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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Editor: Maja Despot