Building Resilience In Challenging Times

Yoga teaches us how to find fortitude to stand tall no matter what is happening on the outside….

Resilience is the ability to bounce back from challenges, adapt to change, and cope with stress in a healthy way. In present days, we have all heard stories of collective overwhelm, anxiety, exhaustion and depression owing to the post Covid, unpredictable world that’s been through massive trauma in recent years.

Yoga can help you build resilience through focus on physical strength, mental clarity, and emotional balance. This potent combination helps us not only cultivate the much-needed self-awareness required for healthy decision making but further strengthens and encourages us to devise healthy coping mechanisms for ourselves in facing adversity, pain, and other difficult circumstances. Practicing yoga regularly can empower us to navigate life’s ups and downs with greater ease and grace. We naturally become more confident and bolder in our decisions, more centred and grounded amid chaos and challenge.

“When we grab the breath, we grab the mind,” says Nandiva Ananda, owner of The ISHTA School of Yoga & Health. “By practicing techniques such as nadi shodhana (alternate nostril breathing) we can bring ourselves into a state of equanimity where the waves and fluctuations of the mind subside, the mud settles and we can begin to see beneath the surface of what’s really going on,” she explains. Other breathing techniques like kapalaphati (deep abdominal breathing) “activates our parasympathetic nervous system, which enables us to return to calmness and homeostasis,” Nandiva says.

All yogic breathing techniques (some further techniques include sama vritti and ujayii) all facilitate improved oxygenation that encourages optimal functioning of our brain and other vital organs that determine overall wellbeing. So, by developing a regular breathing practice and by learning how to regulate, control and extend the breath, we can better manage challenging situations, maintain, and sustain composure on hard days.

“When we start the day with a fresh mind, we can rise above and handle anything that ultimately comes our way,” Nandiva expounds.

Postures (Asana)
Challenging ourselves during yoga practice to hold a pose when it seems we have reached our limit, helps develop physical and emotional stamina. The physical postures involving forward, backward, lateral bending and more, not only stretches our muscles but also further stretches our minds. It brings focus, concentration, awareness, and clarity to us, among other amazing benefits.

Our bodies are the faithful vehicles through which we move through the world and yoga teaches us the how and why of how to treat it lovingly and respectfully and give it its best possibility to heal and reach its potential. Not only does yoga improve flexibility and strengthen muscles, but it also takes care of our entire inner functioning, affecting our overall wellbeing – there is no age or weight or gender or level that one needs to be at to practice yoga – “yoga meets you where you are,” Nandiva says. Even a short daily physical practice involving a few rounds of surya namaskar (sun salutations), backbends, forward bends or twists, will bring much improvement to the body and help us maintain the requisite energy to cope with stress.

Mindfulness means cultivating more present moment awareness and it allows us to live more fully in the “now” and worry less about both the past and future which is largely out of our control. By taking control of what is in our sphere of influence and being a full participant in the creation of our daily goals and dreams, we are better able to create the future we desire.

By finding time to allow to connect inwardly via meditation practices that include mantra (chanting), yoga nidra (relaxation), trataka (inner gazing), vipassana (observation) and more, we can refine the energy of the mind to make it more sensitive and subtle so that it reflects more positivity and is geared toward higher values, increased understanding, and compassion.

Choosing a time of the day to practice meditation and committing to it regularly will help restore the mind’s freshness and balance. Whatever measure of success we achieve in confronting ourselves honestly during this process, it will serve to bring more harmony and peace to our lives.

Resilience is also often the mark of people who become exceptional humans in many spheres of their lives, but it is additionally a key personal attribute for us to build upon as we cope in times of crisis. Resilience is often a hard-won outcome, but one that offers enormous personal growth for those willing to take the journey.

Similar to building a muscle, increasing our resilience takes time and intentionality. The practice of yoga is a perfect tool to do so through connecting with our bodies, mind, and spirit in more profound, authentic, healing, and healthy ways. And even though adverse events are painful and difficult, they do not have to determine the outcome of your life.

“Adversity has the effect of drawing out strength and qualities of a man that would have lain dormant in its absence.” ~ Herodotus