A group of Transit Police have graduated from a rare training in Kundalini Yoga.
At 8:00 am Yaneth arrives at the yoga room. She is a stout woman in black boots, a dark green uniform, and a phosphorescent breastplate announcing her occupation: Transit Police. She is carrying a bag with clothes for today's class. After a few minutes she is dressed in spotless white, with boots and uniform in hand.
The expression on her face is suddenly no longer hard and highlights her smile. She enters the room, which features a photo of Yogi Bhajan, Master of Kundalini Yoga. Next to the portrait are yellow flowers, a censer and a lamp. The background music plays mantras of India. Yaneth extends a mat and waits in meditation pose.
One by one more students arrive, all dressed in white. All are agents of the Transit Police. They are part of a pioneering group of about 50 people attending yoga classes as part of a program for stress management, authority, relationships and emotional control.
Minutes later Gloria Inés Ospina, the teacher, appears. Besides being a Kundalini Yoga instructor, she is a retired Police Colonel. She is wearing a turban and leads the police in unison as they chant with eyes closed, “Ong Namo Guru Dev Namo,” which means: "I open the primordial creative energy and listen to the inner teacher."
Mantras are sounds to harmonize the vibrations of the mind that have no religious connotation. At first it was not easy for 50 soldiers to chant. "Many, especially the most religious, got scared," says Clifford Saavedra, the professor who was in charge of the group management. "Others asked if itwas voodoo," says Maria del Pilar Rivera, psychologist for Traffic Police.
After a series of breathing exercises and mudras (yogic hand positions), comes the highlight: the kriya, a set of asanas or postures with a therapeutic aim, which is the central element of this practice. Kundalini Yoga is 5,000 years old and for a long time was reserved for Brahmins, princes and great yogis. It is a strong and vigorous physical technique, affecting the electromagnetic field and level of consciousness.
"Focus, do not be distracted," exclaims the teacher to give encouragement to her pupils in Crow Pose. "It's demanding, you feel the pain, but if you concentrate on the inner eye and connect with the breath, that pain can be overcome and one feels less," says Tovar, an agent who has 21 years in the police and nine in transit.
Some students are so tight that they cannot stay more than a few seconds in a posture. Others come to class so tired they fall asleep during asanas. The uniform of an agent, including helmet, boots and gun, weighs 16 kilos, and a day in the middle of the Bogota streets can last 14 hours. If one adds to this the fact that they walk or ride a motorcycle most of the day, and encounter many stressful situations, it is understood that the levels of pressure to which they are subject are high.
"Fifty-two percent of the complaints are related to traffic police interaction with citizens,” states Colonel Omar Gonzalez, commander of Transit. With these classes we are looking to move from the theory of conflict management, towards the agents being able to handle themselves in all the conflicting situations to which they are exposed in a daily basis.”
Everything indicates that the effort is working. At the end of class, after a guided relaxation, the police men and women have clear eyes and a relaxed expression on their faces. Yaneth confesses that yoga has brought a radical change to her life. "I had a great internal conflict, a fight with myself. I learned that, although stress and tension are still there, what matters is how you deal with it. And my headaches and back pain have disappeared."