Yoga, Chakras and Military Personnel

Dr. Rishi Vivekananda Saraswati

How is a knowledge of yoga practices and the chakras relevant to the army? The yoga practices increase physical fitness which is relevant for military personnel. They require and develop discipline at the same time, which is also relevant. As well as physical fitness and discipline there is a need for a number of personality factors to be developed in a positive way.

What personality factors are needed to make a military unit into a peak defensive force? Military personnel need to be strong-minded, confident and brave. Here we are talking about manipura chakra, which deals with power, or guts, which is exactly where it is situated. Military personnel need to be able to relate to each other with compassion, camaraderie and faithfulness. They need those qualities because that is what binds a unit together. The relationship between the people in that unit and the compassion, the love for one's fellow men is an aspect of anahata chakra.

A military unit also needs a facility for communication so that people know what they are doing. This facility for communication is vishuddhi chakra. In the field when the going gets tough, sometimes what is desperately needed is a sense of humour. Humour and joy are qualities of swadhisthana chakra. The qualities of mooladhara chakra, the lowest of the chakras, are the feelings of security and courage.

Clarity of mind, the ability to see clearly what is going on, to see clearly one's relationship with the other people of the unit, is an aspect of ajna chakra. We are talking about the actual psychology of these chakras, the personality aspects, rather than the more esoteric aspects, because this is the most relevant aspect here.

So, for a military unit to be on top out in the field, these qualities need to be developed within. Yoga has concentrated very clearly on the psychological aspect, because, unless we clear the blockages, the samskaras, the problems in the mind that are holding down the expression of these qualities, we cannot go to higher states of consciousness. We are always dragged back. So, at a fundamental level, yoga deals with the development and evolution of a person to become a more spiritual entity, and ultimately to realize oneness with the highest consciousness. This is exactly what is required to develop the qualities of our military personnel in these units.

Military units need everything that yoga has to offer because yoga has been designed to clear the blockages of these different aspects of our personality, these problems deep down in our consciousness which are stopping us from realizing the qualities of security, of joy and humour, of power and courage, of love and compassion for one's fellow human beings, of communication, and of clear thinking and a realization of what is real.

How does yoga do this? By moving different areas of the body, the physical practices, or asanas, activate the channels between the discs of the chakras and the different centres of the nervous system associated with these aspects of the personality, in a physical way. The emotional aspects, especially centred around the limbic system and the hypothalamus in the brain, are also directly activated. In pranayama a similar process occurs on the level of pranic energy. The practice of mudras and bandhas redirects this prana throughout the body.

In the beginning the practice of meditation is simply a process of internalizing the awareness. Pratyahara, the ability to go within and eliminate outside stimuli, is important for military personnel in a number of ways. For instance, when a military unit is undergoing continual bombardment and stress from outside, there are periods when those soldiers need to get as much rest as they can. The yoga practices are a way of introverting the mind and consciously eliminating the external stimuli. There are techniques to eliminate thought processes such as, “Wouldn't it be terrible if one of those mortar bombs landed on me?” That facility has to be developed because a human system that is under stress continuously, twenty-four hours a day, becomes an inefficient system. So military personnel need to be able to switch off when the opportunity is there.

Meditation practices are relevant in another way. In order to clear the blockages in the different chakras we need a screen on which we can see material as it arises, so we can resolve it. Doing a meditation practice with the eyes closed provides a screen so that the problems we are dealing with, the samskaras and blockages that constantly come up to the surface, can be realized and eliminated. To be able to eliminate the samskaras or karmas or blockages that are deep down within the unconscious mind is a very powerful area of yoga.

If we are looking for a system to develop ourselves to peak efficiency, as human beings, as ordinary citizens, but also, and very importantly, as military personnel, then the practices of yoga are extremely effective. They are easy to learn, and the beauty of them is that they are already yours and have been yours for 5000 years. I would also like to thank India from the bottom of my heart for making these practices available to us in the West.