As five armed guards escorted me through the Yokosuka Naval Base in Japan, where a friend had invited me to teach yoga to a group of Marines, I was a little on edge. I was anxious about how I would present yoga to soldiers, and the proximity to big loaded guns wasn't helping matters. But feeling uneasy was nothing new—for the past two months I'd been living and teaching abroad. Far from home, in a country where I didn't speak the language and didn't even eat fish, one of the mainstays of the local diet, I was feeling more than a little out of my element.
* Adi Carter in the streets g of her home city, New York.
When yoga lives Yoga had been tried before on itl your heart, you the base, but apparently the class can find peace was not intense enough for the anywhere you go. Marines, and there were rumors that yoga was "lame." My friend promoted my class as "combat yoga" and told me to make it hard. I wasn't sure what to teach these soldiers, but I planned a vigorous sequence with lots of core work, figuring I could always shout, "Drop and give me 20!" if things got out of hand.
As the class began, I emphasized that yoga was a practice guided by intention and dedication. "Nothing in yoga is mandatory, but you will not get anywhere if you are lazy," I told them. They started out cracking jokes, but they were soon sweating and shaking. When they stood up after Sava-sana, they were smiling like little kids.
♦•people have practice, will travel
After class, one of the students approached me. "There is something to this yoga!" he said, sounding awed. "I have never felt so relaxed as I did in that pose Savasana." He told me of his fears of war, and how for the past three years he'd been having nightmares that kept him up every night.
I felt it was important for him to know it was not only my teaching that gave him that feeling. "Everythingyou achieved today is your own work," I told him. "And you can take this practice wherever you go and do it as often as you like. Set an intention, and you will find what you need."
Through my travels, I have come to realize that my practice is the one consistent thing I can rely on wherever I go. It's more valuable than a roof overhead; even when I'm far from home, I can always find a home in my practice. This is reassuring for me, and I hoped the young Marine would find the same comfort.
I know that when I need my practice, it is there. It doesn't even require a yoga mat, a block, or a cushion; it's a state of mind. When we set an intention and make time to breathe and move, even in small ways, we arc practicing yoga in its most valuable form. It is through this practice that we are able to deal with the battles in our minds and find the inner balance that will ultimately bring peace to our lives and the world we all share.
As the young soldier ran off for his next round of physical training, I wondered what was in his future and prayed that it wouldn't be war. But whatever circumstances he encounters, I hope that he has found a practice he will take with him.
Adi Carter Cadicarter.com> is a yoga teacher and a member of Team TogaSlackers.
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