Boundaries -the practice
The subject of boundaries has recently come up for me. I had to step back and acknowledge what role a person played in my business. I was also confronted with someone overstepping their boundaries without establishing trust and respect in my personal life. Neither feels good. But, my yoga practice has given me the tools to trust my intuition and act accordingly. The same is true for my physical practice.
So how do we set boundaries?
Most people struggling with this might not realize that the answer can be found in the midst of a strong Tadasana (Mountain Pose) or fiery vinyasa flow. Yoga actually offers us some of the discipline we need to establish boundaries and not feel guilty about maintaining them (since setting boundaries means learning how to say “no” without guilt).
“Yoga reminds me that it’s ok to have limitations”
Yoga teaches us to recognize our personal limitations. Perhaps you have challenges with balancing postures or you feel your flexibility is a challenge. Yoga can remind you that it’s ok to have limitations. Just as with yoga, we need to get clear on our own personal limitations. We each have limits in our personal lives, relationships, friendships, and in our professional lives – i.e.: deadlines, obligations we place on ourselves or allow others to place upon us. Everyone has his or her limits. Our limit or edge is the place where if we push further we lose our peace and don’t show up the way we would like to for ourselves and for the people we love.
Not having clear personal limits can also contribute to a host of other issues such as anxiety, exhaustion, depression and insomnia. Learning our limitations occurs through self-awareness. In yoga we refer to this as being the “Witness”. Practice self-awareness by simply pausing and noticing where you’re at (figuratively/emotionally) throughout the day. Just like in your yoga class, how do you feel when you overextend yourself and where is the place right to stop before you do so?
Second, we must gain self-confidence in the fact that we are enough just as we are, and therefore we are ‘worthy‘ of setting boundaries in our lives. I always offer child’s Pose when a student needs to back off of a posture or just needs a pause. We are enough even when we choose to back off and say NO to taking the posture further. Similarly, setting boundaries means that we have to be comfortable saying “No, I can’t [fill in the blank] for/with you. “ We get comfortable by reminding ourselves that each of us knows best what works for us. Most people will accept your boundaries with grace. If they don’t, there’s a pretty strong chance they have blurred boundary lines as well. We must not let others’ lack of boundaries—their push to get us to do things that we don’t want to do–sabotage our own growth. Practicing yoga and meditation builds our confidence and helps instill a belief that we are worthy of our space in this world.
Establishing boundaries takes PRACTICE
Most of us practice yoga to gain something in their lives. Yoga class allows us to relax into the postures and to better recognize where our ‘edge’ is. We can then choose whether to push forward against that edge– or back off. Recognizing the signs to back off—tension in my body, anxiety in my mind—helps us to choose how to proceed.
Setting boundaries in our lives work in a similar fashion. We get signals from our brains and our bodies when we’re asked to do something that doesn’t feel ‘right’. We just have to listen and ‘obey’ these signals. The best part is that setting boundaries simply does get easier with practice. It becomes your new norm. For example: “I would love to stay and talk with you longer, I enjoy it, but I must get going.” Or: “I would love to take on that additional task at work, but I feel I am totally immersed in my current workload and can’t take this task on at this time”. Try telling someone “NO” and then check in with yourself. How did it feel to set a boundary? How does it feel to know you stood up for yourself? Maybe it feels strange at first. Maybe it feels freeing. Maybe it’s confusing (“will I still be liked?”) or enlightening (“I put myself/my family first for once!”).
Once you are grounded in your boundaries, you will know when they are being threatened and you can then create your boundary. It is not selfish to have boundaries. It’s a way of using your energy to maximize the activities that are most important to YOU. And it can be inspiring to others who are striving to do the same.
May we all continue to strive for freedom and wellbeing because we deserve nothing less. Establishing boundaries, like doing yoga, takes time, practice and suffering a bit of discomfort before we find some ease.
I hope that this serves you well!