Many people consider yoga to be a peaceful pastime for people looking for a gentle way to tone up and improve general health. However, the Indian Army is considering adopting yoga practice after a trial showed that it improves strength, flexibility and balance in its soldiers, and makes a stronger fighting force.
Yoga does not have a hard man image, it is difficult to envisage a troop of soldiers doing daily yoga practice as part of their military training. However, the recent experiment by the Indian Army showed that after three months new soldiers of the Bengal Engineering Group who did 50 minutes of yoga a day combined with 40 minutes of traditional exercise had steadier hands, stronger grips and leaner muscles than peers who underwent a 90-minute military workout instead.
“The yoga group showed an improvement in activities requiring co-ordination and concentration as well-as muscular strength and endurance,” according to the project analyst, Shirley Telles. “This would be especially useful for activities such as shooting.”
The interest of the Indian Army, which is the the second largest in the world after China, comes at the same time as a renewed interest in yoga throughout India. The military’s routine is based on the teachings of Baba Ramdev, a guru who has championed yoga across the sub-continent through a combination of plain speaking, fierce diatribes against Western lifestyles, fast food and and cable television.
The study is being carried out at Patanjali Yogpeeth, a yoga research centre in northern India led by Ramdev. His results showing that yoga helps soldiers back up anecdotal evidence from those already using yoga to combat soaring levels of stress in India’s military. India’s military is in difficult times, with more soldier suicides occurring across the country over the last few years. Incidents of fragging, an event where soldiers from the same force turn on each other — are soaring in the Indian military. Indian troops serving in the disputed region have a standing order to engage in a weekly one-hour yoga session. They are taught 14 poses to help calm nerves which have been frayed by near-constant low levels of military action.
So, yoga helps them both mentally and physically. It provides them with mental strength to continue to operate rationally in stressful conditions, and it also helps improve their martial skills. One of the easiest ways to incorporate yoga into a daily routine is to perform the sun salutation. Ashtanga yoga, which is practised by Madonna and Sting, starts with up to 10 repetitions of the sun salutation, before the main yoga postures are done. Therefore aiming to complete 10 sun salutations each day is an excellent way to incorporate yoga into your daily routine, without having to join a yoga club and follow an teaches instruction all the time.