This year has been tough. We have all been impacted in some way or another by the Covid-19 pandemic.
You might have caught the virus, and are still recovering. You might have lost someone you love. You will almost certainly have lost business, or been furloughed, had to change the way you work or lost your job completely.
We have all experienced fear, anxiety, uncertainty, sadness and anger. On the other hand, for some this time has been a quiet blessing in disguise. With our busy lives cancelled, we have stayed at home and learnt to appreciate the simple pleasures that brings.
This is an example of emotional resilience. Understanding that times are tough, but also that no experience, however painful, is ever all bad.
What is Emotional Resilience?
Resilience is a muscle.
Flex it enough and it will take less effort
to get over the emotional punches each time.
Alecia Moore aka P!nk
This great quote from pop star P!nk sums up emotional resilience. Resilience is a measure of how we can bounce back from what life throws at us – pandemics, loss, change, abuse – and so on.
There are three main elements or dimensions to emotional resilience.
The Physical Aspect – In order to build a healthy capacity for emotional resilience, we need to have physical strength, good energy levels, overall good health, and vitality – a zest for life.
The Mental Aspect – This involves being adaptable, having a good attention span and the ability to focus. It also involves self-esteem and self-confidence. It is also crucial to work on your emotional awareness so that you can manage your emotions as they arise. In addition, we need clear self-expression and reasoning abilities.
The Social Aspect – Emotional resilience means that we are able to manage interpersonal relationships, in our personal, professional and social lives. To understand how to function as part of a group, including the ability to communicate, be liked and to co-operate.
How Yoga Can Help with the Physical Aspect
This one is easy! Of course yoga helps us build up our physical strength. Through regular practice, the body is strengthened, muscles are lengthened, and joints are oiled. Once we learn to appreciate how good it feels to have a strong body, it encourages us to eat healthily too and to become more attuned to what’s good (and not so good) for us.
Yoga is also a great teacher when we have an injury. We learn to adapt to the injury, to work through and around it, and then put in the work to come back from it.
Pranayama, control of the breath, is about harnessing the prana (life force) to increase our energy levels and even extend our lifespan.
How Yoga Can Help with the Mental Aspect
This one is easy too! Built into the fabric of our yoga practice is the need to be adaptable. We have to adapt our bodies to the postures. This takes perseverance, effort, courage and patience.
We learn to focus on the minutiae of the body – the little toe, the skin on the breastbone. This improves our focus, or one-pointed attention – Dharana – the sixth limb of yoga.
The physical practice of yoga is also a great stress-buster, as the poses open up our chests, release pent up tension from hunched shoulders and soften the muscles of the face.
Restorative yoga and Yin yoga both help us become aware of our emotions. These types of yoga are less about doing and more about being, meaning that we have time to sit with ourselves without the distractions that buzz constantly around us.
How Yoga Can Help with the Social Aspect
Yoga is about coming together – as we all know, yoga literally means ‘union’. And although we have not been able to physically come together for classes for the last four months, community is often an important part of why we attend the same yoga classes with the same yoga teacher. These become important relationships in our lives, a kind of yoga ‘family’, where we feel accepted for who we are. And if you’ve been attending online classes you’ll know that even though it’s not the same, there is still a great amount of support that comes from feeling that we’re practicing all together.
If you’re a yoga teacher, there are plenty of opportunities to practice emotional resilience. The training itself is intense, as we cast off our old selves in the fire of teacher training and are re-born as yoga teachers. It is as painful as it sounds.
Then there are the knocks that come with setting up as a yoga teacher, gaining students, losing students, and learning the hard way that although it’s a brilliant job, it’s not easy!
Why Yoga is actually ALL about Emotional resilience
The yoga practice itself teaches us so much about resilience. As B. K. S. Iyengar says in his book, Light on Life:
Asana practice is an opportunity to look at obstacles in practice and life,
and discover how we can cope with them.
Unfortunately, it is guaranteed that however fortunate someone’s life is, at some point they will have to deal with sorrow and adversity. Yoga gives us the yamas and niyamas, including svadhyaya (self study), tapas (intense effort) and ishvara pranidhana (surrender to a higher power).
These things, together with the physical practice, will see us through the hard times that we will all, at some point, have to face.
We’re launching a new specialist course this summer around Yoga & Emotional Resilience. Check out our workshops page for details🙏