by Mona Keddy
As can happen, I have had an emotional and stressful week. As my internal world begins to right itself, I consider how that process happens.
Often, I think, there is a misrepresentation of yoga in popular culture. The underlying media message is that if we practice yoga we will be consistently and evenly calm. That is not my experience – even in the moments I wish it were so. Instead, I have found my practice builds my ability to recognize and name the difficult emotions (sadness, anger, fear, envy) as they arise. In doing so, I am also able to let me go more easily. I am better equipped through my practice to return to homeostasis once the crisis subsides. Psychologists would call this resilience building.
Psychological resilience refers to the ability an individual has to cope with stress and adversity. Coping may mean “bouncing back” to normal functioning, not showing adverse effects from the stress and perhaps includes the ability to use the stress toward more optimal functioning. Resilience is understood to be a learned process and not a genetic trait. Psychologists say we all have the capacity to learn better ways to handle the stressful moments in our lives.
This is exactly what yoga does. Our practice deliberates asks us to be in stress, manage it and breathe through it. We taste discomfort as we hold Virabhadrasana II, we acknowledge fear as we stand on our hands or our heads and experience vulnerability as we bend deeply backward. Through it all the serene voice of the teacher (internal or external) says breathe. We do. Then we come out of the pose and deliberately release that experience and its emotions with the next breath.
As a result, we are in resilience basic training, psychological boot camp. Through our practice, we hone our ability to dive deep into and manage stress and then come out and relax. We condition our body and mind to adapt to the stress and then to relax when the stress is over. The residue of the stress is then (ideally) not accumulated.
NEXT WEEK: my go-to poses for bringing back balance and building resiliency.