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Ukrainian soldiers put their faith in yoga for healing, wellness and recovery in frontline of war: Report

With some special forces units of the Ukrainian Army including yoga in their training, several projects have been started to support the Ukrainian teachers who have been teaching yoga and to help those who have been dealing with trauma and PTSD.
Last Updated : 22 June 2024, 09:14 IST

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On the frontlines of the Ukraine war, the country's soldiers were seen rolling out their mats to participate in yoga, according to a report by The Times of India.

Claiming that yoga has helped him transform his life, the commander, aged 37, at the post of the 225th Separate Assault Brigade amongst the soldiers said, "Before the beginning of the full-scale war, back in 2014, I was drafted into infantry operations, and I hurt my spine."

According to TOI, he further said, "I started practicing yoga regularly in 2016. All my problems disappeared", adding that yoga helps with his responsibilities in the war.

The young commander also said, "I always try to do asanas, pranayama and I read the 'Hare Krishna Mahamantra'. It helps me have better control over my emotions and plan things in my duty."

The war-hit Ukraine is witnessing a rise in yoga awareness for better healing, wellness and recovery among its population.

With some special forces units of the Ukrainian Army including yoga in their training, several projects have been started to support the Ukrainian teachers who have been teaching yoga and to help those who have been dealing with trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Initiated by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in 2021, a 'Healthy Ukraine' programme was started to encourage the ancient physical, mental and spiritual practice.

During 'Active Parks' - a project under the initiated programme - public parks were transformed into fitness clubs where instructors or teachers would organise and hold free yoga training classes.

According to TOI, Elena Siderska, who was accountable for boosting yoga in the project said, "The response for yoga was overwhelming. Active Parks now supports studios and clubs that work with trauma, PTSD and rehabilitation of soldiers."

According to the publication, a master of yoga and Elena's father, Andrii Siderskyi claimed that yoga's roots have been in his country for a long time saying, "Actually people in Ukraine came in contact with yoga as far back as the 19th century. But after the revolution of 1917 and the Ukrainian Republic, it was little bit lost. However, following the World War II, Kyiv, Odessa and Kharkiv became some of the main centres of yoga in the Soviet era."

Siderskyi also said, "We combined specific pranayama sequences with asana sequences that we found most effective for our conditions. I believe this saved thousands of lives and helped people recover quickly during Covid."

One person named Yullia Denisova who was helping injured Ukrainian comrades at four different rehabilitation centres and also works at the 'Fierce Calm', says, "Yoga nidra and pranayama have had huge benefits for war veterans dealing with sleep disorders, PTSD and those with amputation related problems."

According to the publication, while describing how the medieval practice helped a double amputee soldier, Denisova said, "Nazar was initially unsure about yoga. He said I have come to just watch. But session after session he got into it. Finally, after a session of yoga nidra, he fell into deep sleep. After he woke up, he said it was the best sleep he ever had."

She added, "I, as a Ukrainian, can't thank India enough for giving the world and keeping this wonderful ancient knowledge."

According to TOI, another person named Velaeria Samborskaya, who runs a crowd-funded project to encourage yoga for trauma-sensitive people in Ukraine, says, "We have seen affected soldiers being fearful of going near parks because they were injured in forested areas on the frontline. But after a few sessions of yoga, especially pranayama, they are able to overcome their mental trauma."

Samborsakaya also said, "In the first year of the war, we needed physical things, good housing, etc. After two years, we now need to deal with the mental repercussions of this war and what it is doing to our society. Yogic exercises, especially pranayama, are a huge boon for us now."

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Published 22 June 2024, 09:14 IST

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