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Managing hardship through connection

06 March 2019 | By Eleonora Ramsby Herrera

How can yoga and the yoga community can help us to heal in a world that from time to time undenaibly will be changelling? Through yoga and the yoga community we can, with practice and time, learn to master the waves of life, while simultaneously enjoying the moments when we reach calm waters.


The balancing act that is life

Being human means having to encounter endless challenging waves that, more often than not, arrive uninvited into our life space. There is no way around these waves. Once we come out of one wave and the water of life calms down, it is only a matter of time before another wave arrives and challenges our strength and ability to remain above the surface. Should we live our lives in fearful anticipation of the next wave to strike? In truth, doing so would not give us much space to enjoy the richness of beauty and love that life has to offer. Instead, we can learn, little by little, to become better swimmers and to master each wave as it comes our way, while simultaneously enjoying the moments when we reach calm waters.

Hardship co-exists with enjoyment and satisfaction, love co-exists with loss, trust co-exists with fear, and in the same way movement co-exists with stillness. So too does an active lifestyle co-exist with times of recovery and rest. However, this co-existence is a continuous balancing act that requires the ability to self-regulate through awareness and conscious action. The demands of daily life can easily overwhelm us. Thus, maintaining a balanced life can feel unachievable at times. Perhaps, it may be of some comfort to know that balance in and of itself, is never a static moment in time, but an ongoing movement involving listening and adjusting to present circumstances.

Balance requires focus and strength, as well as breath and softness. It requires courage and trust and a great deal of patience. It can remain inside us in the eye of the storm and in the depth of the dark waters. In times of stress and hardship, yoga can serve as a helpful tool that brings us closer to balance. The practice of yoga offers a space and opportunity to slow down and to take care of our body-mind-heart relationship. Additionally, it can help to improve our interoceptive awareness and ability to listen to our bodies’ needs, so that we can better manage and regulate our physical sensations, psychological mood states and autonomic balance. Thus, yoga does not only have the potential to make us feel better and more balanced, but also, to teach us how to do so.

The nurturing influence of yoga
A growing field of empirical studies are examining the influence of yoga on people in workplaces, in schools and in primary healthcare. These studies show that yoga reduces perceived stress and anxiety, while improving one’s ability to manage stress and situations of distress. Additionally, studies suggest that yoga further improves aspects of well-being such as positive affect, feelings of peace, focus and endurance, self-confidence, life purpose and clarity of mind. In addition to this, an important element that is often overlooked in studies like these, as well as in discourses on yoga, is the positive influence that a yoga community can bring.

The social element of people coming together in a safe and welcoming space where social relationships can be developed and nurtured offers another layer of support and connection, which in turn cultivates the circumstance for transformational growth. Yoga is a practice that is both individual and relational; a practice that has the potential to bring us closer to ourselves and to our loved ones. Furthermore, in times of hardship, the practice of yoga, interweaved with the support and connection with people around us, is crucial to keeping us afloat and making us stronger. Love as a form of connection (yoga i.e. union) is the answer to it all. Choose love.

We work too hard.
We’re too tired to fall in love.
Therefore we must overthrow the government.

We work too hard.
We’re too tired to overthrow the government.
Therefore we must fall in love.

– Rod Smith, “Pour le CGT”

References

  • Hartfiel, N., Havenhand, J., Khalsa, S. B., Clarke, G., & Krayer, A. (2011) ’The Effectiveness of Yoga for the Improvement of Well-being and Resilience to Stress in the Workplace’, Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment & Health, 37, 1, pp.70-76.
  • Köhn, M., Persson Lundholm, U., Bryngelsson, I., Anderzen-Carlsson, A., & Westerdahl, E. (2013) ‘Medical Yoga for Patients with Stress-Related Symptoms and Diagnoses in Primary Health Care: A Randomized Controlled Trial’, Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2013.
  • Noggle, J., Steiner, N., Minami, T., & Khalsa, S. B. (2012) ‘Benefits of Yoga for Psychosocial Well-Being in a US High School Curriculum: A Preliminary Randomized Controlled Trial’, Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, 33, 3, pp.193-201.
  • Prasad, L., Varrey, A., & Sisti, G. (2016) ’Medical Students’ Stress Levels and Sense of Well Being after Six Weeks of Yoga and Meditation’, Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 16.
  • Sarkissian, M., Trent, N., Huchting, K., & Khalsa, S. B. (2018) ’Effects of a Kundalini Yoga Program on Elementary and Middle School Students’ Stress, Affect and Resilience’, Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, 39, 3, pp. 210-216.
  • Wolever, RQ., Bobinet, KJ., McCabe, K., Mackenzie, ER., Fekete, E., Kusnick, CA., & Baime, M. (2012) ‘Effective and Viable Mind-Body Stress Reduction in the Workplace: A Randomized Controlled Trial’, Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 17, 2, pp. 246-258.

Photo: Talitha Gamaroff

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Eleonora Ramsby Herrera

Eleonora teaches Hatha Yoga, Meditation & Trauma adapted Yoga. She has taught yoga since 2008. She is a Senior Yoga Teacher with Yoga Alliance Professionals (UK) and registered as an E-RYT 500 through Yoga Alliance.

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