In commencement season, many of us are reminiscing about our own college days. I returned recently to my alma mater, joining a circle of college friends to reconnect, reminisce, and celebrate. We shared stories and pictures of college days, and updates on our own lives and those of mutual friends, 40 years on. Our stories were wide-ranging, with marriages, divorces, remarriages, realized aspirations and surprising turns, personal and financial crash-and-burns and phoenix-like returns from ashes to new beginnings. Through it all, our sharing was punctuated by a spirited declaration, “We’re still here!”

On the morning after our reunion, I reflected on all that my friends and I had shared, just as most yoga practices end with savasana, a period of stillness in a neutral pose to integrate the benefits of the entire practice. What emerged was the realization that qualities cultivated by various parts of a yoga practice are like those that had enabled us to persevere, or in their absence, to fail and then develop them to begin again.

Flexibility is the first thing cultivated by most yoga practice. We stretch and bend, twist and fold our bodies, and, according to yogic wisdom also our minds and spirits, to cultivate our ability to assume difficult positions and sustain ourselves even under stress. Those of us who didn’t have it early on developed it as we were stretched by the demands of early adulthood, marriage, career, and parenthood. If things went as we hoped, it was because we were flexible enough to respond to what arose; if they didn’t, we flexed to accommodate new, if uninvited, realities.

Strength is cultivated in yoga when our muscles move and hold us in challenging postures. In our lives, we play to our strengths, and sometimes they carry us right where we wanted to go. But sometimes life asks more or different strengths than we have, and we must work hard to meet the demands of a challenging job, a difficult relationship, shifting social and financial landscapes. “What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger,” and we women-of-a-certain-age found ourselves alive and stronger than we’d ever imagined ourselves as college girls.

Finally, balance is encouraged by yoga, and we agreed balance in life is a key. Whether within a day or a year, or more broadly, across decades, balancing challenge and achievement, work and play, giving and receiving, activity and stillness, was what ultimately gave us the deepest sense of satisfaction in our lives. In ways that are physical, yes, but more mental, emotional and spiritual, balance has enabled us to go the distance.

In “Composing a Life,” sociologist Mary Catherine Bateson calls life “an improvisational work in progress.” Such a life demands flexibility to respond to factors planned or unplanned; strength, to carry the weight of our responsibilities; and balance to hold it all upright and moving forward. And don’t forget savasana, the quiet reflection necessary to integrate it all into a life that is ultimately satisfying and good!

The Rev. Andrea Thompson McCall is a retired United Church of Christ minister who lives and practices yoga in South Portland.