Updated: Apr 3
Author: Bernadett Rompos
Lining up in front of the office of our Captain:
"Any further announcement, request, wish, dream..?"
"What's up, Rompos?"
"Captain, I am scheduled to be on duty this weekend, but I can`t."
"I participate in...mmm...continuing education and I have lessons on Saturday and Sunday"
" What education? What lessons?"
"Well...I am attending a Modern&Contemporary Dance Teacher course."
As you can imagine it wasn`t easy to juggle my duties at the Hungarian National Defense University as a future lieutenant and my modern jazz/aesthetic body language and anatomy classes as a future dance pedagogue...I could tell funny anecdotes for hours and hours from this period, but let`s just say, I graduated as a dance teacher, I did not graduate as a lieutenant.
Was it a waste of time? One year in vain? I always say no! (and not just because it would hurt to admit the opposite, it really wasn`t!)
My story goes on (we skip a few years) and here is the next chapter – India, Yoga Teacher Training, lessons all over the city, Prague Yoga Collective, Asana.etc.
These things have not much to do with boot camp experiences, field tactics, fun flights with helicopters. So again the question – for what reason? What can be taken from the military to the mat?
Certainly not the knowledge of how to disassemble and re-assemble an AK63D personal machine gun (in 12 seconds! Somewhere deep inside I am still proud of this achievement :D )
Most obviously: discipline
Wake up early, quick shower, jump into your camouflage trousers or yoga pants and go. Rise and shine with the sun. Building the great habit of starting the day early with movement is certainly a big plus of the army. Furthermore, the discipline surely represents itself in the asana practice. The body wants to quit - if you have ever run more than 60 kilometers for the tram you know what I am talking about. The body starts to send signals sometimes already around the 2nd kilometer, that hey, I am tired, Stop! But the more you train, the more you know, that the body is just kidding. Trying. Panicking. But in fact, it is way more capable than we would think at first. We have to learn how not to listen to the fake signals and distinguish them from those which should be taken seriously. And for this, discipline is one of the keywords.
Another thing I would mention is teamwork. Even though yoga seems like an individual game - your mat is your own playground, you follow your own ujjayi – I think this is not completely true. Rolling the mat out at home vs. rolling it out in a packed shala where we practice elbow to elbow gives a different experience. In many situations in the army, if you wanna play solo, you will end up with no result. You have to learn how to contribute to the team, to give the best of you not only for yourself. In the shall, we don`t cooperate in such an obvious way during a lesson. But we do create an environment where without words we understand each other. Where we respect and encourage each other, where a non-judgmental setup provides freedom, where support is stronger than the competition. To me, this sounds like a team sport...a team sport without words, without strategy built on the silent agreement of acceptance.
A less obvious, rather contra productive experience is to know how it feels to be gender-discriminated. This is a big topic and I don`t want to dig deep into it, but when I hear “yoga is for girls” it turns on the blinking red alert in my head shouting ”what?!”. The army is not only for boys, yoga is not only for girls. In the military in many situations we were ranked based on the principle “the stronger the better”. And yes, in some cases it is true. But in many other cases, it was proven (I have proven) that running fast, jumping high, throwing far is not enough...I was able to contribute to my team and I did benefit from it. We have a lot to offer to yoga and yoga has a lot, a lot to offer to us. To girls, to boys, to everybody.
One more takeaway from the army I can`t emphasize enough: How good it is not to follow authorities blindly. Just because they are the authorities. On the contrary, being encouraged to turn the awareness inwards, listen to the inner guidance.
Following orders without explanation doesn`t lead to efficiency on an individual level. (Especially when those orders are stupid... :D ) I learned that the key is to be curious and be interested in the “order”. When the inner trigger, the curiosity makes us take a step and we don`t act because somebody (an officer? a teacher? friends? our insta feed? the society?) tells us “do it!”. Of course, the best is when things combine – when the voice of the self doesn`t clash with the call of the everyday. When the tasks and goals match. When the surrounding, the circumstances support the decisions and actions we take.
We have a kind of bitter, sarcastic joke in the army to make fun of ourselves: “When it is “rounded”, the soldiers will carry it. When it is “angled”, they try to roll it”. This leads a bit back to my previous point of stupid orders...and also to a very important thing that we have to realize: don`t waste time, don`t waste power, don`t over-complicate. We are able and capable to do fantastic things when our energies are channeled in the right direction. This is a big topic tho...it might call for another blog post ;)
So how to round this up now? What are the benefits or lessons learned from the army? I believe one of our biggest tasks is to stay curious, to be interested. Interested in the self, discovering the depth of the breath, the promises of the body, the horizon of the movements, and the labyrinth of the mind. It is a hard job and requires a lot of things – energy, willpower, discipline, support, and so on. But certainly, this is the best order we can follow :)
The report has been delivered, Namaste