I am also in the military reserves and currently I am deployed to the desert. Here in the desert I do not always get the opportunity to practice yoga, but it doesn’t mean that I don’t try to have a rich yogic life, despite the challenges inherent in being here.
Here are some tips I have found useful here, which can help alleviate the stresses associated with being in a deployed environment:
There isn't any soft grass here, no whispering pines to sit under. There is dust, cement, rocks and more dust. When I am at home, I like to jog down to the lake and sit by the water and meditate for a while before jogging back home. I wondered how I could meditate out here, in this environment.
At first I was self-conscious, only meditating in my room. But one day after a long run, I sat down on the steps of a building, in the shade and where there is not a lot of foot traffic, and I just felt the need to sit and meditate. I took off my shoes; my feet were hot from my run, and a soft breeze cooled my feet and my flushed face as I sat on the stoop. With eyes closed, I soon forgot the qualms I’d had about being seen doing this, and folded into lotus, resting my hands in chin mudra on my knees. I started to breathe in and out very slowly. After about five to ten minutes I opened my eyes, and momentarily was surprised to see the rocks and dust, and ten feet away a bunker.
I had managed to have a short nirvanic experience, and now, in addition to the few minutes I meditate in my bed in the morning, I try to get back to those steps once a week.
The chain on your dog tags can be used as Mala beads:
The chain on my dog tags has 248 tiny beads, not 108. It rests around my neck day and night, bouncing when I run, falling between my breasts when I shower, it is my constant companion. The words on it simply say my name, my social security number, my branch of service, my blood type, and my religion. I know it is on me in the event I am injured or killed, so that I may be identified, but it is somehow comforting to have so much important information about me conveyed on such a tiny vessel close to my heart. Now that I am used to wearing it every day, it gives me comfort to feel it.
I can run my finger along the tiny beads on the chain at any time, in any place, and chant my Mala bead chant: “om shri danvantre, namaha.” I often only have time for just a couple, but it is enough to make me feel surrounded by that healing prayer.
It’s the military. They serve a lot of meat. And I mean a lot. If you are normally vegan or vegetarian it can be challenging in the deployed environment. Try and eat as vegan as you possibly can and when you cannot, don’t beat yourself up. Just do the best you can. Also, see if you can get more vegan/vegetarian options. Talk to the folks who make the food. They usually invite healthy suggestions.
I recently asked for more vegan items and about two weeks later they put veggie burgers on the menu. Even carnivores here love them because they taste exactly like the ones in the U.S. and that is important when you are living in a foreign land for months at a time when most things don’t taste like they do at home. So go ahead and ask, not only will you be helping yourself, but you may end up doing some karmic yoga and helping others.
Chant while you walk:
Chanting works its way down into my soul. Not having a group class to chant with, I was starting to miss that feeling that comes over me when my eyes are closed and I am part of a circle of yogis chanting in Sanskrit. So recently I decided to chant while I walked in circles around the track. I did a very simple “loka, samasta, sukhino, bhavantu,” over and over again. As my legs propelled me forward, the chant just materialized and seemed to hang in the hot air around me as I walked.
While I might have appeared to have been just a person walking in circles in the dirt, in a tumultuous place, inside I was able to find an inner peace and tranquility that nothing could touch.
Remember there are eight limbs of yoga:
In a deployed environment, there is not enough time to practice as much as I’d like. However, asana practice as Patanjali explained, is only one of eight limbs. If I did not get time to practice during the day I look back at my day and see what other limbs of yoga I was able to incorporate into my day.
Most days I definitely do not attain Samadhi, or union with the divine, but I try and make the most of the small moments and am thankful even if all I got was just a few moments to journal and engage in Svadhyaya, or self study. Ensuring every day has some aspect of yoga can enrich your life, and it is possible to do it, even under circumstances such as in a deployed location in the desert. Survive and come home, survive and come home a better yogi.
Lucy Carrillo is a certified shakti flow yoga teacher, and she strives to bring free yoga classes to any interested active duty military member, or vet. After she is done playing in the dusty desert, Lucy will be moving from New Hampshire to Portland, Oregon (both of which, she is happy to report, have ample green grass and pine trees). Lucy can be reached at [email protected] or on Facebook.