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Touching into Our Boundaries

July 19, 2011

You know the situation. You meet someone new and they greet you with a hug before you even have time to extend your hand. You would have preferred a handshake, or at least the courtesy of them asking you if you were open to a hug!

This is a common example of becoming aware of our personal external boundaries. We create our boundary similar to a 360 degree invisible bubble around our body. We can get to know the edges of where our physical body starts and stops through body awareness practices such as dance, yoga, massage or somatic therapies. Our energetic boundaries extend beyond our skin and are flexible and adaptable depending on whom we are in connection with. Befriending and practicing our healthy external boundaries allows us to navigate our body through a crowded space or intimate encounter with a sense of safety and ease. Being comfortable with our boundaries allows us to have a clear “yes” or clear “no” when we encounter physical contact with others.

Here’s another common example. You enter into an elevator with a lot of people. Do you notice your breath change as you gather yourself physically and energetically more inward? Does your body become more narrow and pin-like in shape? Or do your limbs and head and tail feel like they are shrinking inward to your center? Or maybe your torso and limbs spread out wider to take up more space in the elevator? No matter how your body responds physically and energetically when our boundary is being challenged, it can be a good practice to bring awareness to ourselves in those moments and invite ease and fullness in your breathing even if you are feeling uncomfortable.

Here is a great exercise to begin to practice body awareness and health boundaries. With a friend, sit far across from each other. Each of you uses a piece of string or yarn on the floor to demarcate the space around you as your boundary. You can use your arms and hands to trace a full bubble above, below, behind, in front and to the sides of you. Once you have your boundary string in place, touch it with your hands; look at it all around you. What do you feel in your body? How is your breath? Do you have any emotions that arise as you rest in your boundary?

Now, look and connect with your friend, who is also resting in their boundary. How does it feel to be in relationship to someone with a clear boundary?

Slowly start to move you and your boundary closer to your friend. Each time you get closer, pause and notice what you feel in your body. Is there anything you need to say to this person as the distance changes between you? When you find yourself very close to them, pay attention to your breath. Even if we cannot identify what we feel in our body, restrictive or shallow breathing can be a barometer of our boundary being challenged. To finish the exercise, place yourself and your boundary string at the distance from your friend that felt most comfortable to you. Reverse roles with your friend.

We can choose to exercise our healthy external boundaries. Being able to say “no” to that unwanted hug in a courteous way or “yes” to a loved one as they hold you close are simple ways to be responsible for your boundaries. Listening and allowing your body to clearly communicate your limits is empowering. As we honour our physical boundaries, we become aware of the boundaries of others and can respect and honour theirs.

Happy Healthy Boundaries to you all,


One Comment leave one →
  1. July 19, 2011 22:42

    Love this post Marcia… what a great explanation and reminder of how simple it is to reconnect with one’s boundaries… our body is such a resource if only we allow it to be…and the smplicity of mindful breathing is such a natural way to connect to ourselves.

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