Yoga's Wisdom for Healthy Boundaries

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    Who isn't impacted by boundaries? You may be aware of them or not, and impacted if they're your own or someone else's boundaries. When you feel frustrated or resentful, it might be worth pausing to consider if your boundaries are involved. 

    - Did someone take advantage of your generosity?
    - Did someone exploit your time? 
    - Did someone invade your personal space? 
    - Did someone persuade you to do something you really didn't want to? 

    What happens if you change the statements above?
    - Did I allow someone to take advantage of my generosity?
    - Did I allow someone to exploit my time?
    - Did I allow someone to invade my personal space?
    - Did I allow someone to persuade me to do something I really didn't want to?

    Boundaries are within our control. Even if we didn't learn about healthy boundaries growing up, it's never too late to establish them for our own happiness and well-being. 

    I turned to yoga to help me with some common boundary issues, which I hope will be helpful to you, too! The Yoga Sutras by Patanjali serves as a guide for living a meaningful and purposeful life with eight limbs (or paths). The first of these are 'yamas' or 'restraints' which identify five aspects of moral and ethical interactions with the world and people around us. I find these especially relevant to personal boundaries. 

    1. Ahimsa or 'non-violence' i.e. do no harm to self or others. When I don't set boundaries around my work at the expense of my relationships and leisure time, I am hurting myself and others who want to spend time with me. When I don't make a point of recharging myself in between tasks, I am cranky, stressed and find it hard to wind down when I need to (like before bed). Reflection: Am I hurting myself or others by my lack of boundaries in a certain area? 

    2. Satya or 'truthfulness'. We might see ourselves as an honest person, however, what does 'pretending' cost us? For example, do we try to put a positive spin on what we reveal to others about our lives? Do we hide what's not going well from our friends and family when they could potentially provide support? I put some boundaries around my social media use this summer because what I was viewing and felt pushed to create wasn't making me feel good. Reflection: Am I paying a price for pretending?

    3. Asteya or 'non-stealing'. This means so much more than not taking other peoples' stuff! At its root can be a feeling of emptiness or not being good enough. This can lead to a struggle to accumulate more - possessions, status, food, followers etc. to feel better about ourselves. When I started out yoga teaching, I felt like I needed to take training after training to be good enough to teach private sessions. In order to achieve my ultimate goal to offer private yoga to individuals and couples, I had to set some boundaries around my learning goals so I actually had time to do the work I loved! Reflection: Is my striving to accumulate MORE because I feel incomplete?

    4. Brahmacharya or 'right use of energy' i.e. moderation. This makes me think about a cup that contains the energy we have to use each day. If we think about our life energy as precious, we don't want to waste it. We need to be mindful of how we spend it. Are there people in our lives who take more of our energy than others? There might be activities we enjoy, such as eating, drinking, shopping, surfing the internet, or online gaming, but after a point they create a feeling of exhaustion, excess or numbness. Reflection: Do I have boundaries with the people or activities I spend time with?

    5. Aparigraha or 'non-attachment'.  Joining a Buy Nothing Group is helping me have healthier boundaries with my possessions. I have stuff I have that I never use, but am attached to, simply because I've had it for so long. Having a connection with a recipient who can use/enjoy my stuff is helping me lighten my load! Another aspect of Aparigraha is avoiding rumination about the past and preoccupation with the future. For me, yoga means getting quiet and pressing a 'pause button' on life. Mindfulness techniques can create a boundary of space and quiet to be in the present moment, which can lead to valuable insights about our life and direction! Reflection: What people, things, experiences or beliefs am I holding on to that don't serve me?

    Taken together, these principles can help us remember the necessity of setting boundaries for self-preservation while respecting the boundaries of others. 

    I have seen in my own life the way how what I practice on the mat can serve me in my everyday life. For example, when I practice self-compassion by not pushing myself to the point of pain or exhaustion in my yoga practice, I can be gentler towards myself for the rest of the day. The strength, balance and flexibility practices I design for a client have a specific intention in mind. Perhaps this person is run ragged and needs to find a better balance in life. Or they might need to cultivate their inner strength to be more assertive. Developing more physical flexibility can help someone who's struggling with changing their thoughts or behaviour.

    Intrigued? Want to learn more about how yoga can help YOU with brave boundaries? I invite you to watch my video above. Please contact me for a complimentary 15-minute consultation to explore how yoga can work with your personal needs and goals!

    This article was published in my August 2021 newsletter. Sign up here

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    Spiritual Lineage Acknowledgement

    Yoga's historical roots originated in India more than 5000 years ago.  I am evermore grateful to my teachers and for the ancient wisdom that informs my yoga practice and teaching. I strive to practice and uphold the ethics of yoga to create a more peaceful, just world. I commit to engaging in continuing education and self-reflection to avoid cultural appropriation.

    Land Acknowledgement

    I offer respect and gratitude to the First Peoples and caretakers of the land I call home: the traditional territory of the Anishinaabe, Haudenosaunee and Huron-Wendat nations.