When my daughter told me last year she wanted to join the AFJROTC for her freshman year in high school, I flipped out. Military! Are you kidding! That's everything against what we believe! I said. I texted her YouTube videos of President Eisenhower's speech warning about the Military Industrial Complex, articles about sexual assault in the military statistics.
In the end, I realized it wasn't about me, but about her. She had her reasons to join - her late father's father had passed away that May. We drove from DeLand, Florida to San Antonio, Texas for the Air Force honor guard funeral. The ceremony was quite moving and patriotic. I realized too, perhaps her wanting to join was rebellion. A masculine energy she needed of order and structure not found all the time in her mom's Boulder hippie ways. She also had a cousin in the Air Force serving in Japan. My father is a veteran, and even a World War II child refugee and concentration camp survivor.
I called and talked to the teachers. I learned that the AFRJOTC is mainly about community service. I figured it would add some discipline and structure to her life, to care for her uniform, etc. So she was in.
I dutifully attended the parades she marched in, but was reluctant for much else. But then a miracle happened: "Mom, colonel loves yoga. He wants you to come and teach the class sometime." My ears perked up. It is a miracle! I spoke with colonel on the phone. He loved the core conditioning, strengthening, stress release and more about yoga.
The military is embracing more yoga for everything from stress release to physical training to helping with post traumatic stress. "...one of the first formal studies that measured the effects of yoga nidra on soldiers who had been scarred mentally and emotionally by their wartime service, and military planners came away impressed with the results."
I taught six classes last Friday as part of their physical training day, introducing many to yoga and its wonderful effects. What joy! I loved being with the young adults that these high schoolers were. They are America's future. Our wonderful youth, and bringing them the skills of yoga made me happy to serve my country, knowing the joy and peace of yoga will be with these kids throughout their lives as well as bring peace within so that we can have peace in the world. I have to say that the experience also opened me up to push beyond my own personal bias and beliefs about the military.
I only had about 25-30 minutes to teach each segment before the next class. I got them in touch with their breath, teaching them to see if they were chest breathers or not and to bring them into the here and now. That self-reliance and awareness of our selves. I warmed them up with breathing, then adding gentle stretching and movement to the breath. We did sun salutations, different balance poses from tree to eagle pose, and ended with relaxation. Some classes I switched it up and did hip openers or different back bends, like bow pose. For the class after lunch, which my daughter, Paloma, was in, I started them on their backs to rest and digest before doing standing poses and ended with a longer yoga nidra type session.
Kids were glowing afterwards. "I loved it!" many kids said. "I feel so great!" Happy faces everywhere. Hanging out with the colonel and master sergeant in between classes was feeling like belonging to a family. One young woman even asked me about chakras. Colonel got started on yoga from his sister, he said, and just loved it. Before every class he'd say, "I wish this were around when I was in school. This is another tool you can use to help you in life."
My daughter said, "Mom, everybody thought you were really cool. They won't stop talking about how great yoga made them feel." Later I even coached her friend in breathing and relaxation techniques who was extremely nervous about trying out for varsity cheerleader. And of course my own daughter gets my full attention when she needs coaching. A young woman who was my daughter's friend spent the night at our house and said, "That was such a great yoga class! I felt so great! Your voice was so soothing! I got up this morning and did warrior pose!"
That just makes my whole life worth all the money or success in the world. To hear those words that kids are using yoga to help them in life. As so many issues face our kids, stress being the biggest. As we know teens have an epidemic of depression and there is a mental health crisis in Florida and in the United States.
Paloma has taken an interest in yoga again, having done it when she was younger with me. We are finding more times at home among her busy schedule (forget getting up early! Teens need to sleep in!) to practice together for our over all health and wellness. Even the Stetson student living with us is excited to start meditating together.
So let's teach teens some yoga! And bring more yoga to the military. We infiltrate for peace. I love my country. I love the young men and women who give their lives to serve and protect it. I'm not crazy about the choices being made by the powers that be in the military about torture, war and more..... but being up-front with the people who really care about our youth and are in the trenches, you could say, of educating our youth. I give them a big salute!
We will have peace in the world soon, because yoga is in the military and lots of young people just got exposed to more yoga! That's the action plan!
Teach yoga to teens!