Being a yogi does not mean tolerating abuse.
As practitioners, we aim to open our hearts to others, to have a generous spirit. We aim to be good friends, good parents, children, colleagues, partners.
And it’s those with naturally empathetic spirits and big hearts that are most often drawn to the practice.
But, if we’re not careful, our hearts can be quickly filled with the weight of others.
Because of our desire to open our hearts to others, we often say yes. We’re quick to take the extra shift at work—no matter how long it’s been since our day off; to be the shoulder to cry on—no matter what emotional hardships we’re currently going through; to adjust to make our partners comfortable—no matter what our own needs may be.
And when we start to feel the effects of this weight, we blame ourselves for not being strong enough to hold it all.
But, in your heart, know that this is not the case. We can’t take it all on. It doesn’t make us any less of an empathetic person or less of a practitioner to give within our limits. Yogis needs boundaries too. This means sometimes saying no to those in need. And that’s okay.
While many think that the aim of every yogic practice is expansive—to become more giving and more generous—your Higher Self may reveal that your spiritual path may actually be learning when to say “no.”
Giving should come from a pure heart with reserves that you have; be critical of your impulse to give out of a sense of obligation or guilt. If you can’t figure out when to help and when to say no, be sure to consult with your Higher Self and your rational mind.
When you’re first starting to bring awareness around your limits, it’s natural to question yourself or feel bad when you have to say no to someone you love. But studies show that those who over-committed at work felt less capable of connecting with their families. Additional studies have found compassion fatigue—the physical and mental exhaustion and emotional withdrawal experienced by those who care for the sick or traumatized—is a strong predictor of turnover in volunteer positions.
In other words, if you give too much too freely, you risk losing the best parts of yourself. Know that compassion fatigue and burn out are real and empathy is a finite resource. Over time, these good intentions can leave you suffering in toxic relationships, distrustful of new people, and struggling with depression or anxiety. And you deserve better.
Think of your giving spirit as a gift that is worthy of being guarded fiercely so you still have it available to others for years to come.
Finding this balance can be a struggle for new practitioners and experienced practitioners alike. But it is a worthwhile discipline as it is only when we’re healthy and balanced spiritually, emotionally, and practically can we truly be in a position to give from the heart.
Take care of yourself and you’ll have the capacity to take better care of others.
If you’re interested in learning more about accessing the Higher Self to help with boundary setting, check out Higher Self Yoga, Book 1.