San Francisco police officers practice "tactical breathing" in a class taught by a yoga instructor.

Jenna Lane/KCBS Radio

'Tactical Breathing' Is Intro To Yoga For Police

Jenna Lane
March 01, 2019 - 8:05 am

SAN FRANCISCO — The word yoga might conjure candlelight, ambient music and athleisure wear, but not in the San Francisco Police Department's station in the Mission district. 

Here, the class is called "tactical breathing," and the students wear bulletproof vests.

Once a week, a yoga instructor guides officers seated in folding chairs to simply concentrate on their breaths for a short sequence.

"It helps you forget about yesterday, which is something that we all need," said Officer Isaias Cubas. "It's useful for this job to leave yesterday behind and to start today a new day. Not just for us, but for the public as well too."

Stephanie Snyder, who is the founder of Love Story Yoga, has modified her teaching style to make the officers receptive to the class's usefulness. 

"I want to sort of meet them where they're at and, as much as possible, use language that's sort of familiar and accessible," said Snyder. "I don't want to alienate anyone either by going woo woo with all of this, because it's very straightforward."

The class, which started several months ago, was the idea of Sgt. Mike Mitchell, who said that he's seeing results. In one instance, an officer told him about applying the class's lessons while encountering combative protesters at a demonstration. 

"You can't move. You're there. People like to hurl all kinds of stuff at us," Mitchell said. "So, for a few moments, he was able to concentrate on his breathing and calm himself the best he could during that situation.