Building Strength with Flexibility
“Resilient people possess thee characteristics — a staunch acceptance of reality; a deep belief, often buttressed by strongly held values, that life is meaningful; and an uncanny ability to improvise. You can bounce back from hardship with just one or two of these qualities, but you will only be truly resilient with all three. " Diane Coutu, How Resilience Works
Have you ever thought about the value of resilience? I was pondering this the other day after meeting with a client. He was coming for private yoga because, although he worked out regularly and had two very physical jobs, he felt (in his words) "fragile and feeble."
He didn't look fragile or feeble. In fact, he appeared well muscled and strong. But his body was telling him otherwise. If he bent over, he wasn't sure if he'd get pain or not. Sometimes pain appeared in his back, sometimes in his shoulder. It seemed as if he was always on edge, waiting for pain or injury.
What his body lacked was resilience. He was building in strength, but didn't have the necessary flexibility to bounce back from injury. Too much strength with too little flexibility leaves a body prone to injury - like a strong firm branch snapping in a gale force wind, instead of bending as a willow branch would.
Resilience allows us to spring back easily from life's challenges, be they mental or physical. A couple of years ago, I was in the park with my dog Lucy, where we would often go so she could chase sticks, on a long leash. This particular morning, I saw a tennis ball on my front lawn, and blithely picked it up, thinking she might enjoy chasing it. Problem? Tennis ball rolls farther than a stick. It was a "holy sh*t" moment. A gloriously happy pup tearing after tennis ball. Leash not long enough to prevent my ungraceful takeoff, flying through the air, and landing on my knees and wrists. Nothing broken. Fortunately, my body had enough resilience to bounce a little instead of crack.
Maybe you can identify with my client. Maybe you have pushed yourself to a place where your body wasn't ready to go, and pain or injury was the result. Flexibility is a mindset as much as a characteristic of the body. In order to ask the body to become more flexible and therefore less prone to injury, you must be willing to release your expectations of what your body is capable of. You need to accept the current reality. This may mean that you can't touch your toes in a forward fold without pain. So you accept that, and modify the pose as needed. Over time, you build flexibility into both the mind and the body, and resilience springs from that practice. And you get closer to your toes - with more flexibility and less pain.
PS. I've ditched the tennis balls in favour of sticks. Lucy prefers them, anyway.
How do you feel resilience has helped you, or the lack of resilience has hindered you, as you deal with life's challenges?
Donna offers a holistic perspective on the relationship and healing of physical and emotional pain.