Yogic Boundaries

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There are no phones allowed in the yoga studios where I teach. It is the one chance a day to completely disconnect. To be fully present in the mind and the body. To have no dinging text messages or Facebook messenger requests to distract us.

And yet, so many students struggle with it. For some, being asked to put away their phone is a massive imposition, a request that is met with anger, disdain, and sometimes downright rude behavior.

I get it. I am a phone addict, too. But, as with everything else, it’s much bigger than it seems. The issue is never simply about one thing. It’s not about phones. Or people who are late to class. Or people who bring giant bags and coats and plop them down in the center of the studio.

It’s about boundaries. Those big, beautiful lines in the sand that say what we will and will not allow into our lives.

Our boundaries define us and yet so few women allow themselves to embrace them. We say yes to that 10 hour PTA project, yes to that ride home we don’t want to give, yes to that man we don’t want to kiss, or yes to that person we don’t want to hang out with. We never stop to allow ourselves to consider what is worth our time and what isn’t because we are too afraid of being “bitchy.” Or “mean.” Or the kind of woman who always says no.

And so we lose.

Saying no is our superpower. We have the right to honor ourselves by only engaging in activities that bring us joy or fulfillment. We should be able to decide for ourselves what gives our lives meaning and seek that outside of other’s judgements.

I am a traveler. Traveling brings me enormous joy. I also have three kids. If I let the number of “who takes care of your kids” while you are gone stop me or the “must be nice” passive aggressive comments from other moms stop me, I’d limit myself from doing one of the things that gives my life the most meaning. So I set a boundary between myself and the kind of people who make comments like this. That invisible wall allows me to pursue the activities that bring me the most pleasure without needing other people’s approval.

No one else should have the power to tell you what is or isn’t allowed in your yoga class, in your house, in your body, in your life. We get one chance at this whole life thing. Don’t waste it by failing to stand up for the things that matter to you. In the end, that’s all we’ve got.

Yoga Teachers Rock

Take care of your shit. It seems so simple. Mind your own business. Engage in self-care. Exercise. Sleep. Eat right.

But so few of us do this.

Last night, I went out with all the women I teach with at Lifetime. As we laughed hysterically and told dirty jokes and ate great food and drank good wine, we also realized something amazing: We all prioritize self care. Whether we are mothers or work full time (and also teach) or have pets and lovers and boyfriends and girlfriends, we all prioritize ourselves.

Radical, I know.

Now, of course, we are a self-selecting crew. Obviously a group of women committed to empowering other women and growing and helping others grow is going to prioritize these things. But the truth is, it’s radical. For a woman to say she prioritizes her own health and happiness above those of others (or just puts her needs first) goes against so much of what we are taught as women.

By all mean, let’s give. Let’s share. Let’s offer ourselves to one another to ease the burden. But let’s also recognize that empowered women empower women. Full stop. If you aren’t filling your cup, you have nothing to give, period.

My goal is to release the stigma on self-care first (so often called “selfish”) and to help other women realize their full potential. Only when we are fully invested in ourselves and our power can we help anyone else be their best.

Until then, we will all come from broken, sad places of neglect and envy. Let’s be better than that. Do something for yourself this week. A challenge. Make it happen. Love these women:

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The Countdown to Savasana

There is a period at the end of every yoga class where almost every teacher cues the same series of moves. From Happy Baby (or legs up the wall or navasana or any number of other postures), we are cued to come onto our backs, close our eyes “and let the practice integrate into the body.”

Savasana. Corpse pose.

Most teachers will tell you it is the most important posture in our practice. And they are right. But why does every practice end with a death?

When savasana ends, we wiggle our toes. We come back to Earth, shiny and new. We curl into a fetal position and take our first few breaths in our new normal. Every practice is a rebirth. A chance to start over. Whether the class is at 5 AM or 10 PM, we have a chance to walk our of the space with fresh eyes and a new perspective.

But we don’t have to practice yoga to get that.

I am currently in a bit of a transitional phase myself. I am at that moment when I am still clenching toes and calves and jaw. I am waiting for the teacher to say, “now relax everything down to the mat and just let go.” I can’t let go. Not yet. And as I wait for the next phase to start, I am reminded of everything I would cue my students in class:

Keep the breath even. Steady breath steady mind. If you can confront this on the mat, you can confront it off the mat, too.

I am inspired by my students every day. Their strength, their dedication, their willingness to push outside their comfort zone into the unknown. So I can hold this discomfort a little longer. I can sit with it at the table. Soon enough, I know it will be time for savasana.

And then a rebirth will come.