The last place we might expect to see a first responder is on a yoga mat. But that’s exactly where many firefighters, police officers, and paramedics across the country are finding relief from the stress of their jobs, thanks to a program called Yoga for First Responders (YFFR).
For yoga instructor Olivia Mead, the benefits of this ancient practice were obvious for those who give assistance to the public. She had some experience working with military vets who were burdened by PTSD and believed that yoga could provide mental health training before sending these first responders into difficult situations.
“There are lots of yoga programs for veterans but they are all focused on after their tours of duty,” Mead said. “[First responders] go to work and see trauma, death, destruction, loss and the worst part of humanity, then they have to go home and be a mother or a father, a husband or a wife.” According to the Ruderman Family Foundation, first responders had a higher rate of suicide in 2017 than those who were killed in the line of duty.
Even still, it wasn’t an easy sell among many officers and firefighters. But when Mead kept showing up with the yoga mats and then added data to prove how this practice could help them do their jobs better, she found more participants at each class.
For example, Mead said, “Breathwork helps CO2 tolerance in the body. 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……..”
We salute all first responders for the jobs they do as well as YFFR for helping our police officers, firefighters, and others take a proactive approach to mental health.
Cover Photo: Screengrab, YFFR