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Bad ass like Arjuna

April 16, 2012

Well, the NY Times never ceases to amaze me with their seemingly endless enthusiasm for yoga. Every now and again I will check into see what they’re deeming as news worthy in the yoga world and today I was pretty fascinated, and perhaps even moved, by the article I read.

The article “Upward Facing Soldier” was pretty touching. Even as cheeky and ironic as I generally am, I can’t think of another way to put it. My circumstances in life have thankfully allowed me to passively object to war and lament our invariable involvement in some war somewhere, but i realize that this is not that case for everyone. Also, and slightly boggling of my mind, there are many people who feel it is their duty to enlist and fight for the preservation of our liberties. I’ve always been of the opinion that war is to be avoided, and if the country isn’t doing it then I’ll do my best to avoid it myself. The country has its way of getting people when it needs them…no need to go doing anything rash.

Anywho, the article is written by a yoga teacher in Vermont, Lauren K. Walker, who is running a yoga program for military academy students who will inevitably be in combat situations. I can’t think of a place where yoga could be of better use, nor can I  think of a more terrifying and distressing situation. I know very little of the mental stresses of combat, but I know a little bit about what it can do to your post-war life and I know a yoga teacher who works with PTSD patients. Perhaps if yoga can be taught before combat, it can be used to prepare and strengthen the mind so that less damage accumulates during the stresses of active duty.

While the article takes some pains to be equally entertaining and informative, I found that it was certainly concerned with rectifying the seeming disconnect between yoga and war. Walker says : I think of them as if they are in the Bhagavad Gita, the great Indian treatise on war. The soldier Arjuna stops on the battlefield and cries out to Lord Krishna: “Do I have to do this? Do I have to kill?” Krishna, instead of telling him what to do on the battlefield, teaches him yoga. So that is what I do. I teach them yoga.

I see what she is saying…and I think it is a good rational (although she is inadvertently putting herself in the role of Krishna here!) but it may be a bit over simplified. I mean, come on, the BG is totally epic. Aside from Arjuna getting bad ass through yoga there is also the history of the yogi as a mercenary. This is not the reality we know of yoga today in the west, but back in the day yogis were totally on the fringe of society, were violent and quite frankly were not to be effed with.


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