Why All First Responders Should Try Yoga
And How to Get Started
Although yoga has become significantly more mainstream in the last decade, many first responders
don’t realize how much of a positive impact the practice could have on both their professional and
Once considered something “crunchy” or only for wealthy suburbanites, whole yoga practices have been developed to help first responders learn how to better respond to stress, make informed decisions under pressure, improve personal relationships, sleep deeper, and even live longer.
WHY YOGA IS MADE FOR FIRST RESPONDERS
According to Olivia Kvitne, founder of Yoga for First Responders, yoga is a practice inherently designed
for high-pressure, high-risk jobs such as law enforcement and military personnel.
According to an article Kvitne wrote for Police1, “the original and true intents of yoga are to obtain a mastery of the mind and achieve an optimal functioning of the entire being—from the subtle nervous system to the whole physical body.”
Mindfulness exercises, like yoga, have a proven effect on releasing stress from the body as well as improve decision-making and problem solving. And, through a consistent mindfulness practice, research proves it can decrease the risk of heart attack, stroke, chronic pain and inflammation, and improve mental health.
QUICK, EASY, AND PRIVATE
Part of yoga’s appeal is how truly simple starting a practice can be. Just three minutes of mindful
breathing can calm the nervous system.
And while you may be used to seeing more advanced poses, such as head and shoulder stands, these aren’t necessary for an impactful and positive practice.
Even better, yoga and breath work are both things that can be practiced in the privacy of your own home—no gym or public classes required if you don’t want them. And testing the waters is as simple as a few deep breaths.
TACTICAL BREATHWORK: NAVY SEAL APPROVED
Believe it or not, but Navy SEALs have actually been practicing mindful breathing as part of their training
for quite some time. A technique known as tactical breathing helps them to maintain calm and focus
even under extreme stress, such as combat.
The technique is simple: seal your lips and inhale and exhale only through your nostrils for a count of four during every inhale and every exhale. Place your hand on your stomach and focus on drawing and exhaling breath from deep in your belly, rather than from your chest.
Belly breathing stimulates your vagus nerve which calms your entire nervous system. Consider
doing this exercise for at least three to five minutes upon waking.
Over time, you will retrain your brain and body to naturally breathe deeper, thereby enjoying the benefits of belly breathing without even thinking about it!
SIMPLE POSES FOR STRESS RELIEF
If you are unfamiliar with yoga poses, getting started may feel intimidating or overwhelming. However,
starting can be as simple as performing a single pose for just a few minutes.
You’ll be pleasantly surprised how each of the following exercises can relieve and restore your body. To get started, simply click on each pose to learn how to perform them correctly.
Child’s Pose: This restorative move offers a number of benefits, including relief from lower back pain,
increased circulation, improved digestion, and a calmer mind. With your forehead to the ground, you
shut out external stimuli, allowing you to more easily focus on taking deep, mindful breaths.
Legs Up the Wall: Another restorative move, Legs Up the Wall is most beneficial when performed before
bed. It’s an easy way to get the benefits of an inverted pose (such as an advanced headstand) witho
being advanced. Not only does it provide relief for a fatigued lower body, but it has a deeply calming
effect. This is because it moves you out of “fight or flight” (your sympathetic nervous system) to “rest
and digest” (your parasympathetic nervous system). Breathing deeply in this pose for a few minutes will
allow your body to calm down and sleep more deeply.
Supported Fish Pose: Like it or not, most of us are hunched over a computer or other electronic device,
leading to tension in the front body. Supported Fish Pose helps open the chest and upper body, as well
as improves posture. While you can use a yoga block or bolster for support, you can easily substitute a
rolled-up blanket or towel. Performing the supported version of this pose is extremely important for
anyone who has a neck injury or chronic pain, as the unsupported version can strain the head and neck.
HOW TO GET STARTED
While a quick internet search will yield you plenty of yoga content, we’ve included a few great resources
geared for first responders and beginners in
- Yoga for First Responders Official Website
- YouTube channel Yoga for Police Officers
- Yoga with Adriene
These is a great way to get you familiar with yoga concepts as it offers a variety of programs as well as one-off videos exploring stress relief, anger release, and body awareness