The Enlightening Mat: Setting Limits Can Be Creative

I had a painting teacher who used only desert landscape and a plastic bag in the wind as subject matter for her artwork. When I asked her what it felt like to create so many paintings based on limited subject matter, she replied that she felt that these parameters had allowed her to learn technique better, and she felt more intricately connected to her art.

We're not always encouraged to repeat subject matter or set limits when being creative. How many times have you knit the same sweater over again? That's boring. Life is all about excitement and doing something different. Nevertheless, imposing limits on yourself can actually be an important step in manifesting creativity.

A limitation is a boundary, separating something from what is around it in order to define it. A boundary creates a necessary limitation that allows us to have something whole, something specific.

In order to manifest, we must be able to accept limitation. We have to be able to focus on what we want, to be specific about it. We have to be able to stick with it, long enough for manifestation to occur.
 - Anodea Judith,  Eastern Body Western Mind

One of the many complaints I've heard from people who have tried Bikram yoga and quit is that they don't enjoy the repetition of the same twenty-six postures every time they go to class. The surprising thing for me is that it's probably one of the number one reasons I choose to do the Bikram yoga practice.

For me, it's utterly mind blowing to use the parameter of twenty-six Bikram yoga postures and see the infinite variety of experience this kind of practice creates. I haven't had one class the same as any other class or one teacher say the dialogue like any other teacher. Within the limits of twenty-six postures I have an infinite palette of creativity.

Over the years I've noticed moments for myself and other people when we don't like to impose limits on kids, pets, employees, habits, indulgences, spending, time, love, etc. It almost feels anti-American if limits are imposed on what we consider to be our freedom to choose.

Nevertheless, in many ways we are all craving healthy limits imposed from within ourselves that allow us to be effective and reach goals. If you are not setting your own limits from within, then you may find that you let the outside world do it for you and then wonder why you are attracting ineffective bosses, debt, illness, difficult relationships, criminal charges, etc.

Going to Bikram yoga has encouraged me to accept limitations and see that setting limits for myself is an incredibly healthy and productive activity. More importantly, working through the activities in my book Lemonade Mantras is the mechanism that gets me in touch with what I am most wanting, so that I can then start to put limits into play that will allow me to realize my dreams and desires. Once I understand what I want to focus most on in my life, then it's just a matter of doing it over and over again and sticking with it.

The Enlightening Mat is a blog series exploring moments of awareness that come to Beth Hemmila while practicing Bikram Yoga.

To shop for yoga charms that celebrate the different poses click here to view this blog post Sterling Silver Charms for Bikram Yoga Postures


  1. This is an interesting concept and I've never heard it put quite this way. For most meditation practices that I use, there are very clear limitations in the mantras and breathing. But I've never thought of them this way. But those repetitions do indeed bless me with a freedom which is something like a spring board for creativity. I will be thinking about this idea. Thank you for sharing it.

  2. this is a brilliant post... i have to tell you that in the past week, i have been contemplating and have noticed at least 2 other writers discussing this topic re: their work... there is a form i am working with that i would love to stick with from morning until night... until i have piles of them... and it is so astute to mention that it feels 'anti-american'... the freedom lies in immersing yourself, focusing upon what calls to you... not having that imposed by others... there is an initial choice - but then discipline becomes necessary...
    thank you -

  3. I find that if I have limitations in one area, it makes up for it in another! :-)

  4. I completely and utterly agree with what you have said here...I have noticed it with my own jewelry..that there is much more freedom for me when I limit materials/technique and 'riff' on an idea, seeing where all those small changes, incremental changes...take me...

  5. Yes, this was a great read, thank you. It came at a perfect time for me..

  6. Get outta my head Beth! I just completed a grad school writing class in which we spent the entire semester writing from one topic and using just one article on the topic to cover many different styles of writing. It was at first daunting and later became one of the most freeing experiences as I was able to really let go within the confines of that one topic. I explored it further with my gardening and the fullness of some root-bound plant varieties versus their peers longing to be re-potted in larger freer spaces, I found that I am at my fullest "root-bound" and have been expounding on maximizing my Self with that in mind. Many, many thanks.

  7. Chris, what a neat way of looking at limitations! Thanks for adding that thought.

    Stacie, I love how you call it a 'riff on an idea' that's so cool. Kind of like improvisational music. Your work is amazing!

    Mary Jane, I look so forward to seeing where your imposed limits on your work stretch you!

    T. Allen, this class sounds so amazing and hard! What fun that you had this experience of it freeing you. I love how you translated into your gardening.

    Jeanette, I'm so happy this message arrive at the right time for you! It's good to connect on this :)

    LeAnn, what a neat way to look at meditation. I'm going to have to apply your thinking to my own practice. It's so simple but incredibly powerful. Thank you!


I'd love for you to share your ideas and stories on my blog! Please know that I may not always be able to e-mail you a direct response, so be sure to check back to my blog and continue the dialogue. Many blessings for connecting with me through word and image :)