Army tests fitness benefits of yoga and meditation in core training

Trainees from the 3rd Battalion, 34th Infantry Regiment participate in yoga training Oct. 29, 2020. The military is evaluating whether a pilot program incorporating yoga and meditation has helped the basic training platoons. (Josephine Carlson / US Army)

Trainees from the 3rd Battalion, 34th Infantry Regiment participate in yoga training Oct. 29, 2020. The military is evaluating whether a pilot program incorporating yoga and meditation has helped the basic training platoons.

Trainees from the 3rd Battalion, 34th Infantry Regiment participate in yoga training Oct. 29, 2020. The military is evaluating whether a pilot program incorporating yoga and meditation has helped the basic training platoons. (Josephine Carlson / US Army)

Dr Treva Anderson gives interns from 3rd Battalion 34th Infantry Regiment a mindfulness training briefing on October 28, 2020. Army is evaluating whether a pilot program incorporating mindfulness yoga and meditation affected factors such as physical performance and stress management.

Dr Treva Anderson gives interns from 3rd Battalion 34th Infantry Regiment a mindfulness training briefing on October 28, 2020. Army is evaluating whether a pilot program incorporating mindfulness yoga and meditation affected factors such as physical performance and stress management. (Josephine Carlson / US Army)

Trainees from the 2nd Battalion, 60th Infantry Regiment practice yoga as part of a pilot program, Dec. 8, 2020. The military assesses whether a program, incorporating yoga and mindfulness meditation, affects factors such as as physical performance and stress management.

Trainees from the 2nd Battalion, 60th Infantry Regiment practice yoga as part of a pilot program, Dec. 8, 2020. The military assesses whether a program, incorporating yoga and mindfulness meditation, affects factors such as as physical performance and stress management. (Josephine Carlson / US Army)

Trainees from the 2nd Battalion, 60th Infantry Regiment participate in mindfulness practice as part of a pilot program, December 9, 2020.

Trainees from the 2nd Battalion, 60th Infantry Regiment participate in a mindfulness practice as part of a pilot program, December 9, 2020 (Josephine Carlson / US Army)

The military is investigating whether the warrior pose could make better warriors after subjecting hundreds of new recruits to daily yoga and meditation regimes as part of basic training.

The 10-week pilot program was designed to assess the possible military benefits of practices rooted in ancient Eastern pacifist philosophies, as the service seeks to address the declining physical condition of military recruits.

Soldiers from 20 Basic Training Platoons at Fort Jackson, SC, practiced yoga and meditation daily to assess their effects on factors such as physical performance, mental toughness, soldier discipline, injury rates, stress management and graduation rates.

“We realized that there is growing scientific evidence that mindfulness and yoga have positive effects on individual holistic health and fitness,” said Major Kimberley Jordan, Physiotherapy Doctor and Officer overseeing the program. “The basic combat training environment… was rich in a variety of performance indicators that we could assess or analyze. “

The 3rd Battalion, 34th Infantry Regiment and 2nd Battalion, 60th Infantry Regiment Fort Jackson each had 20 participating platoons, 10 as a test group and 10 as a control group, for a total of approximately 1 800 participants.

It is one of the few studies on yoga in the military and one of the most important on mindfulness, Jordan said. Researchers analyzed the numbers from data collected last fall and final results are expected later this year.

Early feedback suggests improved endurance on ruck steps and obstacle courses, reduced pain during recovery periods and better management of stress and homesickness, said Jordan, who said. – even used yoga for injury recovery and included it in the treatment of some of her patients.

Although linked to Hindu and Buddhist traditions, the practices and poses taught were devoid of religious references. Chaplains were also consulted, she said.

Led by contract trainers, half of the trainees did yoga for 15 minutes before and after normal morning physical training exercises – poses like downward dog, plank and chair positions. They also received two hours of weekly mindfulness instruction during the first four weeks and practiced meditation six days a week for 15 minutes before the lights went out, for the duration of the program.

The control group platoons used standard army preparation and recovery drills, such as windmill stretches, flexes and stretches, and push-ups. Both groups and their drill sergeants conducted several surveys to assess their attitude towards the program.

“I’m sorry, did you say yoga?” “Pfc. Joe Skeen said in a video on his popular TikTok account last month, responding to a post from a user named @pastelsoldier who apparently took part in the study.

Skeen, who has around 735,000 subscribers on the app, joked that the only yoga he could have done in his workout was downward dog pose while being punished.

In comments on Skeen’s video, @pastelsoldier said she prefers normal physical training because it is actually easier.

Another intern initially didn’t think yoga and the military went together, but quickly changed their mind, the military said in a December statement.

“I started to really appreciate and enjoy the positions,” Pfc. Lina Alani said in the statement.

Mindfulness practices outside of nighttime meditation, such as standing for long periods of time at attention or on ruck walks, “really helped me focus on the task at hand.” she declared.

The yoga training aligns with the Army’s new Comprehensive Health and Fitness Program, introduced to accompany the service’s first overhaul of its Fitness Test in four decades. The holistic health and fitness system is intended to help reduce injury, obesity, chronic sleep deprivation and mental illness, according to a military statement.

The decline in fitness among young Americans, including huge increases in the rate of first-time failure on modified fitness tests given to grassroots trainees from 2000 to 2010, was also cited as being in the spotlight. origin of the need for a new approach.

Besides the fitness benefits, yoga may have other practical military training applications. For example, some soldiers have learned to adopt the wide archer-type stance of the warrior posture to stabilize themselves when shooting behind barriers during marksmanship training.

And trainees who took mindfulness training showed signs of better behavior, said Sgt. 1st Class Desiree Strickland, a drill sergeant cited in the December release.

“They don’t argue,” she says. “Overall, they have more respect for themselves, each other, and the drill sergeants.”

However, some participants said they would have preferred to use the time to prepare for other activities.

“The trainees looked discouraged or upset because they had to sit for 15 minutes mindfully,” said Master Sgt. Angela Alvarez, another drill sergeant cited in the statement.

There are no plans yet for additional cycles of the pilot program, Jordan said, but her results will help Training and Doctrine Command decide whether to continue using yoga and mindfulness training.

garland.chad@stripes.com Twitter: @chad garland

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Chad garland

Chad is a Marine Corps veteran who covers the U.S. military in the Middle East, Afghanistan, and sometimes elsewhere for Stars and Stripes. A native of Illinois who has reported for news organizations in Washington, DC, Arizona, Oregon and California, he is an alumnus of the Defense Language Institute, University of Illinois at Urbana- Champaign and Arizona State University.



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