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.
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Thank you. I need to do this but find it hard because of distance and time away. I see my mom maybe twice a year, she suffers from dementia. My sister is her caregiver, and feels because I live a long distance away that I don’t know how to handle certain situations. With my yoga training, my compassion for others, and always wanting to help, I am probably better suited than she realizes, but continuous treating me like the little girl.
Have a Merry Christmas and I am looking forward to 2022 and all it has to offer.
“We are never responsible for someone else’s emotions and we do not have to take on their pain or unintegrated trauma.” As a Mental Health Therapist this is something I say almost daily to clients I see. SO many people struggle with trying to protect loved ones from their emotions and feel they have to put up with everything said or done to them because they are “Family” which is B.S. People also fear “Hurting someones feelings” which is something you h ave to get to used to that setting boundaries may piss someone off or hurt their feelings but that is up to them to manage their reaction. I love how you use the yamas and niymas to help clarify values and inner resources to help her set boundaries. This is brilliant and I could see how that could help people who are struggling. You are so therapeutic in your approach! We hav e to protect our own mental health from toxic family members and self care can be to set boundaries when needed.
Thank you Chris. Again, of course we care about people and want to help them, but that’s different from being their emotional trash can!
sorry Brenda I meant to just reply and comment to the post, not just to your response!
Thank you Kristine. I really struggle with this. On one hand I feel like I “should” be able to maintain calm and stay centered no matter what people say or do to me. But on the other hand, I’m not all the way there yet. Thanks for the reminder that yoga teaches us that all we need to do in any given moment is to show up and do our best, whether in our yoga practice or in life. We accept where we are now without judgment, and our best gets better with practice. But until then, we need to preserve our energy so that we can continue to move forward. Thank you for the reminder, and the permission, to set boundaries.
Merry Christmas and thank you for all the light you bring to the world!
This speaks deeply to my current experience, though running away still seems like the most appealing option… cheers to boundary setting and thank you Kaoveri!
I hear you! Thanks for commenting.
Thankyou , I have been really feeling into all this . Just had mum living with us for 4 months … we trigger each other all my life … time for me to look at how I react …its been huge !… As I get clearer in my being ,it so helps me to set boundaries with my family members and great healing takes place . …All the traumas that have been carried slowly dissolve . Feels like this lifetimes work for me ! . Thanks for talking about it . Lotsa love from Celena (Australia).
That’s so beautiful Celena! Thank you for sharing and kudos on the personal growth work you are doing! It’s huge!!