YOGA FOR FIRST RESPONDERS
OLIVIA KVITNE, FOUNDER
Olivia Kvitne, whose background involves yoga for veterans and active military personnel, founded Yoga for First Responders (YFFR) in 2013 to bring traumasensitive yoga and resiliency training to members of the Los Angeles Fire and Police Departments. From there, her efforts have expanded to include a wide range of classes and trainings for emergency personnel of all types.
Q & A
YOGA JOURNAL: Why did you decide to focus on first responders?
OLIVIA KVITNE: First responders see more trauma, loss, death, and destruction in one day—one shift—than you or I might see in our entire lives. The nervous system isn’t built for taking that much of a beating, and yoga is a beneficial tool for regulating it.
YJ: How do you customize your teaching for firefighters and police officers?
OK: The yoga we’re doing is traditional hatha yoga, but we’re branding it a little differently. What we call “tactical breathwork” is really pranayama, but we change the language. It’s nothing against Sanskrit; I love the Sanskrit language. But the question is: What’s going be more beneficial and get more people on board?
YJ: How did you prepare for working with this population?
OK: When I was developing this program, I did police ride-alongs and went through police academy training. I attended a fire academy, too, which involved doing live burns and fighting fire. I wanted to get as close as I could so I could feel what this population feels every day and understand what they need.