Encouraging Restorative Exercise in Your Agency
Date:Monday April 3, 2023
The research is clear: restorative exercises, especially yoga, are incredibly beneficial on a variety of fronts. First responders, in particular, stand to benefit from restorative exercise in so many ways: these exercises can calm the mind and make it easier to get restful sleep, can stretch and tone muscles in ways that insulate against injury, and help practitioners feel energetic and ready to begin their workdays.
There are specific Yoga for First Responders practices and valuable non-yoga stretching and flexibility work that can have a very positive impact.
Ways You Can Encourage Restorative Exercise:
- Talk With a Local Trauma-Responsive Yoga Instructor: In many areas, you’ll be able to find a yoga instructor who has taken coursework to help them not trigger post traumatic stress during yoga sessions. You can also talk to local yoga schools to see if any of their instructors have first-responder work experience, which often goes a long way to building rapport with fellow first responders. See if they have tips for getting started, and invite them to teach an optional class for your team.
- Discuss the Importance of Warm-Up and Cool-Down Work: For high-performing athletes in your agency, the importance of warm-up and cool-down exercises are already probably well-established, but specifically addressing these parts of typical workouts is a way to introduce some restorative exercise. In fact, many of the stretches, smooth movements, and twists involved in a warm-up or cool-down for a whole-body workout are variants on yoga poses! This can be a great starting point with teams that are a bit hesitant about yoga.
- Have Your Team Try A Yoga For First Responders Video or Virtual Class: If your first responders aren’t interested in an in-person yoga class, ask them to each try a Yoga for First Resonders video or virtual class where they can workout on their own. Address it in an upcoming meeting, asking how it made their muscles feel and whether it helped with sleep or energy levels. Encourage team members to keep trying these videos and classes, even if they don’t want to do them together, and to report back on more long-term impacts on their work and well-being.
- The main Yoga for First Responders page is a great place to start if you aren’t very familiar with this program already. This organization pioneered using yoga techniques to help reduce stress in first responders, and offers material tailored to a variety of specializations including law enforcement, fire, military and more.
- Consider whether your team struggles more with stress and burnout, tight muscles from exertion, insomnia, or another physical or mental ailment. This can guide you into which kinds of restorative exercise to suggest. Yoga Journal’s pages on specific kinds of yoga can be very helpful in that regard.
- Help leadership and team members see restorative practices as a priority through an understanding of the susceptibility of first responders to PTSD and depressive disorders. This is a proactive way to address the rigors of the job, which are only just being fully studied.