Flexibility and Stamina

Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati

A few years ago, we were training a group of recruits in an army unit. There were two groups: One group was going through the army routine, the push-ups and the barbells, the hard exercises. The other group was the yoga group, practising pawanmuktasana.

The yoga group was, of course, the object of ridicule by the army group; while they were doing their push-ups and hard exercises, the yoga group was doing their pawanmuktasana. However, in that training each asana had to be done thirty to forty or fifty times. The trainees were closing and opening their fist forty times, fifty times. The muscles become tired as they are being used and moved. The recruits were sustaining a process of developing flexibility and stamina.

When the final test in flexibility and stamina was done for the two groups, the yoga group was clearly ahead. In the group that followed the army routine thirteen recruits failed and in the yoga group only three recruits failed.

The yoga group could actually win the competition of stamina due to the ability to sustain the practice, not five times, not ten times but fifty times. Each practice was done fifty times, every day. Therefore, every day the recruits were giving their bodies a bit more stamina and a bit more flexibility.

The increase of stamina was further proved at the time of war. The yoga unit was sent to the front, and observers were monitoring their performance. It was found that while the other members of the unit, the non-yogic army group, had to rest and recover for one-hour periods, the yoga group was able to recover in twenty minutes. They would recline against a tree, do breath regulation, yoga nidra, control their pulse, heart beat, and be ready to move. The physical control over the autonomic functions was seen in this yoga group, as they were able to manage their stress levels, physical tiredness and fatigue in a shorter span than the regular army personnel.

Yoga should not be practised for three, four or five hours just to feel good in the body, but to sustain each practice for a minimum of ten movements. With regular practice, the body will actually become stronger and stronger. One will not put on muscle and mass, yet whatever is in the body becomes alive and active, so that fatigue and tiredness will lessen.

—22 October 2015, Ganga Darshan, Munger