TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. --
Yoga mats litter the floor as students begin to arrange themselves in neat rows in the dimly lit room. Their instructor sits at the head of the room, he slowly assumes a meditative position and instructs the rest of his class to do so as well. Soft music begins to play as he breathes in, hands together and feet crossed, and says, “Let’s begin.”
A Tyndall Air Force Base community group strives to change the overall health and wellness of 325th Fighter Wing Airmen and their families.
The group, known as the Tyndall Pacesetters, was started by Master Sgt. Ramiro Villalobos, Airey Noncommissioned Officer Academy instructor, with the goal of providing a positive atmosphere of self-betterment through high-intensity training, yoga and run training.
“This movement is all about community and all about replication,” Villalobos said. “My plans for this fitness group is to continue to expand and grow and eventually host fitness games here on base. The goal is to make fitness approachable and fun again, so much that our kids can also be a part of the movement. The workouts and yoga flows are designed to be challenging enough for the seasoned athlete and approachable enough for my 6 year-old daughter to complete it.”
Before his current station, Villalobos was an Airborne Tactical Air Control Party specialist who has seen the benefits of physical fitness not only in the body, but the mind as well. He said one of the reasons he does this is to give back to the Airmen that have helped him throughout his career.
“I’ve stayed in the military for so long because I work alongside some of the greatest Americans I know,” Villalobos said. “It’s been an incredible journey where I’ve gotten to jump out of planes, fast-rope out of helicopters, engage in direct combat with the enemy and now lead, motivate and inspire the next generation. My first yoga experience was led by Tony Horton and P90X. My official first class occurred during a pretty rough patch in my life. My chief invited me to attend a class with him and I found myself detaching from all the mess that was going on in my life and simply being present in the moment.
“Amidst all the chaos that was going on in my life, I felt at peace in life and it’s a feeling that I didn’t really know that I needed,” he added. “I had practiced mindfulness before missions on deployments, but not at this level. I’ve been doing yoga now going on five years and teaching yoga going on just over two years. I have almost reached my 1000 hour mark of teaching yoga.”
According to the American Osteopathic Association website, regular yoga sessions can produce a number of benefits. The relaxation techniques incorporated in yoga can lessen chronic pain, such as lower back pain, arthritis, headaches and carpal tunnel syndrome. Other physical benefits can include increased flexibility, increased muscle strength and tone, improved respiration, energy and vitality, balanced metabolism, weight reduction and improved overall athletic performance. The site also goes on to say that aside from the physical benefits, one of the best benefits of yoga is its ability to help manage stress, which is known to have devastating effects on the body and mind.
Villalobos said he believes the mental benefits to yoga are imperative, especially to Airmen and service members overall.
“Staying positive and motivated is being American,” Villalobos said. “We can do so many things and it’s in pessimism and laziness that we fail to truly achieve a level that we are all capable of. Being an Airman in the United States Air Force says so much about a person’s character, intelligence and ability. We are a force to be reckoned with so why waste that talent, that ability on mediocracy and negativity. We must be the Airmen our nation demands us to be and we must surpass their expectations in everything that we do. ‘We are American Airmen.’”
Villalobos said he would like to eventually have a yoga instructor from his group in every unit on base to promote positivity through physical fitness. He said he’d also like to expand the number of workout classes throughout the base that take place each week.
Currently the group averages 10-18 members per class and meets every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. For more information visit the Tyndall Pacesetters Facebook group or email them at: Tyndallpacesetters@gmail.com