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Ten-hut – Yoga & the Military

13 November 2012

When I work with military personnel I’m dealing with bodies that have been through very specific training, and that training leaves some tell-tale issues such as Collapsed Arches, Lower Back Pain, Tight Hamstrings and Ankle Injury, to name a few that are fairly common.  These men and women have been through hard training, and in addition to that, many of them are athletes with a firm mental attitude that won’t allow them to quit.  So, I work with guys who run relay marathons, pushing themselves to the extreme and this often ends up with it causing some sort of mishap, like tearing their hamstring during the first mile, and then continuing for the next 20 miles with a torn hamstring because they’re determined not to let their team down.  For them failure is not an option.  It is a powerful attitude, and working with this attitude is a real pleasure, for with the right instruction, the right alignment and wellness sequences, they can recover very quickly.  Their attitude keeps them dedicated, and this dedication pays big dividends in yoga.

Yoga also helps to develop the “witness mind”, which is not only a tool warriors use to calm their mind during intense battles, but it’s also a very effective technique that is taught in all yoga classes.  With the ability to drop your thoughts, and then create a gap before the next thought emerges, you can interrupt your attachment to the constant chattering of the smaller mind, the monkey mind.  This practice helps not only during times of war, but during times of peace and even when post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) arises. The cultivation of this state, often times described as Satwa or steadiness (tranquility) in the face of fluctuating pranas, is tremendously helpful when the impulses and thoughts arise from past stresses, be they of war or otherwise.  The development of steadiness, of the ability to just witness the arising of the Chitta (mind-stuff) and impulses/pranic/energetic- stuff is the goal of yoga, and this is what enables the yogi to live a stress-free or greatly stress-relieved life.

The practice of pranayama, which controls (or suspends) these pranic fluctuations (which never completely cease until after death, they only become more still and less likely to engage you) is what supports the passive state of meditation and the resulting steadiness which is achieved when the mind is calmed, subsequently giving rise to the state of Samadhi.

In conclusion: The healing power of Yoga is immense. We can only hope that someday all military personnel (including the leaders of our society) will be required to practice Yoga as a means of giving them the temperament for justice and peace that most Yogis have enjoyed for centuries.

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