Story by Petty Officer 3rd Class Oscar Quezada
PACIFIC OCEAN – The yoga instructor starts her class with simple poses and stretches to get the blood pumping. As time goes by and her music starts picking up, the poses become more complex and the pace quickens. The instructor does not leave her students behind though; she reminds them how to breathe and walks them step-by-step through each pose.
Senior Chief Terrish Bilbrey, from Lafayette, Tennessee, the operations department leading chief petty officer, teaches yoga aboard USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74).
“I came into the Navy with this really badass attitude,” said Bilbrey. “What I didn’t realize is that I had an overachiever mindset.”
When Bilbrey was a junior Sailor, she did 10 straight years of sea duty and was on four different ships before going to her first shore duty. She was selected for Sailor of the Quarter twice in one year, made Sailor of the Year for the entire Pacific Fleet and picked up chief on her first try.
Despite her active lifestyle and successful naval career, Bilbrey was going through difficulties in her personal life. She described her childhood as having a tough environment, which drove her to have a hyper-competitive mindset. That drove her to succeed only for the external validation and recognition of others to feel better about herself.
Without an outlet, the stress of her need to succeed began to lead her to make destructive decisions. After reaching a low point in her life, she realized she was not on the right path. Trying to turn her life around, she turned to yoga.
“I started to realize that I would have these sensations of forgiveness and I would start to let go of some feelings and anger and all of those things that I held inside,” said Bilbrey.
Yoga includes breathing control, simple meditation and the adoption of specific bodily postures and is widely practiced for health and relaxation. It is one way for someone who is surrounded by stress to have it relieved.
“So yoga is really about self-reflection,” said Bilbrey. “It’s a constant daily self-reflection and it has made me more humble. If someone is going through a really hard time, they can look at it in two ways. They can get ticked off about it or they can get inspired and say what do I need to learn.”
After being a student for a while, Bilbrey wanted to share what she learned with others.
“My goal with sharing yoga is to help people understand that they are perfect the way they are,” said Bilbrey. “I don’t want anyone else to feel that they are not worthy because that is the way I felt for 30 years of my life.”
She received her yoga-teaching certificate when she was stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, in 2011.
After getting her certificate, she brought what she learned into the military. She led yoga classes on USS Ronald Raegan (CVN 76) for two years before transferring to John C. Stennis and teaching Sailors here.
“I want to keep teaching yoga, but I want to do more,” said Bilbrey. “I believe we have the ability to design our life, the ability to take whatever it is you dream of … and make anything happen in your life. I want to help people realize their potential by using yoga practice, mindfulness practice, and also lifestyle changes.”
At the end of the one-hour yoga session, the exhausted students are rolling up their mats, some are breathing hard and others broke a sweat. Bilbrey thanked her students for coming to her class. Bilbrey used yoga as a healthy way to deal with her problems. It had physical, emotional and mental benefits for her. By teaching yoga, she hopes that she can share the lessons she learned with her fellow Sailors.