Illuminating article by the director of the yoga program at Norwich University. Yoga as preparation for war. Yoga as preparation for all the tiny battles in our day-to-day lives.
In the beginner’s class, it’s all I can do to keep my students breathing while they move. In the advanced class, I teach these future soldiers the profound philosophy of yoga: how to sit in a stress position and still breathe, smoothly and steadily. How to keep minds open and flexible, to develop non-attachment, compassion, contentment.
We talk about what it would be like to have a buddy blown open next to you. How you would immediately feel yourself flooded with the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline. How your natural impulse would be to run like hell to get out of there, or to train a machine gun at the horizon and blaze away at everything in your path. How much harder it is to remain calm, to analyze the situation and respond from a place of strength.
It may seem out of whack to hold chaturanga for 10 breaths and think this will be preparation for war. But in fact, this is what yoga is all about. And in fact, if there is anything at all that could truly prepare them to go and fight, it is yoga.
Many people ask me about ahimsa — the grand yogic tenet of nonviolence. I respond with what the revered yoga teacher T. K. V. Desikachar says: It simply means that we must always behave with consideration and attention to others.
So I teach them this, too.