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Creating Containers of Support

The art of holding space requires knowledge, skills and continuous self-awareness. It demands us to be present and tuned in: not just to those we offer support for, but to ourselves, first and foremost.

Over the past couple years, I've had a few clients ask me the same question after our 1:1 Somatic Release sessions, 'How do you do this work?'.

Since these sessions often involve deep emotional release, during our debrief about their breathwork journey they'll look at me between sips of tea and say, "I'm not sure how you do this kinda work. Isn't it alot sometimes?" I just reply, "I love doing this work. It's what I'm meant to do."

Many of us in 'helper' roles have experienced our own challenges in life that motiviate us. In my case, it has been experiencing traumatic loss as a young adult and subsequent decades of managing depression. And beyond our specific modality training, we also need a body of knowledge and skillsets for creating healthy containers to support others on their healing journey.

A number of years ago I studied and mentored in 'The Holding Space Facilitator Program' (since named 'The Centre for Holding Space'). I simultaneously dove into The Circle Way, partipcating in a 10-day practicum on Whidbey Island, and became a Circle Host. And while the principles of these bodies of work resonated with me deeply, I did wonder how all this would translate into my work. How long would it take and just what would it look like once those courses ended?

I was in my own 'space between', with all I was learning: coaching skills, and topics like 'intergenerational trauma', 'intersectionality', 'unmet needs' and 'who's at the center'. I discovered that some of the mirky stuff I felt in life actually had language, (i.e 'liminal space' & 'emotional labour'). I became aware of my own tendencies related to controlling outcomes, unconscious biases, and lack of listening. These courses changed the way I taught movement classes, parented, chaired meetings, and related to my husband. Note that my hubby and kids are the first to point out my 'opportunities for improvement' here.

It wasn't until several years later while facilitating conscious connected breathwork sessions for clients recovering from trauma that I realized what all that time spent in these communities was for.

I aquired skills to hold space for myself and others.

Over the past few years, I've established my own practice as a Somatic Guide, where I create various containers of support for others.

  • In my clinic or zoom room for a new client's introductory somatic session, so they can safely contact challenging or confusing places within themselves.

  • In my coaching programs for clients who recoginze they need some consistent support wrapped around them until they find their ground.

  • In my online courses and in-person classes.

  • At my rural retreat space where I co-host transformational retreats and breathwork events: the land, the home, the programming (and my aunt's delicious squash poof!) that all support people's journeys home to themselves.

What does my personal container look like these days?

It's honestly been a challenging balancing act this past year. We just passed the one year mark of owning our rural home/retreat space, which we renovated top to bottom, along with tending the acerage and garden. As much as I'm grateful, managing two properties has taken a toll on my body, so lately I'm practicing more of what I preach.

I'm holding space for myself lately by;

  • Starting my mornings with hydration and quiet (hot water with lemon and ginger, a walk outside, and staying off technology for the first few hours).

  • Limiting my in-person clients to 2 days/week (allowing me time for leading classes and preparing/hosting events).

  • Choosing more softening practices, like somatic movement and self-massage, walking instead of running, and being ok with not being as 'toned' as I would like right now.

  • Accepting that my post-menopausal body needs different things than it did 2 years ago.

  • Receiving help at the farm from my aunt, neighbors and family.

  • Receiving body treatments from other therapists

  • Acutally saying 'no'.

  • Honoring my boundaries with personal relationships post-Covid and taking time to resume only the relationships that feel healthy for me.

  • Pacing myself with the to-do list at the farm and being more consistent with my own morning movement practice, regardless of where I'm waking up.

  • Most of all, I practice extending kindness to myself in moments of challenge.

What does it mean to you to 'Hold Space' or 'Create & Maintain Containers' for others? What kind of rub are your biases and judgements creating? Are you lacking boundaries that are affecting your own rhythm and health? What are the most important principles to help you thrive in your various roles, without burning out or feeling resentful? How do we practice being a peaceful container for ourselves?

If you want to learn more, I recommend the book, 'The Art of Holding Space', by Heather Plett.

If you enjoy learning in small goups through dialouge and body-based practices (weaving nervous system and circle elements), be sure to check out my next in-person retreat 'The Embodied Space Holder' November 2022 with co-host Emily Gillies.


Joy Onyschak has been guiding adults from from overwhelm to ease in their hearts and bodies for over 13 years. As a Somatic Guide, she incorporates Conscious Connected Breathwork, somatic movement, and the art of Holding Space to help her clients find the wholeness they seek. She works with clients worldwide online or in-person in Winnipeg. She hosts intimate retreats and events at her Southern Manitoba property. Explore her conatiners of support at , and connect with her through Instagram , Facebook or email

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