Karma Yoga

firefightersNAVIGATING YOGA > NOURISH offers free yoga for firefighters

It is safe to say that NOURISH is a popular yoga studio around here. From their reasonable monthly membership of unlimited yoga, to their ongoing massage and informational nutrition consultations, it’s easy to see why the good karma has come back around in form of local newspaper readers voting them the best yoga studio for the past several years. Starting on May 15, NOURISH plans to give back, targeting their effort at firefighters.

From May 15 to June 15, “firefighters from anywhere get a free month of yoga to celebrate and thank them for putting themselves on the line for us all,” according to the NOURISH website.

Needless to say, firefighters are involved in high-risk situations that can create a lot of stress.  Yoga, says NOURISH co-owner Jocelyn Dubin, is a great way to help relieve that stress.

“The leading cause for firefighters’ death in the field is cardiovascular disease,” Dubin says, explaining that firefighters can die while on the job due to stress-induced strokes or heart attacks. “Firefighters have to go to ‘rehab’ after each fire that they fight in order to recover from the stress of fighting a fire. In ‘rehab’ they get their vital signs checked. They are not allowed to leave rehab until their vital signs show that the acute stress of fighting the fire has passed.” The signs that the stress has died down include blood pressure returning to normal, pulse decreasing to a healthy resting rate, and so on.

Dubin hopes that NOURISH’s offer of free yoga for firefighters will aid in the process,  “and give them a way to mitigate the intense stress they experience on the job.”

The ways in which yoga can be helpful are myriad: Through stretching, meditation and, ultimately, the overall relaxing benefits yoga has to offer, firefighters may hopefully feel a little more supported in mind and body when that bell rings for emergency action.

In addition to stress relief, NOURISH yoga teacher Roxanne Gingery says that certain postures and stretches will be particularly beneficial to firefighters.  “Everyone can benefit from yoga, but I think, for firefighters, the postures that help bring balance to the body—such as twists and [postures] that open the hamstrings and low back—can be particularly beneficial,” says Gingery. “Most of the firefighters I know are very tight in their hamstrings, so seated and standing forward bends can also be so helpful.” People who have jobs that involve carrying heavy equipment typically get stronger on one side of their body. Yoga postures that involve twists, as Gingery pointed out,  can help bring balance to the body. Twists help to neutralize the spine and bring you back to center in a physical (and emotional) way.shanie

Dubin—the brains behind this event—was initially inspired to help firefighters by a devoted yoga student of NOURISH named Kim Borreson. “We needed some place that was not only a place for exercise, but a place where we could decompress from the stress of our careers,” Borreson says of his and a friend’s experience at NOURISH. “NOURISH is a sanctuary that works not only our body, but [also] our soul and mind.” Dubin saw how Borreson benefited from yoga in both his professional and personal life, and dreamed up this event to bring that same opportunity to every firefighter from Santa Cruz and beyond.  

When a yoga studio reaches out like this, we can recognize it as an act of seva or karma yoga. Many people associate yoga with the postures and perhaps the breath that goes along with meditation. Without getting too deep into it, those are only three components of yoga as a whole. When yoga is in act of seva, it’s an act of selfless service and virtuous action.  Of course, it may be difficult at first to see any random acts of kindness as an act of kindness without motive. But when we examine that it’s within human nature to be selfish, it is also within our nature to care. Karma yoga preserves this act of caring through giving back and the sheer joy of doing so. It can be argued that any real progress from yoga comes from selfless service—the idea that when the ego is acknowledged and then taken out of the equation, we can receive the wisdom, light and knowledge yoga really has to offer from beyond our asana practice. In this moment, let’s acknowledge Dubin for her inspiration to give back to others, specifically to give back to firefighters, who give the community so much. Bravo Jocelyn for reminding me what yoga is truly all about.

The month of yoga begins on May 15 and lasts until June 15. A firefighter’s free month can begin at any point between those two dates.  Visit nourishsantacruz.com for more information.

Shandara Gill, or Shanie, is a yoga teacher in the greater Santa Cruz area. She teaches more than 10 classes a week at the Westside, downtown, and Cabrillo Toadal Fitness locations. For more information about Shanie and her classes, you can visit toadalfitness.com or email her at [email protected]

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