Yoga in the Military
By: Krystle Hall, Cpl USMC
Thanks to my practice, I feel that my only limits are the ones that I allow.
I have been a Marine for almost three years now. I began my yoga practice two years ago. From the very first day I knew it was for me. After just one class, I felt an inspiring calm fall over my mind. There was a stillness in my soul and a fullness in my heart. I continued my practice over the next few months and noticed all of the self-improvements it was granting me. I began to notice small things at first, stiffness that was present before was no longer an issue. My balance was improving, when I tripped or stepped on uneven ground I wasn’t rolling my ankle. When I had a rough day, I was able to find a calm place to go to in my mind.
Since then, I have been advocating yoga practice to all of my active duty military friends and neighbors. I have been witness to many situations where an injured muscle is rehabilitated through yoga practice. Not only does it serve our needs for rehabilitation, it is also a preventative to injury. The strengthening of the stabilizing muscles assists the rest of the muscles in doing their job. It also increases blood flow, increasing the oxygen levels within muscles and helps to eliminate toxins. It relieves joint pain and muscle soreness as well as increases overall flexibility. This is especially helpful for those of us who are in fields of high physical demand.
There is the simple matter of balance that a yoga practice provides an individual; physical balance as well as emotional and psychological balance. I have personally found myself much more capable of juggling, or balancing, the various aspects of my life much more proficiently since beginning my own practice. This has been beneficial in finding a balance in my role as a Marine as well.
There is an increase in spatial awareness that your practice gives you. I have become more aware of my surroundings as well as of myself and the space that my body occupies. That is the first step of self-awareness. I have found that as you become more familiar with your physical awareness you can begin to reflect inward on your mental state. Through this reflection you begin to recognize other things about yourself, for example, the kinds of things that create tension in your life. The increase in self-awareness has given me the ability to recognize states of emotion or mental distress and has helped me target the causes of these changes. When these changes occur, I am more prepared for them. Understanding how I will react to these stressors and recognizing what they are gives me an advantage over others in the fact that I am prepared and have found a way to channel the negative energy from my stressors in to a positive production opportunity. One of the leadership principles in the Marine Corps is to know yourself and seek self-improvement. I feel that I am able to better understand myself and, through my yoga practice, improve the areas of my being that require some attention.
Another discovery I have made through my practiceis decreased levels of fear in my everyday life. My confidence has increased and I have found that I am more willing to take chances and try something new than I was before I started practicing yoga. As I branch out and sample variations of the practice, my fear is increasingly diminished. Small victories in simple things, like trying a new pose, or taking on a new task at work, and succeeding causes me to be more willing to go after larger tasks with confidence. In the military, there is no room for fear under pressure. The dissolution of fear that I receive from a healthy practice has proven incredibly beneficial.
I have learned so much more about myself through my practice than I ever thought possible. I have found that it seems there is nothing we cannot do when we set our minds to it. Thanks to my practice, I feel that my only limits are the ones that I allow.