From San Diego to Guam and back again, Amanda Mays built Pineapple Yoga Retreat, LLC after the stars aligned. With a focus on building community, the Navy wife found exactly what she needed to adjust to a new location and help others discover peace on the mat. Now she works with local commands to incorporate the benefits of yoga into physical training for active-duty service members.
From marketing to yoga
As a native New Yorker with a marketing background, Mays wanted to make a career change after moving to California to be with her sailor. She fell in love with yoga, got certified as a teacher and for several years balanced her new found field with marketing.
“Yoga was the first time I was ever able to turn down the volume on my mind,” Mays said. “I never learned how to have a coping mechanism. Yoga is the place where I can be myself, my heart rate calms down, my thoughts relax. It helps me so much that I was desperate to share that with everyone else.”
When her spouse received orders to Guam, Mays was ready (before the move) to leave marketing behind and go full-time with yoga.
“I knew I had to quit before we moved and wanted to make the most of the time,” she said. “I worked full-time as a studio assistant and taught yoga — it was the best decision I ever made. I never worked harder and was as happy for so little money in my life.”
Mays admits the first six months in Guam were pretty tough. “It’s a tough spot for spouse employment and I really missed the community I had in San Diego,” she said.
She wanted to recreate that community in Guam, so she started teaching on the installation and in parks — none of which could be a long-term solution due to permits and licenses.
Finding and developing community
Mays hooked up with another military spouse, who was teaching at a local CrossFit Gym. That spouse was leaving Guam, so Mays moved into her spot on the yoga deck there.
“I taught five days a week, hired another teacher, started programs like a yoga brunch, and eventually led some yoga retreats for the community.”
The population in Guam is mostly military, and the studio enjoyed a diverse customer base that included medical personnel, spouses, parents, and even some service members.
“It was a community that had military people in it but it wasn’t a military community,” Mays said. And that was appealing for so many.
Being in a local CrossFit gym, she was in a position to include the local population.
“Guam can be very separate, but the gym was about fostering community,” Mays said. One of the ways Mays connected on the ground was by working with a local business owner.
“I met Amanda as she walked into my restaurant on Guam to place a take-out order,” Brian Artero of Crust Pizzeria remembered. “We started talking and her yoga passion came up, we became friends. Amanda wanted to do something fresh and I think it was her idea to do a yoga brunch at my pizzeria.”
He was immediately struck by Mays’ “magnetic and infectious personality.” That’s what brought him to try yoga, a practice he has maintained since then.
“She made an impact on the island community quite quickly and interacted with so many people, and I am sure, improved the quality of their lives just by being a friend to them,” Artero said.
Building relationships across the Pacific
In addition to working with Artero for yoga brunch, Mays also connected with units to lead command PT, which is how she met Stephanie Strine, a Marine.
“We met in San Diego at a friend’s birthday party and bonded over the fact that we both taught at CorePower Yoga and stayed in contact after that,” Strine said.
They stayed in touch when Mays moved to Guam.
“I looked up to her creativity, honesty, and vulnerability from afar while she was in Guam and was (secretly) hoping she would return to San Diego so I could take her classes/workshops and learn from her!”
Upon her move back to San Diego, Strine had Mays come teach yoga to her Marines on Marine Corps Air Station Miramar.
“She led the most accessible, multi-level class that I could have hoped for; my bosses and Marines alike raved about the class. She made us feel refreshed, light, and empowered; additionally, she shared with us that she was missing the community that she had in Guam which shows that Amanda not only created a network while overseas but even more so, a lifelong community in her time living in Guam,” Strine said.
Benefits of yoga for military members
Yoga is known for its many benefits for all fitness levels, like improving body image and lowering cholesterol and blood pressure. It can also have a positive impact on overall fitness, according to Harvard Health Publications, in areas of muscle strength, flexibility and endurance. For a demographic, such as the military, whose career depends on PFT scores, yoga offers a unique activity with promising results.
In addition to private studios, like Pineapple Yoga Retreat, LLC, installations offer group fitness opportunities with yoga classes. Service members and military dependents can find current class times on the local installation website.
Mays has set her sights on adapting her business to the needs of California’s clientele.
“I’ve been trying to figure out how to recreate that [the community she had in Guam] here. The market is different in the wellness industry here in San Diego,” she said.
In the meantime, she’s been looking for a physical space for her business so she can establish a weekly schedule, recreate her yoga brunches, and start working on retreats.
“It’s hard to feel like you have a space where you can be around like-minded people, even somewhere as big as San Diego,” Mays explained.
Though she knows staying in one place isn’t a given in the military community, Mays hopes to be able to stay as long as possible once opening a location in San Diego. She wants to establish roots and continue to be a part of the community, even after she moves.
“Every time we leave, I want Pineapple Yoga to stay and contribute to the local community — even if I’m not physically there to do it.”