As a yoga instructor who works in public safety, Katie Carlson frequently chats with public safety professionals who are curious enough about yoga that they bring it up in conversation, quickly followed by the reason they have yet to give yoga a try.
Yoga Roadblocks is a series of blog posts that dives into and dismantles some of the most common reasons that individuals might not try yoga or begin a yoga practice.
Public safety employees who show interest in yoga, and the benefits they'd like to gain from a yoga practice - including processing stress, building resilience, and enhancing performance - may get stuck on the common "yoga roadblocks" we previously addressed: “I’m not flexible”, “I don’t have time”, or “It’s too expensive.”
Beyond these commonly used justifications, there are a few other factors that may keep a public safety professional from beginning a yoga practice:
Yoga Roadblock: “Dudes aren’t supposed to do yoga.”
In a survey I conducted with public safety professionals about yoga, one response that stood out to me was this: “As a guy, the one time I tried yoga I very much got the impression everyone thought I was just there to be a creep.”
The yoga industry in the west is deeply flawed.
In pop culture, yoga is often associated with thin, white, able-bodied, well-to-do women. But that image isn’t confined to the media. As the law enforcement officer reported to me in the survey, it felt that way in the yoga classroom too.
The bottom line is that if you don’t feel comfortable in a certain yoga setting, you are not the problem.
Luckily, there are yoga organizations, like Yoga For First Responders®, working to provide access to yoga practices that will make public safety professionals feel comfortable. YFFR Instructors undergo intensive training which includes classes on detailed cultural competency. It is YFFR's top priority to provide public safety professionals with yoga instruction that is job specific and culturally informed.
With the Yoga For First Responders® Cyber Academy, you can begin a yoga practice in the comfort of your own home, and you’ll be practicing right along with other public safety professionals. Video and audio drills range from only 3 minutes up to an hour - all for only $7.99/month.
Another way to practice yoga in an environment that makes you feel comfortable is to reach out to your Department’s Wellness or Peer Support Committee and request for your Department to make a yoga class available through a program such as Yoga For First Responders®.
Yoga Roadblock: “Is Yoga a Different Religion?”
First things first, yoga is not a religion. Yoga’s 4,000 year old history aligns with Hinduism, however, it is not one in the same.
I was grateful to go through my yoga teacher training with another student who was a mother, a small business owner, and a devout Christian. In our training, she would often ask questions about the meaning of sanskrit words like “namaste”, as well as practices and ideology associated with yoga. She mindfully, and respectfully, wanted to ensure that she would not say or do something that is contrary to her religious beliefs.
Yoga is a mental, physical, and spiritual practice.
Among its many definitions, the term "yoga" often translates to “unite”. So decide for yourself, what do you want to unite in your yoga practice? You can choose to unite your body and your breath in a yoga practice, or unite your mind and your breath in a breathing practice. And if you’d like to connect with something greater, be it God, your community, the Universe, or something specific to your religious beliefs, you can do that, too. My fellow student in teacher training was able to gracefully hold her religious beliefs alongside her yoga practice.
Yoga Roadblock: “First, I need to _________.”
You don’t have to lose weight, or give up a bad habit like smoking in order to begin a yoga practice. Much like the first “I’m not flexible” yoga roadblock we covered, all you need is to start where you are.
The Yoga For First Responders® curriculum is designed to help you process stress, build resilience, and enhance performance. These benefits can be extremely helpful on the job during a foot pursuit or a four-alarm fire. And they extend well into your home life, too.
There is no rule that says if you have bad habits, you can’t also practice yoga. We all have them! If you would like to make healthy changes in your life, building mental and physical resilience will undoubtedly help. Why not give yourself an effective outlet for stress? You will benefit from feeling more connected to your breath, mind, and body.
As we wind down this Yoga Roadblocks blog series, I hope that you have noted the resources at your disposal that can help you move those roadblocks right off to the side, just as you would on the job.
Yoga is for everyone, especially you. Give it a try, and start to reap the benefits today.
As B.K.S. Iyengar said:
“Change is not something that we should fear. Rather, it is something that we should welcome. For without change, nothing in this world would ever grow or blossom, and no one in this world would ever move forward to become the person they're meant to be.”