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Unique Opportunities Fuel Deployed Fitness

Senior Airman Spencer Gallien, 379th Air Expeditionary Wing

Staff Sgt. Sylvia Baker, 379th Expeditionary Communications Squadron client systems technician, instructs a reggae dance class at a non-disclosed Southwest Asia location, Feb. 18.

SOUTHWEST ASIA - 02.20.2010 As physical fitness standards become more stringent across the Air Force, deployed Airmen continue to look for new ways to maintain their body, while also relieving stress that comes along with being away from home for extended periods of time.

The 379th Air Expeditionary Wing has made physical fitness a priority for deployed members, by offering various unique courses all service members may attend, different than your average run, push-up and sit-up regimen that goes along with military physical training.

The 379th Expeditionary Force Support Squadron's Sustainment Flight offers a variety of classes and instructional video workout opportunities including Power 90 Extreme, combining various exercise styles to create "muscle confusion," a Reggae Dance Hall and Hip Hop dance class working on core strength while improving balance and coordination and a yoga class helping servicemembers stretch, improve health, burn calories and de-stress from 12-hour work-days.

"The classes we offer give service members a way to work-out without having to feel pressured into it or bored," said Colesha Johnson, services specialist. "They help keep morale up, give people a goal to meet and really, it's just something to look forward to each week."

Staff Sgt. Sylvia Baker, 379th Expeditionary Communications Squadron client systems technician and reggae dancehall instructor, is one of two teachers who helps students learn to move to the rhythm of reggae music while also giving their core muscles a work-out.

Currently, there are two dance classes offered each week, including a beginners class Thursday evenings at 8 p.m., and an advanced course Saturdays at 8 p.m. Eventually, there will be a second beginner's course offered throughout the week, due to the class' popularity.

"Every class gets between 15 and 20 participants, maxing out around 35," said Baker. "I personally need some good music to get pumped up and get a good work-out in. My class gives service members the opportunity to hear good music, learn or continue their dance education and get a good core muscle workout. In my class, you're going to sweat."

"I've done the traditional spinning and aerobics classes and they're great work-outs," she added. "But for me, a good work-out is all about the music."

Under the new PT testing standards, which went into effect Jan. 1, Airmen find themselves more responsible for their physical well-being.

The new test will occur twice a year and Airmen must achieve a minimum passing score in each component, while still maintaining a composite score of 75.

With more stringent and frequent testing standards, Airmen must find new entertaining and enjoyable ways to maintain their human weapons system.

For Staff Sgt. Kelly White, 379th AEW Public Affairs member and Yoga instructor, she found an enjoyable means of maintaining her weapon system seven years ago while watching television.

"I was flipping through the channels one morning, while ironing my uniform, and I saw these people on TV doing yoga to Stevie Wonder's 'Superstition,'" she said. "I'd done yoga before, but not to music that made me feel like dancing, so I started getting up earlier and doing yoga with this show. I've been hooked ever since, and I teach with a mix of earthy meditation music and stuff people can groove to a little reggae, classic and alternative rock, and rhythm and blues."

White teaches Hatha yoga, balancing opposite sides of the body as well as the mind through a sequence of poses, while concentrating on breathing as the body moves from pose to pose. "'Ha' means sun and 'tha' means moon, and yoga is bringing two opposites together," she said.

"A lot of people think they have to be flexible to start doing yoga, but yoga is actually perfect for people who aren't flexible," she said. "Flexibility comes, as does strength, improved balance and athletic performance, better posture and circulation, and a whole lot of other things that are good for your body, with participation."

"All exercise is good, but I think yoga has a very important and unique benefit," White said. "Unlike other forms of exercise, where you go into it with a goal of burning calories, or running faster than the last time you ran, or scoring more points than your competitor, yoga is about the opposite of that. Yoga sets our mind free from the things that make us frantic striving to achieve, meeting obligations, staying on schedule. While you're doing yoga, your breathing is the most important thing going on and when you're thinking about nothing other than the sound of your own breath, you get to experience living in the moment."

The 379th EFSS also hosts various other athletic programs to promote a healthy lifestyle here. From a Biggest Loser competition pitting teams against each other in a battle of weight loss, to commander's cup tournaments in sports varying from basketball to volleyball.

"Every day there's a different class offered," said Kate Taylor, services specialist. "They're not only there to keep service members healthy and in shape. They help keep morale up, keep their minds off of family and friends back home and really just de-stress after a long days work."

For more information on 379th EFSS fitness classes, call 437-8711.

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