We psychologists often explore the concept of boundaries with clients. In some instances, a person’s boundaries are so high they have literally “cut themselves off” from engaging in close and loving relationships with others. They are guarded and shut down in an attempt to protect themselves from pain and heartache. On the other hand, other people’s boundaries can be so loose and non-existent they repeatedly get walked on, taken advantage of, and end up with a distorted view of the closeness of a relationship. They don’t know where they end, and someone else begins, so enmeshment, co-dependency, and intimacy problems abound.
As I explore the ancient texts of yoga, I realize that Pantanjali, in the Yoga Sutras, was really talking about boundaries when he stated that we must balance effort and ease, stability and relaxation, strength and flexibility in our practice.
I wish I had a dollar for every time someone has said to me, “I can’t do yoga because I’m not flexible”. Yoga is not just about flexibility. In fact, Pantanjali says we must have an equal measure of strength and flexibility. One yoga teacher I studied with said that it can almost be better coming to the practice with just strength. If we come to the practice flexible but without strength, we can overstretch and possibly get injured. If we come to the practice strong but without flexibility, it may be challenging and excruciating at times, but the flexibility will come.
The Vedic sages rightly observed that the state of our body reflects the state of our consciousness. Put another way, where we fall on the strength-flexibility continuum can tell us something not just about our physical body, but also our emotional body.
If we are hypermobile in the body, we may have challenges with boundaries. We may not know when too much is too much. The “disease to please” may drive us and we lose our sense of what is best for us personally. The essential word to learn is “NO”. The work to do on our mat is build up our strength to match our flexibility.
Alternatively, if we are strong but stiff, we may not be letting people in. Our guard may be so high, our armoring so strong, that we are missing out on the deepening of relationships, letting go, and trusting. Creating more space in the body with the deep stretches of yoga, might just create some more space in our lives to let others in.