Crystal Farris/Idaho Military Division Public Affairs
After saying goodbye to her husband and kids, Master Sgt. Mary Ellen Reed heads to the gym early every morning for her daily workout. Working full-time for the Idaho Air National Guard and being a mother of two, Reed said it’s the only time in the day she has to herself to work on her physical and mental wellbeing.
“I go to bed excited to wake up the next morning and go to the gym,” said Reed. “It’s my favorite part of the day, beside maybe when I get home from work, but then the dog needs something from me or the kids are like “Mom, Mom,” and I’m on duty again, just in another capacity.”
One day a week she wakes up extra early on Thursdays to follow up her gym routine with a yoga session on Gowen Field where she works as a career manager for the 124th Fighter Wing.
The Idaho National Guard’s Service Member and Family Support program, with the help of two certified Yoga instructors who work for the organization, offer Warrior Yoga as one of its wellness opportunities for service members free of charge.
“We started offering the classes because yoga can help our service members develop a balance between mind, body and soul,” said Maj. Jennifer Pate, Idaho National Guard holistic health and fitness officer. “These are skills necessary to prevent harmful behaviors and to achieve true wellness.”
Although Reed had never practiced yoga, she is an avid weightlifter and has been training for body building competitions since 2018. She originally looked into practicing yoga to improve her mobility for competitive posing. Months after starting it, she realized its multifaceted benefits extended beyond just physical ones.
“While yoga has helped me improve my mobility tremendously, I feel it has become more of a mental benefit to me,” said Reed. “I still love the physical piece of it too, but what I really love is the quiet time it gives me to focus and the space it provides me to practice mindfulness, almost like meditation.”
Reed said her mental fitness is just as important to her as physical fitness and that developing mental wellness through yoga has enabled her to better cope in stressful situations, including when meeting the high demands of her job.
“I have a high demand job that I love, but if I didn’t take care of myself both mentally and physically, then I would have nothing to give in my job,” said Reed. “Yoga is a part of that wellness piece that helps me build myself up so I can successfully serve the members of my unit.”
Reed joined the Idaho Air National Guard in 2010, a year after she graduated from the College of Idaho. She originally enlisted into the organization’s cyber squadron and in 2014 began work full-time completing administrative tasks for the wing’s command support staff. As manager of a career field, she said her favorite part of the job is helping to develop those serving in that field.
After attending yoga one Thursday morning, Reed arrived to work where things were slightly more chaotic than usual. In that moment, Reed said she was able to respond better to the situation by applying some techniques learned through yoga.
“Yoga gives you that space to learn to pause and process how you’re going to receive information and then how you’re going to react to it,” said Reed. “It’s been helpful in stressful situations so that I’m not immediately overwhelmed and can handle things more effectively.”
Reed said she is thankful to continue serving in an organization that not only makes available to her free yoga classes and a fully equipped gym on base, but also an hour of paid time to work out every day.
“While fitness for me is personally very important, I love that the military also finds it important and that it gives you that time to work out during the duty day,” said Reed. “I used to work in banking before I was in the Guard full-time and know that very few civilian jobs give you that type of opportunity. The military is very supportive of your overall wellness and gives you the opportunities to improve that, which is one of the things I love most about being part of the military.”
The Idaho National Guard Service Member and Family Support program’s mission is to enhance the quality of life, strength, and resilience of its service members and their families. The program offers multiple resources including mental health counseling, financial advice, employment support, substance misuse assistance, Tricare assistance, youth programs and crisis management. For more information visit https://www.imd.idaho.gov/idaho-national-guard/family-programs/.
Warrior Yoga is offered every Tuesday and Thursday from 7-7:50 a.m. in Building 152 on Gowen Field.