Resilience is an important quality that we all need. It sees us through those tough times that we encounter throughout our lives. To be resilient means we have the ability to bounce back from adversity. Sometimes when we meet with trouble we are able to stay strong and plough on with our life, but at other times we are knocked down.
We are, in fact, tiny little beings in a great big universe and often we are virtually powerless to stand on the shore of life and not be knocked about by the huge waves of life’s storms. Storms such as sickness, divorce, loss of job and the big one…death. In this regard the old Japanese proverb comes to mind.
“The bamboo that bends is stronger than the oak tree that resists”
In a mighty storm the oak tree resists with its strong stout trunk and roots until it can resist no longer and is uprooted and smashed to the ground. The bamboo however does not resist, it bends over and lays close to the earth until the storm is over and then easily stands back up again. The oak tree has rigid strength but the bamboo has resilience.
Resilience is needed in everyday life. We need to be resilient in our relationships with others, when we suffer losses and when things just aren’t going according to plan. Instead of trying to meet the adversities head on, or crumbling under the pressure, a resilient person might calmly take a step back to consider the circumstances and how best to deal with them.
Yoga asanas can help us become more physically resilient.
Yoga asanas provide a balance of both strength and flexibility. As your body becomes stronger and more flexible you will recognise that physically you have become more resilient. You might notice your agility, endurance, range of motion and strength have all increased. Things that once were physically hard to do become a lot easier.
Yoga asanas for perseverance and confidence
Mental and emotional resilience can also increase from our asana practice. Some poses are quite challenging but if you keep persisting and don’t give up, you will find that eventually you will be able to move more fully into them. From this experience you can recognise and be confident that perseverance pays off in the end. Perseverance and confidence are important features of resilience. We can learn from our asana practice that instead of giving up it is always worth while making an effort when things are difficult.
Yoga asanas for mental and emotional resilience
We are encouraged to practice our yoga asanas carefully, fully focused on how they are affecting our body, breath and mind. From our yoga asana practice we can develop the ability to be mindful of what is going on in our body and mind in a very calm, observant and objective manner. When we observe the mind becoming emotional or upset we can draw back and not get swept up into our emotions. Mindfulness is also valuable for resilience. When we are faced with challenging situations, we can step back and observe what is going on in our mind, we can observe our emotions and not become overwhelmed. From this view point we are then able to assess, regroup and act appropriately.
Yoga breathing for resilience
Mindful breathing is first aid for a stressful situation. Some breathing methods like Brahmari and Alternate Nostril Breathing calm our mind and whole nervous system, while others like Kapalbhati help to lift our spirits. We teach these in our yoga classes at the Australian School of Meditation and Yoga, so that they can be pulled out of the tool kit whenever you need some resilience, on or off the mat.
Meditation for resilience
When things aren’t going well, we can find resilience by going inside to our ‘happy place’ where we can find comfort and peace. We can find that place of serenity with meditation. At every yoga class at the Australian School of Meditation and Yoga we finish with a five minute mantra yoga meditation. The mantras are transcendentally potent and gradually fill our hearts with the warm embrace of divine love, peace and comfort.
Resilience can and should be learnt from a young age
Life can be tough for children. There are challenges for all ages, but especially the teenage years when things can become extremely distressing. It seems like the greatest skill we can give to our young children is for them to develop the ability to see their way through all the various ups and downs they will encounter as they make their way through childhood. All the ‘resilience’ skills learnt by adults at yoga can also be learnt by children. Specially designed ASMY yoga classes for children make yoga practice playful, fun and enjoyable. Over the weeks the children learn how they can use breathing practices to help calm a troubled mind. They learn to use mindfulness so they can step back from raging emotions, and they experience fun challenges to help grow their perseverance muscles. No one is too young to find their happy place through meditation. At the ASMY children’s sessions meditation is also fun and enjoyable.
By Vrndavan Dasi
Founder and Principal of Veda Yoga Teacher Training