By Margot Andersen
I tripped and fell at my daughter’s wedding reception. As I went down on the wooden stairs, the guests let out a collective gasp.
After I fell, I popped back up. It took only a second for me to accept what had happened, offer myself some self-compassion, take a breath and move on. I grabbed the microphone and made my speech.
That is resilience. Adversity—big or small— is a fact of life. As the Buddha teaches, all human beings suffer, whether it’s illness, the loss of a loved one, career change or job loss, divorce, struggles with a parent or child, parenting a teen or child with unique needs, or the shifting tides of friendship. What is key is how we deal with the curveballs life throws us. Yoga can help us weather life changes and develop resilience.
For example, when teaching Tree pose to new students who may struggle with balance, we talk about how we are “knocked off our game” so often in life. Just put your foot down, regain your composure and lift your foot back into the pose. Going in and out of this pose of balance is a metaphor for life. Resilience.
Maintaining our breath in the face of adversity or a challenging pose, practicing acceptance rather than struggling with a pose, being mindful and staying in the present moment— all of those are resilience skills.
As we find the effort and edge of each pose, we let go of that which we cannot control. As we find the ease in the pose, we find strength to sustain us during life’s crises. Every time we practice yoga, we practice acceptance of what life is offering in that moment, welcoming both the good and the bad. We can transfer those skills learned on our mats to our lives after a challenging event or crisis. Suffering can be decreased by knowing we cannot change what is, learning to breathe mindfully and leaning into life rather than resisting it.
Having survived brain tumors, chronic migraines and losing a young adult son—and, yes, minor embarrassments such as falling in public, I have concluded that resilience is a learned skill. Humor helps—and luckily, that can be learned, too! As you walk off your mat and step into life, know that you are honing your skills to weather life’s inevitable adversity. Yoga helps us learn to thrive and survive in challenging times.
Margot Andersen is a social worker and yoga teacher who specializes in teaching resilience skills. Learn more about her approach at creating-resilience.com.