by Laura McCorry
On the surface, yoga and the military may not seem to have much in common. Yoga is sometimes stereotyped as the domain of liberal, vegan, nouveau hippies and the military as gun-toting, meat-eating conservatives.
But the truth of any community lies beneath the surface.
As a yogi and military spouse, I feel like I’m always discovering new ways these two communities have similar perspectives on life.
- You must live in the present moment.
The military lifestyle is inherently full of uncertainty and change. Schedules are outlines at best and your service member could leave for training or deployment at any time. Depending on the service member’s job, the time of day they go to work and come home could change on a daily basis. There is often no such thing as routine.
One of my favorite yoga teachers would start class by asking, “Where are you?” The entire class would answer in chorus, “Here.” Then the teacher would ask, “What time is it?” The answer: “Now.” Here and now. It was a revelation.
Living in the present moment doesn’t happen over night, just like you can’t walk into your first ever yoga class and pop up into headstand. “Be here now” is a mindfulness skill you can practice over the course of a lifetime, but you get to enjoy the benefits of peacefulness the same moment you begin.
- True alignment demands honest communication.
Separation is a fact of life for military families and deployments can range from four months to over a year depending on the branch of service. This can be one of the hardest trials for the military family and one the civilian world understands so little, mostly through lack of exposure and not a want of sympathy. If you want your relationship to
survive thrive during a long separation with limited communication opportunities, you need to make sure the communication you do have is honest and of high quality.
Alignment in yoga can have both a physical and a spiritual or emotional meaning. You are aligned physically when muscle groups and joints are positioned to provide a strong structural support for a posture. In order to experience this in class, you must be very honest when asking your body whether it is working hard and knowing when you are tired and should rest.
Beyond the physical, alignment is experienced when what you think, what you say and what you do are the same. The communication you have with yourself must be honest and of high quality, checking in frequently. This kind of deep alignment with the core of yourself brings serenity to chaotic or stressful life circumstances.
- Deep roots grow in communities.
Military families move more frequently than most civilians, often to a city or town they’ve never been to before. They know what it’s like to be the new kid, to start over with a new job and to go through the awkward stage of friend-dating. Consequently, the military community is usually very welcoming and helpful to new-to-the-area families because they know how important it is to build ties and feel connected.
Yoga practitioners know that you can’t “fly” in an inversion until your core and support system is fully grounded. And yoga is all about connection, not just to the inner self but to a wider community. Both yoga studios and military communities are known for their hospitality and welcoming spirit – because they understand that families and individuals in strong communities are happier and healthier.
Are you a service member or military spouse interested in yoga?
Yoga for Vets offers a listing of classes around the country for free or reduced rates for current service members.
Yoga and Laura had an on-again-off-again relationship from 2004 until 2009 when they decided to move in together and there’s been no looking back since. Passionate about both yoga and writing, Laura loves to introduce others to the joys and benefits of yoga and healthy living.