This post is by one of our wellness practitioners, Natasha Allain.
As complex beings we process information through multiple lenses: physical, emotional, mental, spiritual. So, what happens when we use multiple lenses to process at the same time, for example when we practice yoga and meditation? Here we can apply what we learn through action, such as yoga, and kinesthetically condition our muscles and our mental thought roads to spaces of resilience.
Below I have paired resilient building lessons with 5 familiar Hatha Yoga postures. Now, this isn’t just any yoga practice. With each pose you can contemplate and explore an aspect of resilience. Through intentional postures, breath, and contemplation, resilience researchers state that it is possible to rewire our brains and guide our bodies towards more resilient responses and behaviours.
Your Yoga for Resilience Sequence
Lesson 1: You never really know what’s around the corner. Resilience researchers suggest that we practice holding both big future plans and small details in combination, which allows for us to work sustainably towards a bigger goal while focusing on the small details we can achieve in the present. Translate that here in the pose downward-facing dog: be present to your foundation and the little shifts you can make in weight displacement, breath, and mental thought patterns.
Pose: Down dog. Set yourself up with a good hand and foot stance, share the weight among your toes and finger knuckles and tips. Bend your knees and focus on length in your front body from the heels of your hands to your pelvis and then feel length on your back body from knuckles, down the shoulder blades, flipping your tail bone up to the sky. This pose is about longevity. See if you can share weight evenly between your hands and feet. Work towards a sustainable hold that will challenge you without sacrificing support – try working towards holding for 1 minute.
Lesson 2: Sometimes you just need to breathe and find your center. In times of challenge, resilience researchers state that developing confidence in your ability to solve problems and trust in your instincts/intuition can help in building resilience. Where is your power center, how does your intuition speak to you? As you breathe see if by using your creativity/imagination space to picture, imagine, or pretend that you are feeding your ‘power center’ with strength and knowing.
Pose: Pranayama. Inhale your arms up, respecting your shoulder range of motion, while matching your arm movement with your inhale length. Then allow your exhale to lead the arms back down. There are many hand formations you can make for pranayama, choose your favourite (hands interlaced, separate, moving forwards or circling up and down from the side). If you feel comfortable and safe in your environment, close your eyes as you breath. Move through 10 cycles of breath, inhale and exhale. Use this breath exercise as time for internal discovery and grounding.
Lesson 3: The heart is the center of healing in the body. Our resilience researchers agree that when we are able to perform or interpret from a positive mindset, we are able to see stressors as challenges rather than threats. In rhetoric we talk about, “ the heart of the matter”, and often stress can distract us from focusing on what we want and, instead, focuses our energy on what we don’t want. In most cases, when we fear something it is because we really care about something else. Find your positive mindset and invite what you want into your heart.
Pose: Eagle. Inhale your arms up and on the exhale take your right arm under your left, bring hands to opposite shoulders, press your arms into one another. Feel the space behind your heart activate and light up. Bend your knees and stay in a squat or bring your right leg over your left, squeezing or pressing the legs into one another. Your core is strong and spacious, and your heart is now free to lift through your arms. We are actively creating tension in the body, activating the upper body and lower trunk. In this shape we want to view our sensations and thought patterns as challenges rather than threats. Complete on both sides.
Lesson 4: The strength is within you, if you quiet yourself you can find it there. Researchers have found a close link between self regulation and resilience. Self regulation is your ability to direct your behaviour and thoughts. So, use this time in posture to practice being present in your body, allow your breath to hold your attention and travel deeper within. It is here, within your inner landscape, that you will find your resilience.
Pose: Triangle. Start with your legs wide apart, turn your left foot 90 degrees and your right foot in about 30 degrees. Lunge into your front leg, staying strong in your back leg as well, share your weight between both feet evenly. Remain long through both sides of your body as you bring your left arm down to press into your left thigh, and raise your right arm up to open back as you rotate your heart up towards the sky – think slow and micro movements here. Complete on both sides. Feel where your strength lies – find your center and find a purpose to this posture.
Lesson 5: Acceptance. What can you do now? Acceptance can often be confused with “I’m alright” or “i’m okay” with what I’m experiencing, but it’s not about that. It’s about accepting where you are, and learning how to continue living and thriving. According to grief counsellors and resilience researchers, acceptance of things that are out of our control can create space and empowerment for us to direct our attention to what we can change.
Pose: Toppling tree. Bring your hands to prayer at your heart center and ground your awareness and attention here. Lift your right knee to hip level, flex your toes back and begin to slowly draw the right leg back into extension, pushing your heel powerfully behind you as your upper body hinges towards the floor, find a long line in your body. Toppling tree can hold many angles and depths, find an angle shared between your back leg and upper body that feels sustainable. Inhale to come to center, lifting your knee through and exhale to draw your foot back into toppling tree. Do a handful of flows up and back. Direct your attention to what and where you can shift things in your body, whether it’s shifting your pace, angle, alignment, breath, notice what you can shift and feel empowered to be curious about what you can change and move in that direction.
To close your practice, choose mountain or savasana and allow some time for integration. What have you uncovered, connected with, and/or felt? Both of these closing and grounding postures can offer you a space of self-discovery. In times of challenge we are always able to learn something about ourselves, even if it’s just outlining something we do not like or want to experience again. How can you utilize yoga and mindful practices to connect to your inherent strength, self-worth, spirituality, and appreciation for living?
Supporting you in Resilience
In yoga we are intentionally activating/restoring our physical body whilst using our breath to tether us to our mind and shifting emotions and narratives. This “work” can be done unconsciously, where emotions and narratives are released or resolved without knowing, or you may be present to the process and witness the surfacing of emotions or awareness of specific patterns in thought and behaviour.
If you feel like you are in a time where the challenge is high and the support is out of reach or isn’t there in the ways you need, consider booking a free 30 minute Meet and Greet with me, where we can talk about what you are moving through and see where I could support you in your journey. Support is a computer click away. Okay, I know you’ll have to walk up those QSY stairs too, but perhaps you can use that as an opportunity to practice some of your new resilience tools (sneaky of me, i know).
Directed and impacted by Jungian Psychology, Shamanic ceremony, and the energetic healing system of Sensei Usui, Natasha brings a diverse bag of tools to session. As a multi-faceted Healer, Natasha works closely with the central nervous system, listening and interacting with the energetic centers, mental stories stored in the body, muscle groups, joints, and subtle body responses within. In her practice, Natasha encourages a holistic approach to healing, where acknowledgement and alignment of the physical, emotional, and energetic bodies set the foundation for healing.
Today you will find Natasha teaching yoga and intuitive movement classes, talking to her plants and animals, making music, and co-facilitating ecstatic dance events. She is healing her communities one song, one dance, one session at a time.