By Claire Diab and Dennis Boyle
We all sit at a desk at one point or another. As firefighters, not only are you climbing stairs, crawling through spaces, and carrying heavy equipment and people, but you also have to fill out paperwork. Many of you have second jobs that most likely require your sitting at a desk. It is said, and there are many books written on it, that “the key to health and longevity is through a healthy spine.” Strengthening and lengthening the spine with an integrative yoga routine will help keep the spine strong, flexible, and healthy. Flexibility is a key component to short- and long-term health. Aerobic-centered workouts are an integral part of a balanced workout yet can neglect the musculoskeletal system, which can result in increased injuries to tendons and ligaments and in bone fractures.
As might be expected, firefighters are at increased risk of back injury compared to other professions secondary to rigorous physical requirements of the occupation. The International Association of Fire Fighters’ annual Death and Injury Survey reveals that sprains and strains routinely account for approximately 50 percent of all line-of-duty injuries and back injuries account for approximately 50 percent of all line-of-duty injury retirements each year. These injuries may result in significant lost time and medical expense. So let’s change these statistics by taking care of our spine. A healthy spine is the key to health and longevity while on the job and into retirement.
Here is a simple three- to five-minute routine that you can do at your desk, sitting at the side of your bed, or even on an airplane. Enjoy!
The Cat/ Dog Pose in Chair
Inhale Inhale Exhale Exhale
Back Bend Arms Up Back Bend Forward Bend
- Begin sitting in a chair with feet flat on the floor (Elevate feet with book or blocks so feet are planted firmly on the ground.)
- Clasp hands behind your head. Inhale. Inhale more as you extend arms up over head, pressing palms toward the sky, slightly arching your back.
- Exhale, bring hands behind your head, and exhale more, coming into a forward bend with hands behind your head; bring elbows to your thighs.
- Repeat sequence 6-9 times.
- If your shoulders are uncomfortable, unclasp your hands. Only brings arms up to a place of comfort.
- If your feet are not on the floor while sitting in the chair, place something sturdy underneath your feet such as a book or blocks.
- Improves posture.
- Lengthens and strengthens the spine.
- Strengthens the shoulders.
- Nourishes the thyroid gland.
- Massages internal abdominal muscles.
- Strengthens central nervous system.
Claire Diab is an internationally recognized Yoga therapist. She is the director of the Yoga Program for the Chopra Center founded by Dr. Deepak Chopra and Dr. David Simon. She is an adjunct professor of Asian Studies at Seton Hall University. She is the author of several books and DVDs on Yoga including “Yoga For Firefighters.”
Dennis Boyle is a retired fire director and acting chief with the West Orange (NJ) Fire Department. He was the recipient of the 1999 New Jersey Deputy Fire Chiefs “Fire Officer of the Year” award.