Yoga or Resilience Training: Do We Have to Choose?

What are the main differences between yoga and resilience training? Would it be a good idea to do both, or are they a bad mix?

Around a year ago Debbie asked for a Yoga class as her birthday present. It was a great suggestion, and Yoga has helped her to cope with a stage in her life in which she has agreed to take responsibility for decisions about health care for her mother. Yoga worked for her and continues to be an important part of her life.

More recently a longstanding friend of mine suggested that I enroll in a beginner’s course in Yoga, and Debbie also urged that I take the course. For many years, I have been dealing with severe, chronic pain due to an arthritic spine that creates impingements on my spinal cord that result in chronic pain and problems with controlling how I walk.

I had just finished a very successful series of Physical Therapy interventions, so was interested in retaining the gains I had made through various forms of stretching and balancing.

Why did Debbie and I both reach out for help from another system instead of relying on the resilience techniques we already knew? Abraham Lincoln summarized one of the major reasons in a widely used quote about lawyers: “He who represents himself has a fool for a client.”

It’s helpful to get training from someone other than yourself. Distance provides a useful perspective.

In addition to that, though resilience training and Yoga superficially seem to have little in common, they are really very much alike. Both approaches use a wide range of techniques that enable you to know yourself at a deeper level and to soothe and calm yourself.

Yoga, as it is typically practiced in the United States, emphasizes working on changes of the body, and most resilience programs emphasize changes at the level of mind.
But change in the body results in change in the mind and change at the level of the mind results in change in the body.

For example, if you are getting agitated, slowing and deepening your breathing pattern tends to calm both your mind and your body.

Similarly, you can make yourself salivate by imagining sucking on a lemon and you can make your hands get warmer by imagining yourself at the beach lying on a big towel and picturing the sun warming your hands.

For quite a few years a significant body of research in scientific psychology has focused a lot of its efforts on conducting studies to determine whether ancient techniques work. For the most part, those techniques have passed the tests and been integrated into psychological methods of treatment.

So our view is that ancient disciplines from the Far East tend to fit comfortably into recent, science-based resilience programs.

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