PRESIDIO OF MONTEREY, Calif. -- As Courtney Snyder glides across a makeshift yoga studio, she artfully dodges the stationary bikes from the early morning spin class and maneuvers around her dozen-or-so yoga students. Her small stereo drowns out the adjoining gym's sound of bouncing basketballs with calming, earthy melodies.
To an outsider, Snyder could easily have been plucked from the ranks of the yogi and sent to the Presidio as a new age mercenary to de-stress the troops. With a body tatted in yoga-inspired art and a resume featuring 2,500 hours of teaching and classroom time, she definitely plays the part. But Snyder isn't an outsider, she's a private first class in the Army and a Korean student at the Defense Language Institute, though for one hour every Saturday morning at the Price Fitness Center there are no ranks.
"When we come in here we're all equal," Snyder said.
Snyder's class provides a bit of meditative resiliency and good old-fashioned stretching. She moves swiftly from one student to another, adjusting their poses. The course flows according to the needs and abilities of that morning's students, lingering in some positions longer than others. By the end of the session the group is on their back meditating.
Pfc. Bryan King said it was "eye-opening" to see what his platoon-mate could do with just one hour-long yoga class.
"Most of the week I don't have time to empty my mind," said King, who's also a Korean language student at DLI. "This is the first time that I've done that in a long time -- it's really refreshing."
Reactions like King's, Snyder said is one of the reasons for joining the military. The 30-year-old Houston native had been teaching service members and veterans as a civilian, helping them overcome their struggles and unique needs, but felt she could do more by joining.
"I really wanted to be able to affect the military community from within the military rather than as a yoga teacher on the outside," she said.
However, Snyder didn't expect to be teaching yoga at DLI. Sure, teaching yoga was the plan for her first Army posting, but she thought she would be hitting the books and devoting all her time here to studying Korean. That's when she noticed something in her Soldier's guide. It may not have said it directly, but the book was advocating for what yoga provides.
"I was browsing the back of the blue book, and they had a lot of breathing techniques and meditation type exercises that we do in yoga," said Snyder. It was Snyder's green light. She then contacted the Price Fitness Center, saw they needed a weekend yoga instructor, and as of September has been teaching there since.
Snyder says teaching the class has helped her "return to her roots" and "give back to the community."
"It's a fight or flight mentality," she said about being a student at DLI. "Once I began teaching, [DLI] no longer was such a scary thing. It was more: I have this opportunity to help others instead of constantly worrying about myself."
Snyder recommends to those on the fence about volunteering -- make the leap.
"Giving back will bring joy and happiness into your life, which in return will lower your stress levels and make school that much more manageable," she said.
Snyder plans to continue her 9 a.m. Saturday class until November at the Price Fitness Center. Contact: (831) 242-5557