In June 2017, Sadhguru was with the Director General of India’s Border Security Force (BSF), to speak about the Rally for Rivers initiative. However, apart from the Rally, another critical conversation also began, revolving around the wellbeing of the BSF soldiers. This led to a discussion on how Isha Yoga could help the soldiers address some of their concerns, both immediate and long-term. Thus, a two-week Hatha Yoga Program at the Isha Yoga Center, Coimbatore, was conceived and specially designed for the BSF.
The intense residential program was designed to train the BSF personnel in the ancient and powerful practices of Hatha Yoga, including Isha Upa-Yoga, Angamardana and Surya Kriya. The participants were also initiated into the Shambhavi Mahamudra kriya.
99 personnel, comprising officers, subordinate officers and constables, participated in this program. Many of them also received training and certification to conduct introductory Isha Hatha Yoga programs within the BSF as a means to offer this tremendous possibility to the “seema praharis” and their families. The participants traveled from BSF Battalion locations all over the country: Rajasthan frontier, Gujarat frontier, Tripura frontier, J&K frontier & West Bengal frontier, to name a few.
When the personnel were asked to share their experiences during and at the end of the program, the amazement and honesty of their tone spoke volumes. They explained that just a few days in the ashram had led them to some surprisingly deep inner transformation. One of the participants shared that the act of bringing his hands together in “Namaskaram” was initially too difficult for him, as it struck his ego. But as the days went by and he started imbibing the ashram culture, he found that even this humble gesture had deep implications and meaning for his life.
Here are a few incidents that really lit up the class and the participants’ experience of the program!
Jogging Parade in the Class
During the class, those soldiers with blocked nostrils were asked to jog for a few minutes before the kriya. They got up and began to jog in unison. Though they came out of different parts of the hall, they all stood in a straight line, started jogging at the same time, jogged with equal buoyancy and finished at the same time!
Open Dining Not Acceptable!
It was the fourth day for them in the training. Up until that point, the volunteers had been serving them a sit-down lunch, as is normally followed in the ashram. After the Chola Trophy finals, since the volunteers had also gone to watch the match, the volunteers arranged a buffet dinner.
Feeling a bit odd, as this was the first time they were not having a sit- down meal, some of the soldiers asked “Are we short on volunteers today?” The volunteers did not know what to reply. Without asking anything more, some of the soldiers asked the rest of the group to sit down, picked up the food buckets and began to serve.
For the remainder of the program, they themselves would take turns to serve. They really enjoyed the sit-down meals that were being served with such love.
Sadhguru’s Hand in their Presence at the Chola Trophy Finals
Sadhguru had a session with the participants, and for many, it was after this that they felt rooted in the training program. After the session, many of the soldiers came to watch the finals of the Isha Chola Trophy wearing flowers that were blessed by Sadhguru in their ears!
When some of these soldiers got up to play against the champion team that had won the Chola trophy, knowing that they had no real training in volleyball before, it was a wonderful display of their sportsmanship. However, Sadhguru made it a level field for them by replacing the champion team players with some of the brahmacharis. For the audience, the entire episode was a very joyful experience.
A Nostalgic Trip to Isha Home School
Isha Home School hosted the soldiers for half a day as a token of their respect to them. As a part of the culturals, the children sang a couple of patriotic songs, including a song with the lyrics “Nanha Munna Rahi Hoon, Desh ka Sipahi Hoon” (“I am a little traveller and a little soldier”), sung by the juniors. One of the soldiers started to cry listening to this song, and later shared that he was moved so much seeing these young children giving them so much respect. He also started to miss his one-year-old daughter who he hadn’t seen for the past 8 months.
The participants also shared that they were overwhelmed and deeply touched by the humility and sincerity with which the volunteers went about their duties. One of the senior officers said that, since the armed forces had a culture of following orders, the one who gave the orders was always held responsible. He said that this sometimes raised challenges in maintaining discipline among the junior officers. However, he observed that the Isha way was very different – no one gave orders, only gentle requests if any, but everyone was on “self-start” and was completely responsible for his or her actions. Everything was getting done, and meticulously so, but no one was running behind the other, following up to get things done. Just spending a few days soaking up this environment, this officer said that he could already see the difference in his officers who were no longer simply awaiting orders, but seemed to be more proactive.
A little known fact is that the BSF, unlike other types of armed forces, never get time off duty, meaning that they never get to work in a cantonment area doing regular office jobs. They only have about one month free each year which they spend with family and loved ones. From the time they start until the end of their career, which is on average 35 years long, they are required to serve at the borders, ever vigilant and agile. They serve in extreme weather conditions, and in addition to protecting the borders, they are also called upon to interact with civilians, who in some places are living right along the nation’s borders. All of these duties give rise to enormous physical, psychological and emotional stresses.
One of the officers shared that the yoga and meditation they learned at Isha was nothing short of a boon for them, as they now have powerful tools to help them manage themselves more effectively, and thereby serve more efficiently. They said they felt a greater sense of calm which will go a long way in helping them make better decisions in the high pressure situations that are the norm in their lives. While sharing these benefits, the officers didn’t skip a beat in admiring and expressing their gratitude to Sadhguru for identifying their critical need of the hour and providing them with this highly effective solution.
Following this highly successful training program, plans are already underway to complete two more such sessions before the end of 2018 with fresh batches of BSF personnel, and also advanced programs for select personnel.
While some of the personnel may return for advanced or refresher courses, all of them have expressed an interest to return with their families. They also explained that they would send family members and friends for future programs so that their loved ones could also have the opportunity to have the profound experience that is Isha Yoga.
Editor’s Note: Find an Isha Hatha Yoga program near you with our program finder.