Backbones. Backstories. Boundaries.
You have no backbone.
When we say that phrase, we mean that the person in question lacks resolution. They do not speak up for themselves or the truth or what is a moral unquestionable right. People walk all over them. They are spineless. But more than that, they do not honor where they've come from, the battles they've fought to be alive in this moment, the hard lessons they've learned, the wisdom endowed by experience.
All boundaries start with the backbone, and boundaries, I've been told, are important.
But why? Is there a difference between good and bad boundaries? If so, how do we tell the difference? What is the work that needs to be done in both directions to find those healthy boundaries?
In the yoga practice, boundaries happen in many different way. Binds teach us to create more spaces inside a set of circumstances that appear restrictive. The bind gives us the leverage we need to find openness across the heart, integrity in the spine, stability in the lower body, focus in the mind. This boundary creates a way to creatively expand. In a similar way, this is especially important if you’re what I refer to as a “bendy flexy”, boundaries exist in every posture. My favorite example of this is triangle pose. As a person who hyperextends in all of my joints and is more flexible than the average person, it is incredibly easy for me to hang out in my joints, slam my front knee backwards and lose virtually all muscular engagement. I have injured myself several times, the backside of my knee, because I practiced this posture without the boundaries and engagement necessary to keep me safe (activate quads, eccentrically engaging hamstrings, putting my hand on a block).
When I think about boundaries, I think of them as an ever-shifting set of conditional responses that keep me safe. As I evolve into the next version of me, the things that once felt good, might not anymore. Living in the extremes, incredibly rigid boundaries or none at all, feels easier than navigating the grey area in between. In the extremes we don't actively choose. We fall into patterns. The grey area asks us to consciously engage in each moment. Does what I'm doing align with my truth?
In the physical practice, creating boundaries through engagement of muscles makes sense. It's easy to see when an injury is going to happen because of lack of engagement, which means choosing to active certain parts of us to keep the other parts safe. In life off of the mat, boundaries are harder to understand and create. How do we engage our emotional and mental muscles to keep us safe? Every single moment in life teaches us something about ourselves. Experiential learning creates a visceral understanding of what feels like us and what does not. It all comes back to the backbone. Do you have one? Do you know your history? Have you done the work on yourself to know what it feels like when you compromise your integrity? If it feels like you are being shamed, manipulated, blamed, taken advantage of, or someone is physically encroaching on your space, chances are boundaries are being crossed.
The other extreme: not-so-great boundaries. Incredibly rigid, they keep you from experiencing the rest of your life or making real connections with others. This happens most often when we’ve been hurt, a line has been crossed. Never again will another person cross that line in the same way. We build up fortresses around us to protect from future hurt. When the boundaries are too strong, we lose the ability to expand. Vulnerability. It’s the opposite of the fortress of fear. The world becomes incredibly insular. Ask yourself, when was the last time you looked at another person and truly saw them? If the walls around us are built up too high, we lose are ability to see other people for the miracles that they are. The way in is compassion, empathy, and a willingness to be seen. It will be uncomfortable, similar to waking up in the dead of winter and emerging from the cocoon of blankets and comforters. Engaging with other humans is the only way to break down the boundaries we have set against them.
Know your worth. Know your boundaries. Know when it is time to reassess whether your are limiting yourself.
PS. Boundaries exist in all relationships. These are some, or similar to, healthy boundaries that I have set in my own life.
Professional: Thank you so much for believing in my ability to create an outstanding product. I require compensation for all work that I do.
Friends: I care about you very much, but I need these two hours to recharge and reset. Please respect my needs.
Family: Thank you for expressing your opinion about my choice in career. It is MY career though and I know that what I am doing aligns with my greater purpose. I ask you to keep your judgements to yourself.
Relationship: Hi, I know we swap spit all the time, but please don't use my toothbrush. That's gross. Love you.
Find your spine. Honor your backstory. Set healthy boundaries.
Ready to flow? Check back later in the week for a sequence to explore boundaries.