Yoga For First Responders Helps Those Who Risk Their Lives For Us

Bridge Poses for the brave

Feb 16, 2019

(Courtesy of Yoga For First Responders)

As police officers and firefighters work endlessly to protect our wellbeing, it only makes sense we--as part of the communities they serve--make sure they’re looking after themselves as well. Yoga instructor and journalist, Olivia Kvitne created Yoga for First Responders (YFFR) after helping veterans and military men and women work through their stress, seeing how the ancient practice mitigated their stress.

Her nonprofit expanded to the Los Angeles Fire Department and the Los Angeles Police Department, leading them in trauma­sensitive yoga and resiliency training, so they feel more prepared when dealing with the more emotionally draining aspects of their jobs.

Mead says she wanted to focus on those who witness traumas and still return to work the next day and the days after that. Although there are some great programs for veterans, first responders continue to stay in their jobs until they retire, seeing death, trauma, loss, and destruction, all before heading home and continuing to live their lives.

The Colorado native also sees the physical benefits of yoga: a decreased rate of depression, anxiety, and addiction. While beginning her initiative, Mead knew providing this training would help first responders handle the trauma in a healthier manner. To start, she led yoga classes every Tuesday and Thursday at the fire department, and it wasn’t long before the Los Angeles Police Department became interested in her program. While at first some of the men were skeptical about hitting the mat, Mead was able to convince them that mindfulness, movement, and breathing exercises would help them do their jobs more efficiently.

“Breath work helps CO2 tolerance in the body,” she Mead. “It means that while a firefighter’s air bottle normally lasts 15 minutes in action, we can make it last longer. Yoga strengthens the body and makes it more mobile which is very important for first responders, as their body is their tool—but the true essence of yoga is neurological training.”

Now, Yoga For First Responders works with 35 police and fire departments across the United States, including in Denver; Wichita, Kansas; and Lawrence, Massachusetts. Los Angeles Fire Department firefighter and Paramedic, Richard Senneff, says yoga helps him shut off and allow his body and mind to rest after work.

“Fire and EMS by its very nature is a zero to sixty kind of work. You can be in the station polishing a diamond plate and suddenly in you’re in a life and death incident. Hypervigilance is a very necessary state of awareness first responders carry with them at all times. It allows them to react quickly. You can’t go through hypervigilance 24/7, you need to be able to turn it off. Yoga gives you the tools, the ability to focus and concentrate, and shut off the hypervigilance if only for a while.”

Protecting those who protect and serve is a worthwhile cause anyone could get behind.

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REBECCA WOJNO, CONTRIBUTOR
Rebecca is passionate about reading, cooking, and learning about people doing good in the world. She especially loves writing about wellness, personal growth, and relationships.

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