It's the beginning of December and nature got right to cueing the cold weather. Here in middle Tennessee we got our first Southern snow dusting of the season--the soft snowflakes "don't stick" but it's still enough to close the schools, which my New Yorker/ New Englander upbringing still interprets as strange. Vata season is in full swing and brings with it the end of 2020.
This has been one strange year, and I think this can be said for everyone no matter where you grew up. We experienced a wave of pandemic & global quarantine, conspiracy theory panic, the rise of white supremacy in the yoga community, the expansion of a global Black Lives Matter movement, and the electoral defeat of Donald Trump. In short, this year has demanded a lot from each an every person regardless of your worldviews.
One this that has been showing up for me over this year has been resilience. Being something of a buzzword in the holistic wellness community, the definition of what it means to be resilient can, at times, seem inconclusive, vague, or even bypassing. So, what does it mean to be resilient or to have resilience?
To be resilient means to have the capacity and the ability to recover & adapt from stressful, adversarial or challenging situations. As human beings, we experience & express resilience in a few different ways, such as physical resilience, emotional resilience, mental resilience or spiritual resilience. While there's different and distinct forms of resilience, they are all interdependent upon each other thus can have a domino effect on each other.
In many ways, the myriad stressful or traumatic experiences 2020 cascaded upon humanity is enough to test any persons resilience & fortitude. For my personal experience, I've learned to lean deeper into my yoga, meditation & ayurveda practice to nourish my capacity & fortify my ability to be resilient.
Leaning deeper into your yoga practice doesn't have to be complicated. It can be a simple yet focused commitment of having a daily yoga & meditation practice. It can be reading a book about a new aspect of yoga you're eager to explore. It can be attending a yoga workshop. It can be signing up for private yoga instruction. It can be dedicating yourself to observing the yamas & the niyamas. It can be studying Sanskrit or the ancient yogic texts. It can be (finally) signing up for Yoga Teacher Training.
Scientifically speaking, "resilience" is measurable in the form of various Heart Rate Variability formulas to calculate neurophysiological factors such as cardiac coherence and vagal tone. Although these subtle energetics are qualities of the autonomic nervous system and the "mind sheath" of manomaya kosha, studies show we can have a direct impact on cultivating & sustaining healthier, positive neurological patterns through how we breathe.
A simple breathwork practice you can practice anywhere to help balance the nervous system, calm the mind and cultivate the subtle seeds of resiliency is samavrtti pranayama, aka "equal-distance" breathing or square breathing. This technique involves breathing in-and-out of the nostrils at an equal 1:1 ratio; i.e., inhale for 5 seconds and exhale for 5 seconds for a 10-second equal-distance breath. Furthermore, to transform this to the square breathing technique, the breath ration is expanded to a 1:1:1:1 ratio of inhale, inhale retention, exhale, exhale retention all to equal duration, i.e., 5 seconds on all 4 parts of the breath to create a 20-second "square breath." Below is a tutorial video to learn samavrtti pranayama with me :-)
छले वाते छलं छित्तं निश्छले निश्छलं भवेत|| योगी सथाणुत्वमाप्नोति ततो वायुं निरोधयेत || २ ||
chale vāte chalaṃ chittaṃ niśchale niśchalaṃ bhavet yoghī sthāṇutvamāpnoti tato vāyuṃ nirodhayet
When the breath is unsteady, the mind is also unsteady.
By steadying the breath, the yogi achieves steadiness of mind.
~Hatha Yoga Pradipika (2.2)