Look inward for answers — When things are difficult it can be easy to look for a way out, for the answers but truly resilient people know that they always have the resources they need already. The answers are found not on Google, or from a guru, they are inside you. What does your gut say?
Resilience has been described as the ability to withstand adversity and bounce back from difficult life events. Times are not easy now. How do we develop greater resilience to withstand the challenges that keep being thrown at us? In this interview series, we are talking to mental health experts, authors, resilience experts, coaches, and business leaders who can talk about how we can develop greater resilience to improve our lives.
As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Michelle Maslin-Taylor.
Michelle is a certified yoga teacher, reiki master and intuitive coach based in the UK and working with women internationally. She harnesses the power of ancient practices and yoga psychology for emotional balance and healing through reiki-infused yoga and coaching.
Having overcome depression, negative body image and low self esteem with the power of yoga and personal development, she is dedicated to empowering women worldwide to understand and take control of their mental and physical wellness. She is passionate about creating health and happiness in a fully holistic way, honouring the intrinsic link between our energy body and physical, sharing the benefits of yoga, reiki and meditation as a holistic toolbox to being more resilient and facilitating our own healing.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory?
Thank you, I’m so happy to be here! Of course, I’d love to share a little about my journey with you.
I struggled though my teens and twenties with anxiety, depression and body image issues, never feeling good enough, thin enough, anything enough. I spent 20 years as a web developer working in busy agencies, feeling super pressured, stressed and anxious all the time. I barely ate, exercised only to get thinner and really never took time to rest. I first started yoga in an effort to get a “yoga body” but over time I found myself feeling more peace and more at ease in my own body.
When I fell pregnant with my first daughter my attitude towards food changed too, finally seeing it as fuel and nutrition to help her grow. I never wanted her to grow up with the same issues with food as I had and ditched the dieting for good. When I struggled with secondary infertility I turned to holistic methods and relied on yoga to manage the stress and disappointment. I did eventually fall pregnant again and it was my pregnancy yoga teacher who inspired me to retrain as a yoga teacher myself which was the start of following my intuition and finding a true sense of purpose in my work.
Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
When I first qualified as a yoga teacher I already had dreams of being able to take my teaching further afield than a set of local weekly classes or gyms. I didn’t know how I would get there or what it would look like yet but felt drawn to the idea of being at big yoga events, so started looking for yoga events. I came across and applied to the Surrey Yoga Festival, a big yoga festival held locally to where I lived. \
As a new teacher I never expected to get in. I had never taught at an event like that or to a large group but would you believe it, I got a spot teaching a workshop. It is one of the biggest in-person classes I’ve taught, even now, and it was right at the start of my teaching journey. I was so nervous and felt completely out of my depth but it was so valuable for me. It showed me how to hold steady when out of my comfort zone, that I can do hard things and that I love teaching at events. It reinforced my belief in myself that I could move forward with my business and that I was the one who needed to believe in myself.
That first event really did catapult me out of my comfort zone and showed me the benefit of going for the things you want way before you feel ready and really taking chances on opportunities. If I had listened to others I wouldn’t have even applied to be there!
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Currently my company is just me, there are so many other wonderful yoga teachers out there it can be really easy to fall in to comparison mode and never feeling good enough but I always wanted to be the yoga teacher that was relatable and not insta-perfect. Authenticity is so important to me and I’ve always been really open and transparent in my teaching — on my own physical limitations in poses, my emotions and even my practice and how it ebbs and flows. What I wasn;t expecting was how much of an impact this would have for clients, I have received some of the most wonderful messages from clients on my relaxed style of teaching, of how they felt intimidated by yoga until finding me and on how I am able to relate to and normalise what they are feeling whilst holding space for healing. It’s such an honour to know that the biggest impact I have for my clients is by being open in my humanness!
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Gosh, there are so many people who have impacted my journey to where I am now, it’s hard to choose just one to mention!
My pregnancy yoga teacher, Nadya, was the teacher who inspired me to take the plunge and sign up to teacher training. I really do owe a lot of my path to her for encouraging and supporting me and showing me that it was possibly to change careers to teach yoga because that is what she had done.
I also got made redundant three times from my “day job” due to my small agencies being bought out or closing down. It may have sounded like and felt like setback but really each time it was a nudge to do something different. I’m so glad I finally listened!
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?
I believe that there is a lot in toga psychology that helps us in our resilience, yoga is not just poses that you do on the mat but rather there is a whole philosophy and psychology that goes with it that when put together with with practices, helps us to be resilient, happy and healthy.
Three of the yogic traits that I see in resilient people are:
They are Self Aware and trust themselves (Svadhyaya)
In yoga we have a concept of Svadhyaya, or self study, about really getting to know our soul, the very essence of who we are and living aligned with it. The vedas teach us that our nature is divine, that we have all the answers we need within us. These are key in resilient people — by understanding and trusting themselves they are able to make decisions and actions aligned with that.
They are driven by purpose (Dharma)
In yogic philosophy the concept of dharma, finding out purpose in life states that we all have a unique purpose in the world. Modern studies show how important sense of purpose is in happiness and contentment but it’s also key to being resilient. When you feel passionate about your path and committed to it, no setback will keep you from fulfilling your dharma and making the world a better place.
They are Adaptable/Flexible. (Aparigraha, Non-attachment)
I’m not talking physically flexible here but rather resilient people are but they are able to stay mindful, present and adapt where needed. In yoga we consider the idea of non-attachment and resilience definitely requires the combination of right action, taking the next right step, but also not attaching to a specific outcome. It’s so easy to be fixated on an outcome and then feel defeated, a failure, if that is not reached. By focussing on the actions rather than outcome these people are always able to carry on and find the next right action.
Courage is often likened to resilience. In your opinion how is courage both similar and different to resilience?
My view is that courage is what gets you to do something despite any fear that arises but resilience is about being about to try again and again, even if you fail, even if things don’t go to plan. Resilience keeps us positive and strong despite all we have to deal with along the way.
Courage might be the thing that gets you to take an action or start a process, resilience will keep you going!
When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?
Pretty much everyone I know, particularly the women! I honestly think that we are all so much more resilient than we give ourselves credit for.
I have a couple of female friends that really are so resilient I am in awe of them, one in particular who comes to mind is a single Mum who’s had such a rough ride through childhood, injury, divorce, grief and still is the strongest but kindest of people. Those that can remain soft, kind and generous even after going through so much, those that don’t let the world make them hard are the most resilient people to me.
Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?
When I told people I was retraining as a yoga teacher after spending over 15 years as a web developer there was certainly a lot of confused faces and sideways looks. I remember being told that nobody should expect to make a living as a yoga teacher, to do it for love because you’d never make any money.
I’ve also been led to believe that only people with big followings can be authors, yet I’ve been published in two books and major magazines.
I absolutely believe that you should do what lights you up and you are truly passionate about but I also believe that you can earn your living from something you love. I write, teach and coach for a living and I couldn’t be happier.
Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?
Well this past 18 months plus has been a ride for so many people. When covid hit I had been running my business purely in person. Overnight all my classes closed then a few months later I also lost my part-time job so both income streams were just gone on top of having a neck and shoulder injury that made teaching online tricky wit having to demonstrate poses.
I could have easily given up and wallowed in self pity but instead I found a way through. My background working in digital agencies meant I was able to make use of technology, moving my services online and working when I could between the kids being home.
I also squeezed in additional training to add new skills. I faced my fears by seizing opportunities to appear live for Spirit & Destiny magazine and got used to being on camera.
I truly believe that there are always opportunities available to us, we just need to be open to them. Resilience is not about getting everything right, it’s about finding a way to make things right even when everything goes wrong!
How have you cultivated resilience throughout your life? Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?
Everyone has life experiences, everyone has trauma of some kind and I believe that most of us are way more resilient than we realise.
I have a younger sister who is autistic and non-verbal. 30+ years ago there was so little understanding of neurodiversity, the behaviors that went it and my family had to really battle to get the support they needed for her. Growing up with a sibling with needs much more obvious than your own tend to form in to beliefs and behaviours, some helpful and some not but certainly impacting my sense of empathy and consideration of others feelings and needs. Naturally quiet and often called overly sensitive and for a long time considered myself weak but looking back now I can see all the times I have been resilient.
I was bullied at school, I struggled with disordered eating, anxiety and deep, debilitating at times depression, was made redundant three times, battled fertility issues and a pregnancy loss but came through it all, just like every single person reading this has come through their own challenges so far. If you are still here then you are more resilient than you give yourself credit for, I’m sure of it.
The thing that has helped me in recognising my resilience is looking for the evidence of it. Sounds simple but flipping the story from being fragile and weak to exploring all the ways that I am strong, the things I have gone through and using them as evidence that I am resilient helps me to continue to be.
Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.
I work in the holistic health space and believe that we all have the power to take control of all aspects of our life if we consider it from a mind, body and soul perspective. These are my top “tools” that help build resilience and help us practice those traits of resilient people.
1 — Practice Meditation
I know life is busy and if you’re stressed and in a situation that requires resilience the last thing you may feel like starting is a meditation practice but whether you’re in a calm phase or right on the edge of your stress threshold, now if the time to start. Meditation has proven benefits for cognitive function, memory and helps to rewire the pathways in the brain which are going to boost your resilience as well as helping you to reduce stress when situations arrive that require it.
2 — Stay in the moment and take everything one step at a time.
Mindfulness is a wonderful practice, it anchors us in the present moment. Sometimes that present moment is super hard, but all things change, sometimes in a moment. Rather than get wrapped up in worries about the future or overthinking the past, try to just be in the moment and consider only the next right step. Not twenty steps ahead, just the next step. Step by step you’ll soon find yourself on the other side of adversity, realising how strong and resilient you really are.
Another benefit of this next step is regaining a sense of control. You may not be able to know what is going to happen months or even hours from now, but you can take back control of your direction moment by moment and step by step.
3 — Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
I once went to a coaching workshop and one of the recommendations was to finish your shower each day with a freezing cold few minutes, to build up your endurance to hard things. Although that’s not my method of choice, I do stand by the principle — if something is uncomfortable or scary but is aligned with your values and will edge you closer to where you want to be then do it. Get comfortable with the discomfort, I promise you it gets easier and by doing these things you are building your tolerance to hard things, to the discomfort. Like an elite athlete you are building endurance.
4 — Take care of your physical body
We all know the basic rules, eat right, move your body and get enough sleep but taking care of your body really is so important for resilience. Nutrition and gut health is vital in metal wellness and stress resilience, as is sleep. Movement is a great mood booster in addition to being a building block of healthy body. Feeling physically strong and healthy is going to make it so much easier for you to bounce back or side step any obstacles that come your way.
5 — Look inward for answers
When things are difficult it can be easy to look for a way out, for the answers but truely resilient people know that they always have the resources they need already. The answers are found not on Google, or from a guru, they are inside you. What does your gut say?
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
Gosh, if everyone took responsibility for their own healing then the world would be such a different place. Everyone goes through trauma of different types ut we all do have the power to heal, to forgive, to grow, to set boundaries. No matter what others have done to us, we still have power over our healing. The core of my own work with women is to empower them, to support them and guide them through finding the tools and techniques that work for them so that they have their own toolkit to call on. Nobody should ever feel reliant on a guru, the key if finding the ways that empower you to be in control of your own health, happiness and healing.
I’d also like to add, since we are talking about resilience, that just because you are resilient it doesn’t mean that you should always be. By that I mean that sometimes those of us that can handle a lot can end up being resilient to things that we should not have to. Boundaries are important. Yes it’s great to be able to come back strong from setbacks but it’s also important to refuse to let some things in to our remit.
We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them :-)
Here in the UK there is a doctor and author whose podcast is my absolute favourite, he’s spoken to so many wonderful guests and talks a lot about health in a holistic sense, so refreshing from a medical doctor. I’d love to chat to hi about all things health and wellbeing.
But I’d also love to have brunch with Britney Spears! I know she enjoys a bit of yoga like me, but she is also one of the most resilient women I’ve seen, sharing her story and fighting for her independence, bringing together her fans and highlighting how her perceived pravidge of being wealthy didn’t mean she was free or happy. Chatting with her about all she has learned, how she stayed strong and optimistic through it all would be such an honour.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!