“Breathe, relax, aim, squeeze. A whole lot of yoga in shooting,” says John Wayne Taylor, and indeed there is a lot to recommend Yoga to anyone who participates in activities that require discipline, mental focus, and good health.
But whatever the benefits, is the average gun owner really going to be chomping at the bit to jump into the ‘downward dog’ posture? If they’re anything like me, probably not. My own thoughts on the South Asian discipline were informed more by visions of the tofu and Birkenstock brigade twisting themselves into pretzel poses than notions of improved health and focus while shooting.
Firearms instructor Mickey Schuch is working to change those attitudes. He has teamed up with yogi Jon Uidl to create a series of six short videos on YouTube titled “Yoga for Gun Slingers,” showing a series of simple stretches that can easily be done in the comfort of one’s own living room to improve flexibility, increase focus, and relieve tension with an aim toward improving shooting skills.
Let’s face it: the modern American already has a tendency to be sedentary, leading to many health issues. In some respects, citizens who train with firearms have the worst of both worlds: an indoor job that involves sitting around with a lot of repetitive motions, followed by an outdoor hobby that involves…standing around outside with a lot of repetitive motions. (Referring to private citizens here, not those who volunteer for the US Government travel plan that starts off with a tour of Deep South swampland.) Perhaps a little bit of yoga might be just what the doctor ordered?
I had the opportunity to speak with Mickey about how he embarked on this project; there are three big reasons why he’s enthusiastic about yoga.
(1) Mental discipline. “Attitude affects everything,” he says. Many adults psych themselves out when trying to learn something new if they aren’t good at it immediately — whether it’s shooting a gun or trying to do a handstand. Yoga breathing exercises that help quiet the mind and calm the nerves during those periods of anxiety. (It is not an accident that sharpshooters take a deep breath before aiming at a long range target.) This sort of mental discipline is fundamental.
(2) Movement and flexibility. “It’s all about making the shooter a better platform…. [In a gunfight,] all you are is a platform for the gun,” says Mickey. Yoga practitioners can get into and maintain uncomfortable positions for extended periods of time while staying controlled and focused. The practice of yoga can help improve a person’s flexibility and mobility, things that can only help when the balloon goes up.
(3) General well-being. While his enthusiasm for the practice of yoga was driven initially by his own work in firearms and hand-to-hand combat training, Schuch has since come to appreciate its impacts throughout his life. “The point of studying combat is to protect life, but what sort of life are you protecting? Attitude and lifestyle affect everything.” Yoga, he believes, is just one more component to a healthy physical and mental lifestyle.
Intrigued, I worked my way through the exercises. While I’m hardly an example of the ideal male form in shape for peak performance, I have completed a few Beachbody routines like Shaun T’s Insanity and Tony Horton’s P90X, which includes a famously long yoga video. So I figured I could nail these without problems.
I will say…some of the exercises were not exactly a cakewalk. They were doable, they were things that could be attempted even if you were far from top shape. But holding the positions for as long as they do in the video?
I tapped out a few times. Like everything else in life, the good results don’t come easily. Even so, I did feel…better after doing the exercises. I decided I’d have to incorporate more of this sort of routine going forward.
The videos are on YouTube. Give them a try; you might be surprised at the results.