The inspiration for FireFlex Yoga is a combination of my experience practicing and teaching yoga over the past twenty years as well as being the daughter, niece and sister of firefighters.
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Origins of FireFlex Yoga
My father who was a firefighter in the San Jose Fire Department for 34 years and loved his job. If firefighting had been easier on my dad’s body I am sure he would continued on for several more years. But he was forced to retire in 2001 because of a heart condition and several bulging disks in his cervical spine. Firefighting also took a toll on my dad psychologically, that had a lasting impact on our family.
I started experimenting with vegetarianism, meditation and yoga in college. My relationship to yoga practice grew through a year long stay in South East Asia and India. When I returned to the states I started practicing and teaching which I have continued to do on and off over the past 20 years.
In 2014 I was pursuing a Master’s Degree in Leadership. In order to complete my studies and earn a degree, I needed to design and lead a project that had a positive social impact on my community. When I looked around in my community, one of the few places that had not already been infiltrated by yoga were fire departments.
My sister Tracey who was a firefighter in San Jose at the time, secured the first pilot program. I took firefighters through the functional movement screen and a stress assessment. From this initial data I customized twelve classes which I delivered to firefighters on-duty and in the apparatus bay at Station 9. Coincidentally the same fire station my dad retired from a decade earlier.
The Initial Program
This initial program was a lot of fun. To my surprise and delight the firefighters loved it! Because the feedback was very positive and I really enjoyed the experience, I volunteered to do a second pilot program with a different group of firefighters. Following another two months of classes I collected data and listen to the firefighters share their feedback. Both the quantitative and qualitative data was inspiring.
Although I had no intention of starting and building a yoga program for firefighters it turned out that these initial pilot programs were the beginning of FireFlex Yoga. At the time it was called FLEX Wellness. I received my master’s degree in 2014, and after presenting the quantitative data to the San Jose Fire Department, they hired to me to deliver this program to the whole department.
I continue to reproduce the same quantitative and qualitative data in department after department. The program is making a significant difference in the lives of firefighters, and at the point I cannot imagine myself doing anything else. I get to teaching yoga which I love for firefighters who I adore. It’s been an incedible experience.
The mission of FireFlex Yoga is to help our first responders thrive in all areas of their life. We do that in a number of ways: we bring the mindfulness practices of yoga and meditation to support our first responder’s mind and body.