learn to take up space – our own space.

      I got back into yoga by doing a 21-day yin (gentle) yoga practice. The classes were easy and only about 15 minutes long. It got me back in the habit of doing yoga again and I just kept going.

      Liked by 1 person

  23. Grateful to be reminded of that quote. I remember not raising my hand even though I knew the answer. Being too terrified to sharpen my pencil. Living so much of my life as a shrinking violet.
    Time for us to take up space!!

    P.S. Our shower glass is atrocious. The minerals in our water are so high. Especially calcium. Other than faithfully wiping your glass down (what do you wipe with?) is there something you spray on the glass to help? I have tried everything and our glass still looks practically ‘frosted’.

    Liked by 1 person

    • So true! Women of our generation were encouraged to be shrinking violets. It IS time for us to take up space – our own space.

      We got a water softener a few years ago and it does help.

      Like

  24. YOU! πŸ’š I wake up with my devotion/meditation time and then stretch stretch stretch. I use to run a lot before my accident. I hike a lot and do HIIT exercises multiple times a week. I’ll find myself sprinting as if running to Jesus~particularly if I catch the news πŸ€¦πŸΌβ€β™€οΈ. My watch says β€œbreathe” and I square up my shoulders, stretch, open up my body, lift my neck, and speak truth and love. And I’d say similar things to students. And you’re saying it to US! I’m sure I’m related to you and equally sure, although I don’t remember you as my teacher, that you are up there as my favorite. I’ve found all my favorite teachers on WPπŸ’šπŸ’šπŸ’š

    Liked by 1 person

  25. So much to ponder here, Laurie. I love what you used to tell your students, and also the idea of being intentional about “taking up space.” I sometimes tell my girls, “Remember who you are.” The world needs each one of us, just how God made us.

    Liked by 1 person

  26. I enjoyed this post Laurie. Years ago I took ballet and it was okay, but I wanted to take a class for exercise too, so dropped ballet, took a Monday/Wednesday set of classes … one night for yoga, one for pilates, same instructor. I was the only one in the class who had not had this instructor before – in fact, all the attendees were taking the class to ensure they followed up on their yoga and pilates regimens. Alas, I was the only person in the class who did not have a clue what I was doing. It was long before social media and just going on YouTube and finding how to do simple yoga steps. I fell behind within minutes of the start of the class; it was easy to see the instructor and the β€œclassmates” were peeved at me and she was not a good teacher as she did not explain or come to see me and help. I dropped the classes after the second week, got the refund for same, went to Best Buy and got a 7-inch DVD player and a yoga and pilates tape. My mom: β€œyou’ll never use them; should have stayed in the class!” Me: β€œwhy do you say that – it was over my head!” My mom: β€œI know you better than you know yourself, that’s why.” When I cleaned the basement in 2017 after the insulation job, everything was in a Rubbermaid bin to keep them safe, not dusty, DVDs in their shrink wrappers. No comment.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That is such a shame about your yoga/pilates experience, Linda. When I was teaching, our school hired a yoga instructor to teach a yoga class to teachers after school for free as a wellness thing. Our instructor was excellent. The opposite of yours. She went around to each individual to make sure we know how to do each pose correctly. I don’t think I could do yoga through online classes if I had not had that initial yoga class first. I would be doing the poses all wrong. It’s a shame your instructor wasn’t a very good teacher. Ha! So funny that your mom called the situation correctly.

      I also have a funny story about a yoga class Bill and I took together. It was a hot yoga class. The instructor LOVED Bill. She always came over and adjusted his poses, paid so much attention to him, and gave him all kinds of special attention. I had to refrain from rolling my eyes at every class. I would tease him about it and he would get all flustered and embarrassed. He is pretty introverted and hated the extra attention.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes it is a shame Laurie, because had I had an attentive teacher, I might have stuck with yoga and/or pilates, maybe both. That was nice your school hired a yoga instructor as a stress buster for teachers … how thoughtful. Yes, my mom called a lot of things as she saw them … she usually was spot on, especially here. In fact, when I was peering into the Rubbermaid storage tubs downstairs after the insulation job and saw these items, I had a big laugh as I could hear my mom saying that to me.

        That is funny with the yoga teacher with you and Bill. Was Bill the only guy in the hot yoga class and that was why he got all the extra attention?

        You know I listen to Mitch Albom’s show every day and he was attending hot yoga sessions and loved it. He’s not been back there since early March when all exercise-type businesses closed down (and still are closed down) and laments often about how much he misses it.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I think our school district hired the instructor through our insurance program. It was definitely a nice perk. I am still FB friends with the instructor.

        My mom was usually spot on too. She had more natural self-confidence than I do. I have to work to screw my courage up; Mom was naturally brave.

        I think Bill was not the ONLY guy but there were definitely many more women than men. He loved the extra attention! πŸ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

      • That’s a nice perk. I think of things my mom told me and often said “when I’m gone, you’ll remember what I told you and say ‘see, Mom was right after all’.” Yes, I do that all the time.

        No wonder Bill was such a hit with everyone! We just had women in our class, and a haughty bunch at that! There’s body shaming and then there’s awkwardness/clumsy exercise shaming … I was definitely the object of the shaming of the latter group.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I do the same as you, Linda. I think I might write a post about listening to my mom.

        It’s such a shame that you were the object of shaming. I would be a target of klutziness shaming too. I am not very limber at all and my balance is not good.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Well, the klutziness shaming was not good at all – I’d never take a class from her again. A woman at the Park is 65 and roller blades daily as weather permits. She now teaches yoga for seniors for the City.

        That will be a nice post Laurie – I’ll look forward to seeing it and will likely identify with the same things you heard.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, I could use it Laurie and today I worked in the house all day (short walk due to the heat and humidity then home) and feel like I need to get the kinks out before going out in the yard tomorrow. Another 90-degree day, so my trip out there will be as quick as possible.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I’m surprised I’m still awake – I was out there six hours in the heat/humidity, but got it done – will take next weekend for myself, weather permitting. We had a rainy week with possible severeweatherTuesay morning.
        Our weather is exasperating sometimes.

        Liked by 1 person

  27. This was a post which resonated with many. I think so many women ‘don’t want to take up space’ and I know when I was much bigger, I tried all I could not to take up so much space. However, that aside, knowing what makes us do that is helpful. We share use of a shower..but not after a run…and ‘he’ cleans it. Always.

    Thank you for linking up for Life This Week. I have created a list of lovely regular linkers such as you on the right hand side of my blog. It’s now showing more of the community that gathers here each Monday to share our stories. Great to see you here too. Next week’s optional prompt is to ‘share your snaps’….hope you will be back. Denyse.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, I think women are ridiculed or criticized for having a big body, a big laugh, a big voice, etc. We are taught to be small. God made each of us to fill up our own space. I wish I could get that deal with my hubby! πŸ™‚

      Thank you for hosting. See you next week.

      Like

  28. Ahhh, Laurie. You always bring such wisdom to this place. I love what you used to tell your female students. You must have been an amazing teacher! As I read those girls’ posture and trying to “be small” it brought back memories of when I have done that. It’s taken years for God to reveal to me that He didn’t create me to be invisible, and that He gives me worth, simply because He loves me. It takes time for that message to weave into our thoughts and our hearts, doesn’t it?

    LOVED this post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Jeanne. I appreciate your very kind comment. I loved teaching and miss being around the students but definitely don’t miss the grueling schedule! God did not create you to shrink. It does take time to understand the depth of God’s love for each one of us. We are all works in progress.

      Liked by 1 person

  29. Wonderful post. I’ve only just discovered how beneficial yoga is in the last 18months. I always feel so much better after I have been.

    Liked by 1 person

  30. WOW – what a challenge! For me. You would think, at this age, I would a bit more willing to take up space. But, if I am honest, I am long to be a wallflower (taking up as little space as possible). Why? I’m sure the answers are many but I sure am ready for the challenge to take up more space!! Thanks for the good words today, Laurie! And kudos for that yoga. I love/hate it – and right now, hate it:)

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have always loved that quote too. I thought at one time it came from Nelson Mandela but it was incorrectly attributed to him. Forgetting our critics can be freeing, no doubt about it. God wants us to be free.

      Liked by 1 person

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