Early Memories of Boundaries

boundariesWhen I was little and going to church on Sunday with friends’ families, I remember having a terrifying realization. It was this: I could literally stand up and scream a cuss word. I could do it, I really could. No one could stop me before it came out, I could just stand up, clear my throat, and go for it. “FUUUU…..!!!” 

I would think this through. How there were so many things I could do but that I wasn’t doing because I didn’t want to, or think I should do, or simply because it hadn’t yet occurred to me to do.

It was an overwhelming thought exercise that would inevitably end in my heart spreading to beat against the sides of my ribs and I’d turn to chewing on my cuticles, my go-to anxiety remedy at the time.  

Agency & Self-Control

boundariesI had realized this: I’m imposing boundaries on myself, but those boundaries aren’t really there, at least not in the way a locked door is really there. I had agency and self-control and I could tangle the whole thing up if I wanted to. 

Now to flip the perspective, sometimes boundaries aren’t there when we need them. It’s pretty obvious you’re not supposed to yell cuss words in most public spaces, that’s a clear boundary. But what about when we’re trying to figure out if we want to change jobs, relationships, neighborhoods, even whole social identities? 

Tarot Cards

boundariesFun fact: I read Tarot cards. I’m not a fortune teller or a psychic, I just like illustrations and stories and symbolism.

I’m of the mind that people want their cards read when they want some boundaries, for goodness sake. When they don’t know what to do or where they’re going or what choice to make. There’s always more than one answer to their inquiry, and there’s not necessarily a right one.

That’s the overwhelming part: the agency. The power of choice. And the hard knowledge you could never know the future outcome exactly. We have to move forward not knowing, and sometimes choices we make by default eliminate our other options. Such is commitment. 

Yoga Asana

So about yoga. We practice asana a lot in class, right? We put our bodies in physical shapes and within that shape, that boundary, we investigate our experience.

boundariesWithin every shape there are worlds to explore. You set yourself a boundary (e.g. warrior 2) and you settle into it for a few breaths. One day we ask what are my feet and ankles doing and what other options do I have? On another day can I feel my ribs move with my breath while I hold this challenging pose? 

Each time you assume the boundary of warrior 2, it’s different, even though the shape is essentially the same. Maybe that day you practice after a bike ride and your muscles are warmed up, or perhaps you woke up with a sore back and you can’t bend your knee as deeply as normal. In an asana you return to something familiar and put yourself in the driver’s seat. How do I want to do this shape today? What is there for me to feel? 

You might notice on some days you want simply to follow the teacher’s guidance, to go with the boundaries she’s offering you. On other days, you do your own thing (isn’t Zoom yoga great to give yourself this kind of permission?)

My point is, within your asana practice you have the opportunity to explore your relationship to boundaries and to your own sense of personal control. After all, so many of the poses we do in class are practicing standing on your own two feet, in your own space, and finding strength and ease there.  

This week in our free zoom yoga classes, let’s do just that. Use asana as a tool to witness yourself within boundaries with full permission to dissolve them as you see fit. Go ahead, yell that cuss word. You’re on mute on Zoom, anyway. 😉 

Photo Credits

  • Pew image by cottonbro from Pexels
  • Stars image by Sam Willis from Pexels
  • Tarot image by Lucas Pezeta from Pexels
  • Warrior 2 image by Chris Doody