In this lecture, I’ll be discussing what boundaries are, why it’s so difficult to set them, and how to know if/when you should be setting them. This lecture ties in with the Foundations of Yoga lecture about the Ego, so you might want to watch that video first.

Mentioned in this lecture:
Healing Body Betrayal Program
Foundations of Yoga

You can also download this lecture here.


I can pretty much guarantee than anyone with a chronic illness has a problem with setting personal boundaries.

I talked about this a little bit in the journaling exercises that go along with the Healing Body Betrayal Program. You can find that on the Tribe Downloads page, and I’d highly recommend you working through those journaling prompts if you haven’t already.

So let me tell you why I’m so sure that anyone with a chronic illness will also have boundary problems.

Most of what we experience in our physical daily lives is a manifestation of the subconscious mind. Allow me to repeat that. Most of what we experience in our physical daily lives is a manifestation of the subconscious mind. This includes physical illness. And like I said, it isn’t something consciously manifested. That means it isn’t really our fault, so I hope that you won’t take what I’m about to tell you as a personal accusation or blame. Because that’s not my intention. My intention is to share this information so that it can shine the light of awareness on what’s going on so that ultimately you can feel more empowered to take control of your life. As with everything I share through Sleepy Santosha, keep in mind that we are all unique. So just take what resonates for you and leave what doesn’t.

So what happens is a lot of us grow up in families where we quickly learn that it isn’t okay for us to say no to things. It isn’t okay for us to want the things we want. It isn’t okay for us to feel the way that we feel. We have to adhere to the family narrative. We have to do what pleases our parents even if they’re things we don’t want to do. So we internalize these messages and we grow up believing that doing what everyone else wants us to do, unconditionally serving other people, is what makes us a good person.

We become self-sacrificing adults who can’t ever say no to anyone without feeling guilty. We have no sense of self-preservation. And really we have no sense of self. Because we’ve given all of our power away to other people.

But our bodies always have our backs. That’s really important to understand. So our illnesses become a subconscious manifestation of the part of us that feels like it’s not okay for us to say no to things. But we’re slowly losing ourselves by not saying no. So the body takes over. The body manifests symptoms that give us a legitimate reason to say no to the things we don’t want to do.

But then a lot of times we bulldoze ourselves into doing things we don’t want to do anyway because we still don’t think it’s okay for us to say no even if we’re so exhausted and symptomatic that it feels like we’re dying in slow motion. So the symptoms just keep getting worse and worse and worse.

I’d encourage you to pay attention to your symptoms the next time you’re faced with a commitment that you aren’t excited about committing to. Notice if the symptoms flare up. Notice what the body is trying to communicate with you.

This isn’t to say that our illnesses aren’t real or that they’re purely psychosomatic. But for every physical illness, there are always physical, mental and energetic components contributing to it. We need to address the illness from every possible angle in order to experience healing.

And I can say with complete confidence that if you’re not setting boundaries, it is making your chronic illness worse. Because you’re saying yes to other people and saying no to yourself. You’re not taking care of yourself in the way that you deserve to be taken care of.

And the body is so so wise. So your body is stepping in and taking over and screaming at you to start making yourself a priority. And those screams are going to keep getting louder and louder until you start paying attention.

Setting boundaries can be a difficult thing for us to learn to do, but in reality, it’s really quite simple.

The word no in and of itself can be a boundary.

But it isn’t just about saying no to other people. It isn’t about pushing other people away. It isn’t vindictive or cruel. 

Boundaries are simply the things that define us as separate sovereign individuals. 

This can be as simple as saying “I like rock and roll music” or “I’m really into yoga and spirituality”

That’s a boundary because it clearly defines what you like. And expressing these kinds of boundaries, this kind of authenticity can actually bring you into closer connection with other people who share your common interests and life goals.

It could also be something like “I like getting enough rest so I can feel energized.” 

This boundary is going to dictate your behavior. So you might decide not to go to a work party late at night. You might say no to helping a friend move house. You might not answer the phone when your overbearing relative calls. Because instead you’re saying yes to rest. You’re saying yes to yourself

Boundaries are unique to everyone. And they can be flexible. They can change overtime because we as individuals change over time. 

In our foundations of yoga series, we talked about the ego and how the ego is our separate sense of self. That it’s main concern is survival. 

Boundaries are a tool that defines the ego, or the self. If you remember from that lecture video, we aren’t seeking to eradicate the ego, but rather to purify it. 

And setting boundaries, getting clear on who you are, what you like, what you don’t like is really a first step to purifying the ego and figuring out who you are, what you want in life and what your highest soul’s purpose is.

Without an ego. Without personal boundaries, we die. We literally die. Because we don’t have that healthy sense of self that feels worthy of life. Without that, we lose the ability to protect and defend ourselves. And ultimately, we lose the will to live.

If we wanna make this extreme, we can think about a life or death situation. Or an abusive situation. A person with really weak personal boundaries, with no sense of self or self preservation, someone who feels like their emotions aren’t valid someone who is always prioritizing the needs of other people over themselves, They’re going to develop a sort of learned helplessness. If they get into a situation where someone else is threatening them, threatening their wellbeing, they might just roll over and feel like they have no right to defend themselves. Like they have no power.

Another scenario would be that the person will end up developing a chronic illness that feels like slow torture because the body is still fighting for survival even when they aren’t.

If you’re constantly giving your power away to other people, there won’t be anything left for you.

You came into this life for yourself. Your life belongs to you. And you get to decide what is and isn’t right for your life. You are the captain of this ship. You are the author of your story. 

I want to reiterate that if this is you, it’s not your fault. Whenever we develop patterns like this, it’s always rooted in some kind of trauma, usually trauma that happened in childhood. I know many of you have reached out to me and told me that you’re abuse survivors, trauma survivors. And I want you to know that I’m right here with you. Changing these patterns is hard work, but awareness is the first step. Once we become aware of them, it gives us the power to change them. So it’s not your fault, but that doesn’t mean you have to stay powerless to it.

So you may be wondering how do I know when and if I should be setting a boundary?

And I think the best way for you to learn how to answer this question for yourself is to get really in touch with your emotions. 

Self sacrifice bending over backward for other people at the expense of ourselves requires us to disconnect from our emotions. So as we’re growing up, learning that it isn’t okay to want what we want, it isn’t okay to say no, we have to disassociate from how we feel in order to do that. We learn that how we feel is wrong and maybe even dangerous because expressing how we feel might get us in trouble.

But your emotions are actually your soul’s built in GPS. Your internal guidance system. They’re there to tell you when you are on the right path or when something in your life isn’t right for you. They’re there to help you get aligned with your highest soul’s purpose.

For me, the first indication that I need to reinforce my boundaries is usually the presence of anger. That feeling of indignation that sort of rises up when something in the external environment isn’t right, and it’s that internal feeling of wanting to say no.

So it’s about learning to honor that feeling. Being able to set boundaries gets a whole lot easier when you learn to validate your emotions.  

If you’re looking for a practice that supports this, check out the guided meditation in the Tribe library called Using Physical Sensations to Connect with Emotions. It’s also in the Healing Body Betrayal program.

So I hope this was helpful for you. I’d love to hear how you’re feeling about what I discussed here, even if you hated it. So head over to the private Facebook group now to chat about it.

And I will talk to you again soon.