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HOW DO I REACH YOU? - BY Claire Van Guse

Updated: April 2, 2021

WE TRAIN… WE TRAIN… WE TRAIN… not just for the sake of doing something but we train for the “big one.”

We are perfectionists and we are “Fixers”. We see a problem and we want to fix it. We want to help. We want to “do it right.” If any of this hits home for you, then you, are who I am addressing. You get it. You don’t just do it because it’s the right thing to do, but because you couldn’t live with yourself, if you did anything else. You’re a first responder. Please keep reading.

So when do we “help ourselves”? Fix ourselves? As first responders we are willing to risk our lives to save others. Run into a burning building, repel off of a cliff, dive into freezing cold waters, work in disaster zones and environments to help and save others… And so I ask you when is it our time to save ourselves?


I am a first responder and take my career very seriously.

As a FireFighter I know that my co-workers also take their career, this responsibility and the trust instilled in us, to heart. We take pride in being the best we can be. We stay at the station overnight, away from our families and loved ones, in order to take care of the public when they need us most.

As times are changing we are seeing more and more stress and health related issues all over the world. As much as it is not easy to talk about, we are also seeing more and more suicides as first responders. We are out there on the front lines trying to help everyone else before ourselves. While many people in the fire service are suffering from sleep deprivation, stress, overworked bodies, over stressed psyches and depression. We don’t even want to admit it to ourselves. Because we can’t have a problem, we can’t show weakness, we are the ones who take care of everyone else, we are the “Fixers”. It’s time to admit that all this exposure overflows and runs into our personal lives. Even the most balanced, grounded and happiest Firefighters have to admit that we all need a “reset” at times.


What if I told you that there are tangible solutions for these real issues?

What if I told you that it only takes a few minutes to “re-set” and take your brain from a chemical place of FIGHT or FLIGHT and de-escalate to place of REST and DIGEST… (But you need to have the tools to know how to do it… enter Yoga For First responders = YFFR can give us these tools.)

What if I told you yoga could help you literally, physically CHANGE YOUR BRAIN make up? I know… sounds impossible!? Research this book Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain by Begley to find out how.

What if you could spend 10 min a day and you would be guaranteed less degenerative disorders, cardiovascular disease, neurological disorders and less stress?

Really just live a happier, healthier life. Who wouldn’t want that? Right?


How do I reach YOU? You are my brothers, my sisters…

The ones I sit and drink coffee with in the mornings as we share “War Stories” over the epic fires and gnarly MVA’s we handled last night. YOU- are my brothers and sisters, the ones I have looked up to for advice in life’s most challenging and trying times. YOU are the brothers and sisters I have cried on the shoulders of when we lost “one of our own.” You’ve always taken care of me. You’ve pushed me to be my best self and shown me that I can and I will. I can and I will- period.

So why do we put up such walls? Why do we put up these roadblocks?


You have the ability to grow, to change, try something new and be the one to make a statement with your actions. Isn’t it time to show your brothers and sisters a new way to be courageous? A new type of brave. We need to do a better job of taking care of ourselves and each other in the fire house.

Wouldn’t it be amazing as fire fighters to have a tool set to combat the cumulative effects of what we see and do on a daily basis? Have science and tangible methods in our corner to help us actually succeed at the “Healthy in, healthy out” goal?

Don’t you want mastery over your mind and optimal functioning of your entire psychophysiological system? In other words, control over how the things that come at us in life affect us mentally and physically.

Yoga has long been associated with increased well-being and reducing stress… but how? Research has found that this mind-body practice improves mood and helps with depression, diminishes stress, and can even reduce chronic pain.

“Physical fitness is not a luxury for law enforcement officers & (fire fighters); it’s a basic requirement if they are to become emotional survivors.”

– Kevin Gilmartin, Emotional Survival for Law Enforcement

What if yogic poses like downward facing dog improved your health by adjusting tiny chemical tags on your DNA? A calmer, relaxed mind after an intense yoga session goes hand-in-hand with better health and a reduced chance of disease. Epigenetics, and the study of biological changes that occur due to different chemical marks that alter our genes, is showing that the beneficial effects of yoga reach deep into our minds and bodies, and even touch the very code of life that makes us who we are.

Yoga has been proven to improve various body systems, from digestion to nerve health. Some of this may be explained in the recent findings on the epigenetics and yoga practices.

Yoga’s capacity to modify genetic activity is one more demonstration of the benefits of these age-old practices, and supports the repeated claim that yoga extends both health-span and lifespan. Want to live a longer healthier life after retirement with your family? Try yoga. What if you tried yoga and liked it?


So brothers and sisters reading this, here’s my challenge to you. BE THE CHANGE. Not only for yourselves, but for your families, your co-workers and your co-worker’s families. We want to boast this “Strong Brotherhood” but what is any of this, if we don’t take care of ourselves and each other along the way? My challenge to you is if you're reading this now, sign up for a YFFR class, pass this message on to a coworker who will sign up for a YFFR class and if you’ve already begun to be part of the movement for a healthier Fire Service don’t let down, remember that

“just as ripples spread out when a single pebble is dropped into the water, the actions of individuals can have far-reaching effects.”


Written by YFFR Instructor Clair Van Guse

Claire is a firefighter from WA who attended YFFR Instructor School 009 in Seattle in 2019. This is a passionate call to action for all first responders to take responsibility for their own health and well being by utilizing yoga and the YFFR protocol.

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