Resilience is a term I don’t hear or speak often in yoga class. The more common terms are contentment, non-harming, loving-kindness, non-greed. But resilience, not so much. Why is that? In one sense of the word, people seek to be resilient. It’s is one of the main reasons people start a yoga practice. They want to become more pliable to stave off injury and reduce the aches and pains of everyday life. I don’t hear people mention the other definition of resilience - the capacity to recover from difficulties. And yet, yoga’s ability to develop this aspect of resilience is apparent to most of us who have spent some time on our mats.
My father recently graduated from a Livestrong program at the Waterbury YMCA. This program is a free exercise and wellness program for people recovering from cancer. The participants were introduced to various forms of exercise and wellness regimens, including weight training, zumba, yoga, tai chi and cardio. They also learned calming techniques like breathing exercises and reiki. As one of their trainers mentioned at graduation, these techniques created resilience in the participants who were learning to use exercise and wellness to love being in their bodies.
On the surface, we may have been looking to increase flexibility or strength. Behind that may have been a search for resilience. Since we opened the studio door, we’ve been building a more pliable body that’s better able to withstand the forces and movements of our daily tasks. We’re creating a body that recovers relatively quickly from injury. Increased awareness informs us of weak areas so we can build them up. We learn to love being in our bodies unconditionally.
As we attend to the physical body, the mind and spirit awaken to our wisdom. As we practice over a prolonged period of time, we gather more of the golden nuggets of yoga - a little loving-kindness here, a little contentment there. We become resilient emotionally, mentally and spiritually. We see things clearly and respond appropriately and in good time. We begin to recover from the crises of life with grace and understanding.
Resilience, as in the capacity to recover from difficulties, is not the most-stated reason for starting a yoga practice. But it is the reason many of us stick with a yoga practice. Because yoga goes beyond a physical workout. Yoga draws us, like the Livestrong participants, into a world where we can reap the benefits of living with health and well-being, into a world of resilience in every sense. Pliable and able to recover from being knocked down, we live in the present as we go forward.