“Prepared me for my deployment to Iraq”
As a student of Bikram Yoga for over a year I had already been feeling the benefits physically and mentally for a while. I had grown from someone that struggled to make it to the end of the class to finishing strong and improving almost all my postures.
In late October of last year I received word that the Navy was sending me to Iraq for a deployment in Baghdad working for a Multi-National Command helping set up Iraqi security forces, my position would be in the Public Affairs Office as editor of the command magazine.
In preparation for assignment in Iraq all Navy reservists are required to go through four weeks of combat training. It was at this early stage of my deployment that my time spent in the intense atmosphere of a Bikram class paid off the most.
The training put us in stressful positions that required us to maintain our concentration, does that sound familiar to any Bikram students?
My training was in January and we spent many hours outside in the cold wearing over 80 lbs of gear. We were required to move quickly and maintain focus in preparation for the next task, order or movement. Being able to remove myself from my body’s discomfort was a skill I had developed in our Bikram classes. To me it was the same drill. Getting through a class or getting through combat training I used the same mental process.
Another coping skill I have used both in training and in my every day existence here is moving to the next thing no matter what. Often I’m tired, hot and worried for my safety but I have to go on to my next task without hesitation. In class, when I got to the point that I could move all the way through the spine strengthening series and still keep going, I knew I had experienced a breakthrough; it’s the same thing here.
The most obvious thing someone might think when writing about the way Bikram yoga prepared t hem for duty in a hot place like the Middle East is preparing for dealing with the heat and that is what I thought as well. The truth is the intense heat we deal with in a Bikram class ends in a little less than 2 hours. The heat here in Iraq ends in October or when you go home, whichever comes first. It’s actually a little hotter here. Every day since mid-May has been over 110 here in Baghdad with 118 the hottest I’ve seen.
I am coming to the end of my deployment and I’m looking forward to my first Bikram class in a long time. I’m asking my instructors who I love and miss to be patient with me, it may take some time but I will eventually get back to a pretty good level of practice for an old Navy Chief.