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Yoga for the marine. The USA army reform

йога в армии США

The unnoticeable but very meaningful reform started in American army: now in the USA the soldiers are suggested to do yoga and Pilates instead of crossing and chin-ups. Instead of hard strength training there are relaxing meditation practices and exotic Eastern gymnastics”. What for? Surprisingly but yoga is called as more effective discipline for the struggle against the extra weight. But it's not just the one reason.

Many people are interested in such question: how peaceful Indian spiritual practice can be mixed with the people’s daily routines that recently have made the military oath? People didn’t bother on this problem in Pentagon and decided that the soldiers need yoga because of some objective reasons and even it can be said of some everyday reasons.

First, the soldiers started to eat more. The problem the most Americans face touched the solders. An American soldier do a lot of physical exercises but at the same time he eats a lot of fatty hard and protein food and that is why they can’t manage to solve the problems with the extra weight. And as you know yoga normalizes metabolism and helps to reduce craving to all fatty and excessively high calories.

“That food which a soldier get in the army makes him not a healthy guy as it used to be but a lump”, - says Lieutenant General Mark Hertling who is in charge of the basic training for new recruits. According to his words yoga is necessary just not only for every soldier but for the whole nation. "This issue concerns not only the army. It is a national question", — said the expert.

The problem is really very substantial: according to one of the Pentagon reports for 2010 about 12 thousand recruits don’t join the army in a year: they are too fat to fight. In the period from 1995 to 2008, the number of recruits who fail the physical exam due to the problems with the extra weight has increased to 70% of those who wish to join the ranks of the armed forces of the United States. Those who are accepted in the army are also often at risk: if you have some extra weight – you are not suitable according to the ratio of height/weight. If in 2000 only 4% of recruits could not pass the fitness test to serve in the army, today there are 20% of them.

Why it is so? The experts say that the problem is in today's lifestyle of American teenagers, who instead of playing in the street all day round kill enemies playing in PlayStation, and instead of the traditional food they eat fast food. The officials from the Ministry of Education add that almost all schools reduce the number of physical education classes for several straight years.

But the problem is not just in the extra weight. Military doctors say that yoga helps to develop flexibility and agility as well as coordination and speed reaction. Soldiers need this especially while shooting. In addition, the yoga skills reduce the risk of injury during exercise. Experts note that yoga classes can manage to teach the soldiers better fighting on rough terrain (like in Afghanistan) than running cross. The statistics says about current trauma issues - if in 2002 the training center had about three fractures of the pubic bone on average for the 12 months, by the end of 2009 this figure had grown to 39. General Hertling describes the cause of such disappointing figures as the lack of exercise and saturated sugar drinks. Another relatively new problem is energy drinks which reduce the amount of calcium and iron in the blood responsible for strong bones.

In fact the well-known Eastern spiritual practice is used by the military on the five US military bases. “Downward dog” and the Lotus position are practiced in total by 14.5 thousand American soldiers in the morning. The feedback is very positive so far. Now the recruits are also provided by the DVD with instructional yoga and Pilates videos. The young men are very interested.

Meanwhile the project has plenty of critics. Some military experts say that instead of yoga the soldiers should be taught by the applied lessons: grenade throwing, shooting and basic mountaineering skills. "That thing we did this morning has nothing to do with what we did the rest of the day" — says ironically one of the participants in the pilot program about yoga. Anyway, but the start of the project was given.

It will be more in the future. In 2011 the US army began to use acupuncture and meditation. According to military scientists both these practices help the soldiers to bear the pain easier.

It is very far for the implementation of the Ayurveda principles of course but Hertling says that he plans to rebuild completely the diet of his wards. Now there are more leafy vegetables and less fried food in the menu of the soldiers at these five military bases where yoga experiments are practiced. Soldiers are given milk instead of soda. Those soldiers who choose low-fat meals are encouraged by the implemented system. They are allowed to engage in less physical exercise and this free time the instructors use for training them shooting.

Another good moment is that the soldiers who practice yoga became calmer and they are more tolerant to recruits. And although the concept of bullying in the US army doesn’t exist, the experts say that in general the relations between the colleagues who participate in the experiment became warmer.

It is said that if the preliminary results of experiments of the yoga introduction into the training process for new recruits will be confirmed in the future, the experience of General Hertling and his colleagues can be taken to all the military units of the United States. For the whole peace in the world the politicians are left to be taught meditation and breathing practices.

The author of the article: Valentin Maltsev