What Does the Army Have in Common with Yoga? ~ Hally Marlino

Via elephant journal
on Aug 13, 2012
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One Yogi’s Experience in Both Trenches

Upon arrival at Army Basic Combat Training, I was assigned a “battle buddy.” Your battle buddy is the person who bunks above or below you, your partner for shooting range activities and the person who must accompany you whenever approaching a drill sergeant. It is rumored among the troops that the battle buddy system was enacted to lower rates of sexual assault and harassment. I’m not a very patriotic woman anymore—I was before enlisting. My experience was not unique.

My battle buddy, Serena (not her real name), was deployed to the Middle East last week. She has a four year old little boy. She’s a nurse and a soldier-citizen. I’ve been reflecting upon her and her son constantly, wondering how they’re coping. I think about them often while I’m practicing and teaching yoga. I set my intentions and offer my devotions to them. In the past, I was a skeptic about that part of yoga practice, but now I’m a helluva lot more flexible in my beliefs. After all, it can’t hurt.

Those dedications got me thinking. The army is a lot like yoga, then again it’s not.

The following is an arsenal of comparisons:

1. Bonding through fear and pain

An August eight mile road march in the South, in full combat gear is just about as strenuous as 108 sun salutations in a hot yoga studio—only not as pretty. The important point is that you’ll never forget the person marching or flowing next to you. You’re bonded for life, sucka.

2. Eka pada rajakapotasana

Half pigeon pose is akin to the position you take when aiming and firing your rifle all day at scary paper terrorist targets on the shooting range. Every minute feels like an hour, but no ones comes to give you a swell assist or rub lavender oil on your neck at Fort Jackson—dammit. Open that hip up. Your face is going to be close to the earth for a long while.

 3. Hydration

In the army world and the yoga world, consuming the proper amount of water to prevent passing out is paramount. Drinking too much water is even worse than not drinking enough—you don’t want to end up peeing on yourself.

 4. Brahmacharyah, b*tches.

 5. Discipline

I never understood why Drill Sergeant Lubbock would berate little Private Anderson for constantly adjusting her bun, or smoke Private First Class Brooks for patting her weave. Now when that 20-something yogi cannot stop flipping her ponytail around in my Yin class, I understand. It takes self-control to hold the frock still when you are uncomfortable—learn it. Tie that hot mess back and stay with the pack—we are one.

 6. Army boot camp vs. yoga boot camp

Oh, you’re attending a yoga boot camp? How enchanting. What’s that? It’s breaking you down and building you up? Yes, I’m sure the complimentary tea, unlimited supply of tampons, free bobby pins, fluffy affirmations, discounts at Lululemon and the free Om bumper sticker are all breaking your spirit. Be strong, yogi.

 7. Chatu-f*cking-ranga

A year in the United States Army will never ask you to do as many pushups as a 12 month membership at your power yoga studio—no joke.

8. When you go AWOL, sh*t gets real.

If you miss formation or you skip your vinyasa class, you’ll be contacted within 72 hours. Your commanding officer will leave you a very serious, serial killer caliber voice-mail. Your yoga teacher will most likely send you an email that opens with a wistful Rumi quote and ends with an “xoxo” and emoticons, but don’t get it twisted, you best get your ass back in line quick.

In the meantime, I’m patiently waiting for my battle buddy to return home and go to yoga with me, when she’s safe and sound.


Hally Marlino is a blue collar mama from Madison, Wisconsin. She’s a former United States Army trained combat medic, a former actor with a B.A. in Theatre Performance from UW-La Crosse and a former yoga skeptic. When she’s not teaching freestyle vinyasa around the isthmus, you’ll find her bike-riding and beer-appreciating with her family. Hally is exactly half ballerina and half wrestler, but her yoga classes are totally legit—she promises. Find her at yoga-beast.com.




Editor: Maja Despot


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7 Responses to “What Does the Army Have in Common with Yoga? ~ Hally Marlino”

  1. yogabeast says:

    Elephant, thank you for sharing and for all you do! Peace, Hally

  2. Edward Staskus says:

    If yoga is exercise, you might have a point. If yoga is not just exercise, then, no, the military has nothing to do with yoga. The core values of yoga and the military are different. For example, non-violence is a core value of yoga. The military, on the other hand, has a 2012 defense budget in excess of $900 billion for the purpose of arming itself with M4's and Abrahms to resolve conflicts with force.

  3. guest says:

    Eddie, go was the sand out ya clam. You missed the point.

  4. yogabeast says:

    Edward, thank you for reading. I agree with you on the exercise point. Yoga is not about 'working out' for me. I'm playing around with the idea that yoga and the military have a few curious similarities. The army wasn't for me. I'm not for the army. But I wish the troops peace and safety. -Hally

  5. Chris Fici says:

    Very interesting comparison Hally.
    I relate to the brahmacarya part certainly as I spend much of the last five years trying to practice that principle as a monk of the bhakti tradition.
    You could also make a lot of comparisons between monastic life and military life as well.

  6. yogabeast says:

    Chris, thanks for sharing. Though I'm sure we're very different , we share some common ground don't we?

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