U.S. Navy photo by Chief Photographer’s Mate Eric A. Clement

Surviving Boot camp

Health, strength and agility are some of my top priorities. Actually, they are my top priorities. I may say there are other things that steer me through the day, through life, but my physical well-being reigns right now.

I’m about to embark on a two-week boot camp program at my yoga studio and I read, moments ago, in Fourteen Lessons in Yogi Philosophy, “…soul has several vehicles for expression, these several vehicles being of different degrees of density, the body being the lowest form of expression.” In other words: the physical body is the most apparent, the most obvious, the most rudimentary.

I think if I were more of a “higher” being/thinker, this idea might take the wind out of my sails a bit. But you know what? I don’t care if the body is the lowest form of expression. I understand that it is, yes, that makes sense to me. I get that reaching a higher plane in the mind is more complex than reaching physical fitness in the body. And I’m fairly satisfied to move around this corporeal playing field. Though, could it be that the ability to simply note, if only at a surface level, that most of us live in the corporal, might that indicate some dabbling and dipping into the spiritual or ethereal as well?

Yogi Ramacharaka writes, “…the first step in Yogi development consists of the mastery of the physical body and its care and attention.” So there you have it. All of us yoga fiends and physical fitness buffs are on to something, on to reaching some stage of enlightenment. Or at least some people are. We all know one or two meatheads who have two goals in mind: get huge, get hot…I’m certainly not opposed to the huge-and-hot decree, but maybe there should be more to it than that.

Luckily, Hatha yoga, which is the yoga we all do, is one method for mastering the first of the seven principles of man. These are:

1. Physical Body—I know I’m right about here, ha
2. Astral Body
3. Prana, or Vital Force
4. Instinctive Mind
5. Intellect
6. Spiritual Mind
7. Spirit

Now, I won’t try to explain the six latter principles; I don’t understand them myself. I suspect it’ll be years and years until I can grasp them even on a superficial level, but it seems important to mention them all. Getting back to the physical body, obviously there are outright goals that a person sets when they decide to get in shape, take on a new form of exercise, try to create a new habit and routine. Or re-establish old favorites. We all want to get stronger, improve our quality of life, lose weight, melt inches off our waists, bulk our biceps, build washboards in our abs, etc. Then we might quantify the goal: I will be able to do fifty push-ups in a minute (a lofty one, yes) by the end of this workout regimen or I will do fifty sit ups in sixty seconds, for example.

I have lots of measurable goals for boot camp, sure. But I also realize my desire to connect with deeper meaning is popping up in something as simple as a physical butt whooping too. The goal is Pranayama, to practice using breath. At its foundation, to lunge on the inhale, stand on the ex; crunch on the exhale, lower on the in; squat on the inhale, pull straight on the ex, so that it may become instinctive in my yoga practice as well. From years of working out, I do these things by heart already. Here’s a chance to make a conscious, or subconscious? leap, to move with the same breath in yoga without having to think about it. Any person who practices yoga does do this to some extent, but do we do it instinctively or mostly because we are cued? While it’s not lost on me that this is still a physical goal, ultimately it’s the prana that I am after.

As I weed through the reasons I’ve decided to put myself through hell at six a.m., anything at that time of day besides sleeping is a particular kind of hell, for the third or fourth time in half as many years, in the form of circuit and strength training, there’s no intent to make up some profound motive for the sake of being new age-y; that is the last thing I want. But to transfer ordinary—a bunch of plyometric bursts and hammer curls—into extraordinary. I have no idea what the extraordinary looks like in this case quite yet…maybe, in my own fourteen days of lessons I’ll be able to discern some remarkable insight.

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