CAMP BUNDELA, India (Oct. 11, 2009) - The image of the American Soldier is one of battle-hardened men and women walking the streets of Iraq or the mountains of Afghanistan. Their eyes weary from lack of sleep, but still on alert waiting for the unexpected.
What is not pictures is these same men and women practicing pranayam, the ancient breathing techniques of yoga trying to harness their inner calm.
"It's kind of goofy," said Spc. Spencer Knight while receiving one-on-one attention from a master of yoga, called a yogi. The yogi pushing on his belly to ensure his breath came from deep within.
Knight, motorman assigned to Troop B, 2nd Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment, "Strykehorse," 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, from Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, joined his comrades of Troop B in an early morning yoga session on Camp Bundela, in Babina India, Oct. 11.
Their nervous and apprehensive giggles were clearly audible as the sun was barely breaking over the horizon. The yogis began the session by describing the practice of yoga through a translator from the Indian Army.
Yoga is an ancient science, explained Indian Army Lt. Col. RK Saini, a maintenance officer assigned to the 94th Armored Brigade. It tells a person how to live and the values they should have.
The Soldiers listened intently in their awkwardly formed lotus positions, legs crossed, hands draped on their knees and their backs erect; hardly mimicking the ease at which the yogis twisted their limber bodies into the same position.
"This is harder than I thought," said Spc. Charles Rice, a motorman assigned to Troop B. "I am not flexible and not a good runner, but I think these breathing exercises will definitely help with my run."
The 40 minutes of breathing exercises began with a chant and ended in self reflection and calm.
While Knight said he would not incorporate the breathing techniques into his daily life, Rice had a very different take on the issue.
"I would like to teach some of this to my pregnant wife," he said. "Doctors say breathing is good for pregnancy and I think this will help her and she will really like it."
This was the first cultural exchange between the Indian Army and the U.S. Soldiers as part of Exercise Yudh Abhyas 09. YA09, which is scheduled for Oct. 12-27, is a bilateral exercise involving the Armies of India and the United States. The primary goal of the exercise is to develop and expand upon the relationship between the Indian and U.S. Army.