Holiday Survival Tips Part 2 – Yoga and Boundaries
By Kristine Kaoverii Weber | December 24, 2021
A client told me she had started to feel like some of her family relationships were unhealthy. They wanted to continue to vent to her about each other (as they’d been doing since she was a child). But she was sick of it. In fact, she had begun to somaticize her interactions and get headaches after talking to them.
She told me that her yoga practice had helped her develop a stronger sense of herself, feel like she could better regulate in stressful situations, and feel more connected to her inner guidance. She knew she could no longer tolerate her family’s emotionally toxic demands, and, although she wanted to maintain a relationship with all of them, she didn’t know how to, all she wanted to do was cut herself off. But, that made her family more anxious because they couldn’t understand what was going on with her.
With the holidays approaching and knowing she was going to be with them for a couple of weeks, she began to feel nervous about getting together.
So, she asked me how the yoga tradition could help.
We talked about how yoga provides a framework, via the yamas and niyamas, to clarify values, and then create priorities and goals – and one of those goals could be putting down better boundaries.
Boundaries are incredibly important for everyone. But they can be hard to set and defend if you’re not feeling centered, if you don’t have a clear intention, or if you’re not clear about your resources.
I asked her which principles spoke to her about the situation and she immediately said, “That’s easy – ahimsa. I just don’t want to participate in this kind of harming anymore.”
We talked about the idea that if she wants to respect her values and have a healthier relationship with her family, then she needs to set clear boundaries with them so that she can remain in integrity with ahimsa.
Then I asked her about her resources. She said that she was feeling a sense of inner strength about the issue, guided by her higher power, and that externally, her brother had been really supportive as well. So, feeling like for the first time in her life it was okay to lay down a boundary, she took action. She had short but heartfelt conversations and told them what she needed, using “I” messages. For example, “I feel uncomfortable talking about , my sister’s partner. I get a headache.” etc.
She tried to use language that was devoid of judgment or snarkiness. Then she told them that she would no longer participate in those kinds of conversations.
Her boundary setting conversations (even though they were a little scary) changed her relationship with her family and has helped her feel more content and less drained interacting with them. Now, she’s actually looking forward to the holidays.
Boundary setting means stepping into yourself in a bigger way. It means embracing who you are, your values, and your priorities.
And, it’s important to keep in mind that when you decide to place a boundary where you’ve never put one before, with people who expect you to be and behave in a certain way, you may get pushback. Folks who have poor boundaries themselves can struggle and react when others lay down new boundaries.
But that shouldn’t stop you. Because boundaries only work, and are only meaningful, when they are defended.
Sensitive people can get scapegoated in dysfunctional family dynamics, so it’s also useful to remember that we are never responsible for someone else’s emotions and we do not have to take on their pain or unintegrated trauma. Of course we care about them, but we never have to be emotional garbage cans for them.
It is entirely possible to use boundary setting to end toxic family dynamics and even toxic holiday traditions – even when they are long established patterns.
Wishing you a happy holiday season, with strong, healthy boundaries, and lots of peace, and joy.