Why yoga is right for the fire service

Like strength training, diet and rest, yoga is 'prehab' that allows firefighters perform better and spend less time in rehab

I never thought I would see the day when yoga and fire service are in the same sentence. Yet, the Alexandria Fire Department (Va.) incorporates yoga in its fire academy.

As a result, the number of injuries in its academy classes has decreased. There have been other departments and firefighters who have incorporated and touted the adoption of yoga in the fire service.

How does yoga fit into rehab? As I have discussed in previous columns, rehab is not just for the incident scene.

Rather, rehab is a constant process preparing us to function most effective on the incident scene.

Peak performance
At an incident scene, rehab is established. Incident rehab is similar to a sporting event where personnel are given a chance to rest and hydrate in order to return to active play. The sooner they can regain their normal status, the sooner they can get back in the game.

However, athletes do not rely on rehab to be able to do the job. They train and condition constantly so they are able to perform at a higher level when in the game and get their body back to a normal status quicker when they come out of the game. Firefighters are no different.

Yoga provides a long list of psychological, physical, physiological and biomedical benefits. Green Med Info, which is the medline of alternative medicine, cites more than 70 research studies demonstrating the benefits of yoga. These articles are not opinions, rather the research that supports the benefits.

Reduced injuries
Alexandria Fire realized the benefits of incorporating yoga into its academy program. Previously the injury rate was high in the academy. Incorporating yoga in the physical fitness portion of the academy decreased injuries to virtually nil. Keep in mind, like anything else you have to make the commitment and stick to the commitment in order to appreciate the benefits.

Yoga focuses on breathing, which enables personnel to control their breathing. This is an important component on the incident scene, especially when using a SCBA.

In addition, yoga focuses on strength, balance and flexibility. All four of these components improve our ability as a firefighter to function on and off the incident scene.

There are different types of yoga. You can become familiar by clicking on any of the following to gain a better understanding of the different types of yoga.

As with many things we set out to do, you need to do your research and come up with the best solution for you. Incorporating yoga into your physical fitness program can provide excellent benefits.

At your next training session, bring in a yogi (this is not Yogi Bear, rather yogi is the practitioner of yoga) to provide an overview of the benefits of yoga. Also, have that person do an overview of each type of yoga and how to start.

Yoga will provide the benefits to your personnel to enable them to perform their job as a firefighter at a higher level. Incorporate today and see the benefits tomorrow.

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