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Army Crew Yoga

Training peaceful minds at West Point

Practice

Illustration Credit: Warrior Crew by Donna Grethen

Imagine a workout room containing about 20 tall, lean, short-haired, clean-shaven, 18-year-old men. Uniform gray shirts labeled with their surnames are carefully tucked into black shorts. You can hear them breathe deeply as they work in unison. Right now they are holding what looks to be a standard push-up position and, just when you expect their commander to demand, “Give me fifty!” she says quietly, “Exhale to Downward Facing Dog!” This scene is not boot camp but yoga as practiced under my coaching by the Men’s Novice Crew at the United States Military Academy at West Point. Yoga purists may cringe at how “Army Crew Yoga” deviates from “real” yoga. Our sessions rarely last more than 20 to 30 minutes, and the Army Crew boathouse is rarely quiet or calm. Years of practice notwithstanding, I am not a trained instructor; worse, I often delegate to the cadets the responsibility of leading the poses. (Each cadet masters one pose to teach when I’m away.) The mats, which do double duty as stamina circuits, would be banished from any decent yoga studio. In order to avoid alienating my audience (and I have …

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