By Shannon McQuaide
When Patanjali wrote the Yoga Sutras more than 2,000 years ago, I don’t think he envisioned firefighters rolling out their yoga mats in front of shinny engines and trucks. However, FireFlex Yoga teachers in partnership with a growing number of fire departments are updating stereotypical thinking about who practices yoga (think: thin, predominantly female, white, and with disposable income). And today’s firefighters are coming to the mat to experience benefits than go way beyond gaining flexibility.
Beginning in 2014 with a landmark study funded by the National Institute of Health, we now know that trauma-informed yoga practices can reduce the symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder.1 With fire departments prioritizing behavioral health initiatives, my role as a FireFlex Yoga instructor is also shifting. Although I still spend the majority of my time teaching yoga classes inside firehouse day rooms and apparatus bays, increasingly I find myself in conversation with fire chiefs explaining the mental health benefits of yoga.
To increase our reach and make the benefits of yoga practice accessible to more firefighters outside of the San Francisco Bay Area, we are developing online training programs and yoga classes. This online program is in its infancy. Through your feedback, customized yoga classes for firefighters can become the cornerstone of fitness programs and behavioral health initiatives.
The following video is one of the first classes we taped last month in Santa Cruz, CA. I am the teacher at the front of the class. The students include FireFlex Yoga instructors Carol Day and Michelle Garcia and my dear friends and fellow yogis Olivia Barney and Fabienne Rodent.
How to Practice
- Watch the entire class once through.
- Determine if the class is appropriate for you.
- Gather the necessary yoga equipment.
- Pay attention to your breath and any physical sensations produced by the postures and movements.
- Rest for 1-2 minutes at the end of the class.
1. van der Kolk, Bessel A., et al. “Original Research Yoga as an Adjunctive Treatment for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: A Randomized Controlled Trial.” J Clin Psychiatry 75.6 (2014): e559-e565.
Shannon McQuaide is a registered yoga instructor with Yoga Alliance and the founder of the FireFLEX YogaTM program. FireFLEX Yoga was developed through her work with the San Jose (CA) Fire Department, where she continues to lead FireFLEX Yoga classes. She is a certified functional movement trainer and has a master of arts degree in leadership and psychology. Shannon@fireflexyoga.com http://www.fireflexyoga.com.