6 ways yoga helps build resilience and
manage chronic illness
The definition of resilience is the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties.
Some people may be naturally resilient to blows that life serves them and some not so much, but resilience is the secret to dealing with chronic illness.
Many chronic conditions are not always bad, they relapse or are managed.
As any chronic disease ebbs and flows, so do those that suffer from it.
Their capacity to ebb and flow with the disease defines the outcome of any diagnosis- may that be lupus, fibromyalgia, Multiple Sclerosis, Chronic Kidney Disease, etc. That capacity is resilience.
To understand resilience a little better though and understand why some people fair better than others when dealing with chronic illness, we must understand the biological process of stress.
Stress is good!
Acute, short term stress is a natural process, also known as “fight or flight” response. Our bodies are built to direct resources to the right processes and help us act upon what is perceived stressful in order to fight it or run away from it.
Acute stress sharpness our senses, fuels our body, drives us to taking action and achieving or simply dealing effectively with life difficulties or disease relapses.
Stress is bad!
Stress can be very harmful when experienced long term though.
How one perceives a situation to be stressful defines the duration she experiences stress for. In that time, the same processes that support us during acute stress, continue to occur.
Those processes though do not support rest, recovery, digestion, growth and reproduction.
Stress is ugly
Long term stress results in headaches, physical tension, reduced immunity, insomnia and so much more.
Stress can cause problems in one’s physical, psychological and social health. It can cause relationship problems too, as one may be quick to anger and overact on trivial issues. Stress can also lead to high blood pressure and other serious health conditions.
The key difference between the negative and positive sides of stress is how you perceive the stressful situation.
If you perceive it as something within your capacity and that you have the ability to overcome it, the result will be a positive. However, if you perceive it as something outside your capacity to deal with, the result will be a negative.
Although stress is normal and can’t be completely avoided, the trick is to be able to regulate, monitor and completely harness it so that we are able to benefit from it rather than suffer.
Learning how to harness stress is where we find RESILIENCE
Resilience and Yoga
The ability to carry on despite stressful situations and to bounce back from life blows is resilience; also known as hardiness or grit.
Resilience is something that can be fostered with the practice of yoga.
The continuous practice of yoga helps manage chronic illness in many ways:
- Asana can help manage physiological imbalances,
- pranayama energetic,
- dhiyana can bring awareness that in turn help us manage disease and of course
- dharana can help us change our mindset and often redefine the outcome of a diagnosis.
All of those elements in the practice of yoga help us develop tolerance towards chronic illness and at the same time the ability to bounce back after a relapse, thence increased resilience.
6 ways yoga helps build resilience
- Yoga helps us tolerate negative emotions: The regular practice of yoga brings awareness to those emotions and what triggers them, it provides the safe environment needed to acknowledge and let go.
- Remain positive in the face of adversity through the practice of gratitude and shifting our attention to what is good.
- Believe in something greater than the self and let go of the belief that we have control over our lives. At the same time through the practice of yoga we can acknowledge how greater forces also support us in this life journey.
- Let go of the idea of one’s story or beliefs, or the social and self imposed beliefs of life and happiness. Let go of career goals and social expectations. It is great to be ambitious and driven, but yoga help us recognise the important things in life to be ambitious and driven about.
- Manage emotional responses and not overreact at the face of adversity. Learn to breathe through the challenges of the disease and life.
- Remain compassionate about one’s self. There should be no blame, or guilt in the disease diagnosis or progression and no guilt associated with caring for one’s self..