TUCKAHOE, N.Y. – Lieutenant Peggy Belles of the Tuckahoe Police Department wants to change the mantra in law enforcement from “be tough and don’t show emotion” to “Namaste.”
The 25-year veteran of the town police department has practiced yoga for years. The ancient discipline helped her deal with the stress of her job and she wanted to bring that back to her colleagues in law enforcement.
Belles, 45, trained to get her yoga instructor license at Yoga Haven in Tuckahoe. When she needed to practice for an exam she turned to her colleagues, who took classes with her every Sunday starting in January 2015.
“These were guys that would not typically take yoga and they were proud of it,” she said, the astonishment still lingering in her voice seven months later. “And it became our ‘yoga crew.’”
Tuckahoe Police Office Anthony Solano, who is entering his ninth year on the force, said it not only increased his endurance, but eased the pain in his lower back and knees.
“I found that they really brought it into the day,” Belles said, adding the most popular yoga pose among her colleagues has been an arm balance called crow.
The mother of four’s weekly yoga classes drew the attention of officers in other departments, too, like White Plains Police Officer Tara Altamuro.
“I went to a couple of them and I thought it was a really good thing,” said Altamuro, who graduated from the Westchester Police Academy in 2014 with a friend who is a Tuckahoe police officer. “It’s a way to decompress; to just stop and clear your mind and breathe. I think that it would be a great thing if other members of law enforcement got into it as well.”
Belles wants to make that happen and, in fact, is retiring from the Tuckahoe Police Department in September to dedicate more of her time to spread yoga to more first responders.
“I’ve given all of myself all of these years to [law enforcement] and I just don’t want to do anything half way,” she said. “What’s next on the map for me is coming up with a plan where all of these different people who have expressed interest can come and participate… It’s the next step to helping people in a different way.”
For now, Belles is teaching yoga to children attending the Eastchester Community Action Program this summer.
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