Welcome to our new website!
Nov. 16, 2021

Why Is Yoga So Important For 1st Responders- Oliva Mead

If you find it hard to manage stress, Olivia Mead, Founder and CEO of YogaShield® Yoga For First Responders® (YFFR), is here to help you. Olivia will teach us about flow state and mindfulness through yoga and the importance of proactive resilience training for first responders. Also, she will introduce us to the Cyber Academy App in which offers short, on-demand classes training in tactical breath work, physical drills, and resetting the neurological system.

If you find it hard to manage stress, Olivia Mead, Founder and CEO of YogaShield® Yoga For First Responders® (YFFR), is here to help you. Olivia will teach us about flow state and mindfulness through yoga and the importance of proactive resilience training for first responders. Also, she will introduce us to the Cyber Academy App which offers short, on-demand classes training in tactical breath work, physical drills, and resetting the neurological system.


In this episode, you will learn:

  • Why yoga is not just about stretching and chilling out;
  • Why do we find ourselves, especially first responders, stressing out in bed over the stupidest thing or the previous call we had;
  • What's the toll on the body and mind when your nervous system is always in heighten level;
  • How does yoga help us to enter the "flow state of the mind" and what does it do with our nervous system;
  • Why proper breathing is important and how to make it a habit

Cyber Academy App 

Use code Enduring to avail Cyber Academy for $4 instead of $7.99

Yoga for First Responders

Host Information
Your host Jerry D. Lund can be reached at 801-376-7124 or email at enduringthebdage@gmail.com or voice message use the icon microphone at www.enduringthebadgepodcast.com. Please feel free to give my information to anyone that might be feeling down or anyone you would like to be on the podcast. Please subscribe to the podcast and leave a review wherever you listen to your podcast.  If you like the podcast please share it and join the online community at www.instagram.com/enduringthebadgepodcast.

Reach out to Olivia now. Don't forget to listen to our other episodes!


Everyday Heroes Podcast Network  0:00  
This podcast is part of the Everyday Heroes Podcast Network, the network for first responders and those who support them.

Jerry Dean Lund  0:08  
Hi, everyone! Welcome to this week's episode of Enduring the Badge Podcast. I'm your host, Jerry Dean Lund. And I don't want you to miss an upcoming episode. So please hit that subscribe button. And while your phones out, please do me a favor and give us a review on iTunes or Apple podcasts. It says, Hey, this podcast has a great message and we should send it out to more people. So please take that 30 seconds to a minute to do that review. And just maybe by doing that, it will push this up into someone's podcast feed that really needs this message. Now let's jump into this next episode with my very special guest, Olivia Mead. How you doing Olivia?

Olivia Mead  0:37  
I'm great. I'm really happy to be here to talk with you today.

Jerry Dean Lund  0:40  
I'm really happy that you could have some time to talk to me. I know you've been busy with everything going on in life in general. And then you just took part in a summit.

Olivia Mead  0:52  
Yeah, so I was part of the global summit for First Responder Resilience. And that was online. A lot is online nowadays, obviously. But also taking part in the in person conferences that are back up and running. Yeah, so a lot going on, which is awesome. Right? It's all of it is about proactive wellness, which is huge. And keeping all of us busy, which is a really good sign.

Jerry Dean Lund  1:18  
Right. Right. I, if you're like me, I love so much the in person over the online stuff. But I mean, there's a time and a place for but hopefully we can get back to some more in person stuff. Tell the audience a little bit about yourself.

Olivia Mead  1:33  
Yeah, so I'm a yoga instructor. I've been a yoga instructor since 2003 so 18 years. And I've been teaching first responders exclusively for the past eight years, and probably veterans and military for the past 10 years. I live in Colorado, but I started the program, first responders while I was living in Los Angeles, and then I moved to Iowa and everyone thought, well, Iowa is not gonna want what you have to sell. So, but it turns out that firefighters, police officers, paramedics, dispatchers, everyone in Iowa doing this job has the same needs, as those in LA doing this job. In fact, probably even some different ones, because I started teaching rural fire departments when I first moved to Iowa. And what's interesting about those mainly volunteer small fire departments, is it's very, very likely they'll be responding to a call on someone that they know. So that's a whole other other layer of stressors. So it really took off when I was in Iowa, I now live in Colorado, and I founded yoga for first responders as a nonprofit organization. And we train instructors, those who are first responders with no yoga experience of civilian yoga instructors who have no idea what it's like to be in public safety, we marry the two together. And we have, gosh, I just got the number recently, you know, a couple 100 instructors across the country. And I got the numbers from September, we reached over 3,000 first responder participants around the country in our classes. So doing the work.

Jerry Dean Lund  3:20  
Yeah, that's awesome. I think that is a little bit funny. You know, you're traveling around a little bit in like, oh, Iowa. Yeah, no, but you're right. But the, it's, the job is pretty much the job wherever we go, except for in those rural places where they are gonna respond on to people they know, and which is a lot harder, right? It's like an emotionally hard, harder to respond on some of the, you know,

Olivia Mead  3:42  
Yeah, absolutely. And I also think, kind of the feeling that I got too, is people are making assumptions. So rural fire departments, they're not going to want anything having to do with wellness, or whatever. And so they maybe they get overlooked, or we're looking at the bigger, you know, departments that might be sexier to work with. But honestly, the those in the smaller departments, they're wanting the tools, and they're needing the tools like everyone else, and they would like to be acknowledged as well. So we were thinking about wellness or things that are different, culturally, to not overlook those who truly could use the resource.

Jerry Dean Lund  4:23  
Now, I think that's a great point that you brought up, that they do often get overlooked in the majority of the fire service in itself is volunteer as the numbers go. So and I think they do. They're very passionate about their being a volunteer and do want those tools so probably could make it sometimes a little bit easier teaching those types of departments.

Olivia Mead  4:46  
Yeah, and I find the same thing with dispatchers because they're also often overlooked. I mean, just recently they started being classified as first responders rather than, you know, admin basically. When when they're honestly the first first responders, right? They're the ones that literally pick up the phone. And so we have dispatched programs to and, and they're just so I could tell that they're grateful and they're hungry for resources to have them continue the job in a sustainable way. I mean, there's you probably in every branch of public safety, there's that passion when you go into it, that burns out, and then you're just collecting a paycheck, right, and dealing with stress and trauma. So anything that keeps you really into the job that you went into for a reason, you know, I think they're, they're grateful for.

Jerry Dean Lund  5:41  
Yeah, and I think dispatchers, and even those on patrol and stuff, when you're stuck in like a fixed position, you know, at a console for dispatching or in a in a, you know, patrol car riding around, that's got to put a certain kind of strain on your body and itself.

Olivia Mead  5:57  
Mm hmm. Absolutely. Yeah, they're all there many layers of, you know, I kind of, I compare the tools that we use in yoga, to, you know, maintaining your oral hygiene, like brushing your teeth, right? Every day, we start drinking coffee, and then eating, and then this and that, and totally dysregulate, our oral hygiene on different levels, and then we regulate it afterwards. So the job has many different ways of dysregulating your system, from the sitting positions to dealing with people internal and external, you know, and, and more and more, and there needs to be a tool to regulate yourself after so many layers of dysregulation.

Jerry Dean Lund  6:41  
Yeah, let's talk about that, too. Let's talk about yoga for first responders. Let's dive down into that a little bit and talk.

Olivia Mead  6:50  
Yeah, so a lot of, I'm guessing, I'm assuming I'm generalizing that all of your audience right now might be hearing the word yoga. And either hopefully, they're not turning off the podcast right now. But even if they're keeping it on, maybe they're like, I gotta see what she's got to say about this, there is a very common misunderstanding about what yoga looks like and what it's for. And that misunderstanding is that yoga is to stretch your body, to put your body in different positions and stretch, and to chill out, then out and relax. And the pictures we have of marketing in the west of yoga, you know, really exemplifies that. But honestly, the true intention of yoga that the true intention that was created 5000 years ago, which is how long yoga has been around and all these ancient texts, is actually a tool to and a training, to master your mind, and create optimal functioning of your psycho physiological system, meaning mind, body, mind, body, nervous system, the whole package. Right? So yoga is optimizing your level of functioning and every single layer that you have. And think about, you know, the mind is extremely powerful. And I can give you some examples later about how powerful the mind is. But we have we've, we've gotten tools to train our body, you there's lots of, you know, training for tactical skills, but the most important tool that you have is your mind, and that is left untrained. And when something that powerful is left untrained, its owned you, your victim to it. You know, I mean, how many times have we not been able to fall asleep at night because of our mind is worrying, you know, and whatever the mind is worrying about. That's what the nervous system responds to. You might be nice and safe in your cozy bed, but you're thinking about, maybe the difficult call you had your nervous system is responding to that call, not the current circumstance of you and your cozy bed. So we have to have a training tool to whip this mind into shape. And also make sure that our mental body physical body, neurological body, emotional bodies are all at tip top shape. This is for everyone. This is just a training to be human. But for those in a profession, that is not normal need to have this film, almost as a no, not even almost I'm going to be blunt here. It should be required.

Jerry Dean Lund  9:29  
Yeah. Yeah. I agree with you. I mean, there are these times I'm in bed and my mind is obsessing about some of the stupidest things, let alone calls and the stresses of the job and stuff like that. And right. That's probably fairly common for people I would imagine in the first responder world. Is that what you find?

Olivia Mead  9:50  
Yeah, I mean, it is it's sort of a human condition. But I think also probably even more so for those that are first responders and public safety because the nervous system is also up level that always in a slight, you know, activation maybe even more than slight. So everything is going to be sort of a step up, there's never really what what one may consider, okay, I'm baseline that the baseline is still in an activated state right? I didn't even realize it or not. So there's never really that ability to truly recover. Because you're never really coming down all the way back to baseline. Because to be in baseline, you have to be in rest and digest, you have to have your guard down, you have to have no feeling of threat. And when you're encountering threat after threat after threat, whether real or perceived. And this is important because as soon as you go off to a call, or you you stop a car, you don't know what you're going to get that unknown is a perceived threat. And so your nervous system is going to go into threat mode. And when you do that over and over and over again, it stays there, it gets stuck there. And so everything else is going to have a heightened, you know, a feeling or results, you know, that happens to you because you are at a higher level of activation.

Jerry Dean Lund  11:17  
Yeah. And clearly, that's not the way we want to live.

Olivia Mead  11:22  
No, in fact, it's the opposite of living. Because when you're in that state you your visceral organs and your immune function and your digestion all back off so that resources can go to your survival. Pupils dilate, blood vessels constrict, heart rate goes up, blood and energy goes to the muscles and the limbs you can fight or flee. And so it's okay for like 30 seconds one minute when you need to, you know, actually deal with a threat. But you have to be in that mode constantly is literally shutting down the essential organs you need to live, which is why we're seeing those stats of you know, people dying five years after retirement. I mean, you're you're killing your insides. So it's not even sometimes I find that when we're talking about wellness and stuff. It's it's gets stuck in this ethereal conceptual kind of like, oh, this would be a nice idea. Not realizing like, no, it's necessary, literally to stay alive. So let's give it more of its due.

Jerry Dean Lund  12:33  
And that's a part of our problem, right? We're not giving more of its due we're just kind of we know it's there maybe and we should focus on a little bit more but we don't. I kind of want to talk to you bring up a one other thing. So we talked about the toll on the on the body from lay in that heightened state. But what's the toll on the mind? Our uncontrolled mind? Because I'm, I'm totally with you, like, if we don't control our mind or teach your mind to do things it's running away doing who knows what?

Olivia Mead  13:00  
Yeah. So there are a couple ways that you can tangibly see this happen. First is in the area of the brain that is doing the thinking that has the hands on the wheels in the in the driver's seat, when we are able to truly use our cognitive functioning, make decisions, communicate clearly understand contextual factors and respond accordingly, that's the prefrontal cortex, which I like to refer to as Bruce Banner. If anyone is a superhero, fan comic books, Bruce Banner run in the ship, right? Calm, controlled, knowledgeable. And that's the part of the brain you would like to use during an emergency. Right? You would, I would hope that when someone comes to help me, they're thinking clearly. And then there's the amygdala and the amygdala is the Incredible Hulk, it's, it's just mad, and it wants to survive, and will do anything to survive. And it's throwing punches, doesn't know if it's a good guy or a bad guy, but it's throwing punches to survive. So the amygdala part of the brain is not making sound decisions. It's saying sort of survive at all costs, even if you have to punch that guy in the face or whatever, right? So when we are when we experience cumulative stress, and by the way, cumulative stress has the same effect on your system as a traumatic event. So we're also talking about wellness and maybe critical incident stress management roles. How about these really big, bad things a public safety sees, but the body is actually built to endure something of that nature, right? We have a nervous system that actually uses the symptoms of post traumatic stress to get itself back together. It's only when those symptoms last longer than six weeks it's considered an injury. Okay, let's not even go down that road. So we are you know, we're built to do it. When you have cumulative stress, you're not at a level. So when that big bad thing does happen, you're not at a level of endurance for it, you you know, you're really have dulled the edge of your saw. Okay? So when you're down at that level and and by down that level means you're not you're in that activated state so much that you know, you've lost that edge, that when the big bad thing does happen, your prefrontal or frontal cortex has been dulled, it is not sharp, it's not grabbing the driver's seat, the amygdala is going to take over which we call an amygdala hijack. And that is not a place you want to be to make sound decisions. Okay? So the more we dysregulated our system, the weaker the prefrontal cortex becomes, the stronger the amygdala becomes, because we're, we're strengthening it by giving it by feeding it, right, we're feeding that amygdala basically. So there has to be a, a training for your brain to keep exercising your prefrontal cortex, so it's strong. Similarly, have you heard of flow the flow state at all?

Jerry Dean Lund  16:12  
Yeah, I, I love learning about actually the flow state because I'm, like, always trying to, like, lock that down in and become more in that state more often, easily.

Olivia Mead  16:22  
Well, I have I've got the training for you, sir. Okay so we talk about it, our trainings, love Steven Kotler, look him up. So flow has a cycle to it, okay. And the cycle has associated brainwaves. And if you can really feel this, like if you have to sit down and pay bills, or write emails or something like that, right? The first couple minutes, you're in the struggle, you're like, oh, I don't want to do this, I want to do something else, you're having a hard time locking it. So it's called the struggle phase. And then you have the release phase. And the release phase is where you let go of the resistance, you know, okay, I, I'm going to stop fighting. And then that's sort of when you get into flow, and we've all felt flow, even writing an email, okay, you're into it, you're right there. And then say, your spouse comes in and interrupts you. And you're like, I was literally like I was, and then they leave. And then you're like, Well, I'm out of it now. So flow to get in. So flow is our optimal level of performance. Okay, high, high performance, athletes experience it. Now, we could get into that later. But there's some precursors for flow, like high risk, not even just physical, but emotional risk, you know, all these other things are precursors to get you into flow. And flow feels good, and almost feels easy, like you're surfing. But it's actually very taxing. So you have to have a recovery stage afterwards, where you literally recover your nervous system, so you can get back into flow again. Okay? So flow. Also mindfulness is, and flow can be interchangeable, because when you're in flow, you're in the sterile cockpit, where basically nothing else is happening. But the task at hand, which is what mindfulness is, mindfulness is, here's my task at hand, I'm only focusing on this, nothing else. So mindfulness is a great training tool for flow. Okay, so what takes away your brain's ability to get into flow is cumulative stress and burnout. So but you need flow for a job such as emergency response, right? Now, here's to the to the job that you need flow for is taking away your ability to get into flow. Alright, so obviously, we need an outside training tool to get our brains in the flow. When they put EEG machines on people practicing yoga, yoga practice goes through the same cycle, the same brainwave cycle of flow, as getting into flow, you know, as flow itself. So the by practicing yoga, you are going through the flow cycle, and yoga is strengthening the prefrontal cortex part of the brain. So by training in yoga, you're strengthening your brain for what it gets sort of punched, you know, while being on the job. So that's part of the the mental aspect too. And the last thing is coherence. Coherence measured by heart rhythm, which includes heart rate variability, you may have heard heard of this as well, right? So when you're in a coherent state, all your systems are working at their optimal level, and together, they're talking when you're in an incoherent state, they are not you're wasting a lot of energy. So you can put yourself into coherence, simply using the techniques that we teach in yoga and mindfulness. So basically, we've got coherence. We've got flow we've got using different parts of your brain, as you know, as the fourth at the forefront when you're in a situation, all of those things can be constituted under mastering your mind and training your mind. And cognitive behavioral therapy too.

Jerry Dean Lund  20:17  
Yeah, that is awesome. So I'm going to ask the question, how does yoga do that? How was like, yeah, how does first responder yoga do that?

Olivia Mead  20:27  
Okay. So, um, so with yoga for first responders who've taken traditional Hatha Yoga, so probably when people hear that word traditional, they think, oh, like what taught it? You know, across the street? No, what's taught in India, okay, this stuff that is so disciplined, a lot of people don't want to do it. They want to flow to Kanye West, you know? Yeah. And they're hot studios, not bashing that. I'm just saying they're, they're two different things. So we take traditional yoga, which is very militant, very disciplined. We make it job specific and culturally informed for military and public safety. So I'm talking about our protocol, which is also reflective of traditional yoga practice. In order to train the nervous how do we train the nervous system? Like how do I train the body? I grab a weight, I get on my bike. Right? That's easy. How do I train the nervous system that I can't touch? How do I get in here inside my body and train the nervous system and the brain?

Jerry Dean Lund  21:28  
That's honestly that's a great question. I think it's like a huge question in the fire service, right? Orfor first responders.

Olivia Mead  21:34  
Yes, it's all and this is even better for fire service. The how you get into your nervous system is by controlling your breath. When you manage and measure your breath and controlled patterns, you have access to the autonomic nervous system, which you most people will we don't feel like we can actually access. Autonomic is stuff that is happening automatically digestion, perspiration, respiration, blinking, by the way. But we can control our respiration by controlling it, it's like putting your hand into your own nervous system. The reason I want to highlight this for fire service specifically, is by training with breath work, you are increasing your CO2 tolerance, which means that your O2 is going to get to your tissues and your brain quicker, which means you need less air to be okay and to do work. And less air means your air bottle is going to be lasting longer. So that's that. So yoga, traditional yoga is rooted in managing the breath, breath work. In Sanskrit, it's called Pranayama. Prana means life or energy, and Yama means to extend. So breathwork and Sanskrit, which is the language of yoga means to extend your life. Okay, so there we go. So we enter the nervous system through breath work, if you're not managing your breath, you are not practicing yoga period. From there, we do the physical aspect of yoga, which a lot of people are most familiar with, does it create functional mobility, and increased strength in small stabilizing muscles? Yes. So if you're in it for the physical, it does that. So great. check that off the list. But what it also does is process stress hormones out of the body. And it also is teaching your body how to be in discomfort, and you matching that with controlling your breath. So for instance, let's say I have even this morning, so I practice yoga still with my teacher in India via zoom, it's nuts. 6pm In India, 6:30am for me, he's got us in playing. I mean, I'm at the point of like tears, but what I'm doing the whole time, is managing my breath. And when I manage my breath, my body is learning a lesson. And the lesson is, when I'm under stress, I can still control my nervous system and my brain without being coached in this. If you're under stress, whether it's a plank pose, or actually, you know, a structure fire. Stress is stress is stress. It doesn't know, it does know stress. So if you're in a plank pose in yoga, and you're clenching your jaw, and you're holding your breath, and you're repeating to yourself, I hate this, I hate this. I hate this. You're teaching yourself to hold your breath, have a negative mental framing, and then negative mental framing puts the system in a threat response versus a challenge response to different kinds of stressors, fun stress and debilitating stress. Right. So if you change your mental framing to I got this I'm steady. I'm strong. We think it's silly. We think it's stupid self talk. We think it's Stuart Smalley from SNL. Some people don't know what I'm talking about. I hope you do though. 

Jerry Dean Lund  24:55  
I dont though actually.

Olivia Mead  24:56  
You dont? Oh my god.

Jerry Dean Lund  24:58  
I don't but I I will I will I totally believe in what you're saying though. I do know that I know like, I've like neuroscience and just some other research stuff that I've done just personal stuff. I totally believe what you're talking about this the self talk is totally especially in that situation. 

Olivia Mead  25:16  
It's normal. It literally will change your hormones the way you change your thoughts. So we practice it on the yoga mat. So that when you're, you know, cuz some people who want to give me a hard time are like, Oh, you want me to do down dogs on the fire ground? Or when like, I'm gonna stand up? No, I don't, sir. You know, only men have asked me that not.

Responder Wipes 25:38  
Hey, everyone, I want to thank my sponsor Responder Wipes. They're the best econ wipes on a market far superior than any others out there. I love how thick and durable these wipes are. They're very safe, you can use them from head to toe and everywhere in between, the wipes are extra wet and add feeling fresh and clean. They also can be used as a cooling towel on those incredibly hot days or after an incident that gets you overheated, please check them out at responderwipes.com and follow him on Instagram.

Olivia Mead  26:10  
But what I do want you to do is train your nervous system through yoga. So when you're, you know, on a standoff, like I had a cop instructor of ours that was 12 hour standoff. And he was doing his breath work the whole time. He was able to move his spine he was able to feel good in his body in his brain and his nervous system because he had trained for it ahead of time. Right? Okay, so that's the physical aspect that's activating the physical aspect of yoga is activating. So what we end with is our meditation or mindfulness, we call it in yoga for first responders neurological reset, we just call it what it is. And it's teaching you to go from activation to regulation. A healthy nervous system knows how to be on activation and regulation. When we think of wellness, we're always thinking of down regulation down after action. True autonomic fitness, true neural hygiene, is knowing how to be in stress and regulate afterwards. So it's this, it's the up and down, that we want to train. And so then you're training your mindfulness at the end of your training class. And therefore it's already in your nervous system to know how to breathe, to know how to move to know how to think to know how to regulate, you've trained for that in yoga.

Jerry Dean Lund  27:26  
Yeah. And that's I could see how important that would be on the standoff because even just standing there with all your gear on in SWAT and stuff like that, or even on patrol and all your gear not being able to move a lot is just physically taxing. And so even though you're not really doing anything, and then if you're in a height, heightened level of stress, right, like you say in in on holding your breath. I see a lot of people do that. But I give my wife a hard time about it. Sometimes when she's working out like,"You got to breathe", like the gutter. Yeah, yeah. Got to breathe through this, like holding your breath is setting. Yeah, turn yourself into. I don't know, I was like just counteracting. I feel like it's just like two systems are bucking each other when you're holding your breath like that.

Olivia Mead  28:10  
Oh, yeah, absolutely. You're not doing yourself any favors. In fact, you're putting yourself in the threat, stress response, you know, and the thing about standing, you know, you think about snipers or surveillance or whatever, right? What's so difficult about that is the conserving of the energy to focus the energy in a very targeted way. So Mountain Pose is where we're just standing at attention, basically. And yoga. Oh, you wouldn't believe how many people cannot do that. And yeah, at the same time, we've got itches and scratches moving and I'm like, stop, stop moving. They can swaying from side to side, right? And I'm like, You're telling me that you can't stand? And now here's what what I train them in you know, you have to have yoga meditation. Mindfulness is not clearing the mind. That's impossible. The minds alive. It's just like trying to stop your heart, right? That's not what we want to do. How you train the mind is you give it an object of focus. So as I'm saying, there, I'm not asking you to not to just be clear minded, that's when you start, you know, start to fidget. But if I asked you to focus on the three part breath technique, if I asked you to do what we call the three P's with which is a self awareness, check in position, pace, perception, is everything situated the way I want it. How's the pace of my breathing? Where's the perception in my mind, I need to change my framing. Now I just gave your mind a target to focus on. And then everything else you know, is is a distraction. But that's the hardest thing now. Okay, now we got a mountain pose. Now do it in plank pose. Well, first I have them their arms over their head. Yeah. Now do with your arms over your head. That's a bit uncomfortable. Okay, you've mastered that. Let's do it in plank pose. And so when you see these Yogis with their legs all over the place standing on their head, if they're true practitioners, it's because they have elevated to the point that the only way to test themselves is to get to that point of physical challenge. But those of us in the West, we needed his work on standing on our feet, you know?

Jerry Dean Lund  30:19
Yes, yeah. Let's talk a little bit, what's that breath work look like.

Olivia Mead  30:23 
So the most basic breath work, our foundational breath work is called Three Part Breath. It is we have an app Cyber Academy, and it is a free video on our app to learn this if you'd like. But basically, the rules, the real rules for controlled breath are you have to breathe through the nose. Okay, exclusively, there are some breath techniques that use mouth breathing, but let's not even get into that nose breathing. Initiate the breath as low as possible. And make your exhale as long as possible. So those I call the three ingredients to hitting the calm button, if you're overly activated, nose, breathing, belly breathing, extend the exhale. And then with that, with those rules in place, we want to breathe from the, like I said, from the lowest part of the belly and my lowest part of the belly. I don't mean up here, I mean, like we're underneath your belt, okay. So sometimes you can even put your hands sort of around your waist and push your hands out. To really feel this whole cylinder like a cumberbund area, inflate, then the ribs inflate and push out. And then you breathe all the way up into your chest without lifting your shoulders you pause. And then as you exhale, let the chest depress. First, the ribs come in, and then the navel pull in. So a three part breath, three parts of the torso, inhale from the bottom up, and exhale from the top down. And to make sure that you are exhaling longer than you're inhaling, inhale for at least a count of three, an exhale for at least a count of five. Now, I people are going to try it right now for like breaths or like, Okay, that's good. I practice my tackle breath work, put a timer on for three minutes. And do that for three minutes. And for three, out four or five, using three part breath, you'll be surprised that after about 30 seconds, you're like, I'm done with this. I don't want to do this anymore. The month the mental training, training your mind is to say hey, no little puppy, come here and focus on this sit, stay, sit, stay. That's mindfulness. And meditation is constantly taking your little puppy mind and yanking it back to the to the present moment. That's the practice.

Jerry Dean Lund  32:31
Yeah. When should I use that breath technique?

Olivia Mead  32:36
All the time. 

Jerry Dean Lund  32:38
Oh, you're driving down the road. I'm headed to a fire.

Olivia Mead  32:43
Yes. One hundo. Listen, when I did a ride along with FDNY. I have buddies there. So I got to do a ride along with them. And even when you're, you know, have lights and sirens on in New York City, you're going extremely slowly. Because they're just so much traffic. There's a lot of time, right? So I'm sitting with them when there was a guy, and he'd been on the job for a while. And he you know, so he's putting his pack on and stuff in the truck. And he's telling me like, no matter how many years I've been on the job, my heart starts doing this. So as he's putting this pack on, I asked, you know, can I put my hands on your belly and chest breathe into my hands. So I was coaching him in breath work as he was putting everything on it did not slow him down. And even if he did slow down York City, doesn't matter. Take your time. But, you know, even if he did slow down, whatever, but like he wasn't slowing down, it was automatic, putting on his bunker gear pack is automatic at this point. So as he was doing that, I'm trading his breath, which is bringing him into a state of coherence. And again, like I mentioned before, coherence is where you're making sound decisions, you want to make sure you're in a coherent state, when and coherent and physical activation are two different things. Someone can be extremely physically activated with a high heart rate, and still in coherence. In within coherent, not incoherent, incoherent, you know what I'm saying? Coherent. And someone could be sitting down, and, and not in coherence. So, for instance, we had some biofeedback machine on a military member that we were teaching in a group and a commander walked in just to say, "Hi, how are you? Thanks for being here", whatever. We saw on the biofeedback machine that just sitting there, his his everything spiked, he went in to an incoherent state, so you can be physically activated and still in coherence. So yes, if you practice it enough, and say, talk about fire service, give yourself a 20 minute practice in the bay of your fire station. I know you guys have time. Okay. I know you do. So 20 minutes if you get interrupted whatever 10 minutes, you know, just get it done. When you do that consistently, you will remember to breathe each time. And don't confuse mindfulness for slow. Okay? Mindfulness is a space where you are aware of what you're doing. So as you're putting on bunker gear, you are automatically locking into your breathing. Now imagine if we trained recruits in this. So it wasn't even a matter of wait, I'm supposed to do this on top of everything else. What if it was, this is everything, this is part of everything. So as you're doing as you're putting your pack on as you're doing this, and then once the pack is on, breathe into the belts, make it so the so your restrictive gear is actually giving you something to press against as you breathe. The more you train it, the more automatically, it'll happen. If, while you're listening to me talk right now, you could do your three part breath to make sure you're focused on me. You know, like, say something happens. And then you immediately have to do an interview. Okay, you just got a terrible phone call, you may have to do an interview. And you're continuing your mind keeps going to that thing. If you do breath work, and for three, out four or five, as you're listening, the person you will be in this moment, that's the key to mindfulness is manipulating your breath.

Jerry Dean Lund  36:26
Is that also like the part of the key to the flow state?

Olivia Mead  36:31
Yeah, I mean, that's the thing is mindfulness and flow are so similar. And by giving yourself an object of focus, you're getting into mindfulness. You know, there are things like calls people call flow hacks, right? Things that kind of lock you in, like lock you in the flow. Again, something could be high risk, not doesn't have to be physically high risk, but emotional high risk, or a mental high risk is one of them. But yeah, giving yourself one thing to focus on. So that could be the breath work. Another key to flow that we really like to use. And this actually were the yoga physical aspect of yoga training comes in, is 4% out of your skill set, right? If you have a challenge that's 4% out of your skill set, it's easier for you to get in the zone because you're have the beginner's mind, when I'm a beginner on a yoga mat, and I'm an experienced yogi, the beginners in flow, the yogi's making their grocery list, right, because they know what's next. They know what is next. So you're trying to keep yourself as at constant beginner by making the challenge 4% If it's more than 4% out of your skill set, you'll get you know, what do you call it, starts with the D.

Jerry Dean Lund  34:47
I'd say flustered.

Olivia Mead  37:49
Flustered, I was gonna say feeling very dejected. I know that someone listening is like yelling. Yeah, right. Yeah. Discouraged, discouraged. Okay, but if it's less than 4%, it's too easy and you become bored. So if we're in planks, a plank is easy for someone. Okay? They'll say lift your right arm and your left hand. I mean, sorry, right leg and left arm up. Okay. Now now maybe there. Okay, I got it. I got it. That's not what I'm looking for. I'm looking for can you be there and monitor your breath the same time? Do you think someone is making their grocery list when they're balanced on one foot in one hand, and I'm making yelling at them making sure they're breathing? Right? No, they're right there. That's flow.

Jerry Dean Lund  8:33  
Yeah. I love it. Like, it's I'm like making my own checkup mental checklist right now. Like I get to do these things. I put these things in practice more. And just, I think it's just getting how do we how do I get in the habit of doing these things?

Olivia Mead  38:34
You said that optimal word man is habit. Okay. So it's quite simple to get in the habit as long as it is a priority for you. My teacher in India says you have two choices, excuses or improvements. And you won't believe how many excuses I hear for why I can't fit in 10 minutes, five minutes of yoga every day. But I'm on Instagram for 20 minutes, or I'm shooting the shit with someone for 15 minutes, right? Yeah, there is time there is time. Even if you're in public safety, there is time. So we you know, on my end, I'm working really hard to make it as easy as possible for someone to make this a consistent habit. So like I mentioned, we have our app. And on our app, we have a handful of free videos and we have over 104 that are subscription based, you know, the full library, how much so even if so for first Yeah, for first responders. It's $4 a month. Let me I'm going to get you a discount code literally right now. Okay, I'm going to actually sent someone a magic message that's going to say give me a discount code. What do you want the discount code to be "enduring"? 

Jerry Dean Lund  40:09
Yeah, "enduring". 

Olivia Mead  40:10
I like that. Okay, let's do that. Discount code "Enduring", please. Okay, we're going to get this done. It's like magic.

Jerry Dean Lund  40:19
If I didn't, yeah, if I didn't ask you, I would have forgot.

Olivia Mead  40:23
Oh, I'm glad. I'm glad. So this is so for for, for public, it's $8 $7.99 $8 a month. for first responders it's $4. And so it has the full library of training videos. But there are about five or so that are free just by, you know, getting the app. So we have the three part breath on there foundations class, right like to, so if someone has no experience, they can get, you know, up to speed. But there's a class on there called 20 minute daily practice, just do that. Just, it's also just just do that. Also, on our YouTube page, we have it's it's seven videos, that we did a 14-day challenge. It was a firefighter and a cop that I taught it, they did the video and recorded themselves are doing it with them. And it's a seven day like start off yoga. So you can go to our YouTube page Yoga for First Responders, you'll see that right away. So you can do that every day, then do the 20 minute practice, when you don't feel like it, go do it. Right. This is like anything with a habit. Promise yourself to do it for 40 days. Another thing is we're launching in 2022, our online course platform. And we have a six week course that went under a pilot study, and which show that everyone who finished the course had a significant decrease in stress symptoms. So that course is six weeks on purpose, because that's how long it takes. You've got homework with it with your with the app. So we're creating all these ways for you to make a habit because it's the optimal word, right, there is habit. So I would say, you know, try to commit every day if you don't get it or what's reasonable, right? If you try to say, Okay, I'm gonna do four days a week, whatever you think is actually going to be achievable. And and just do it just like you would brushing your teeth. You know, like, that's the oral hygiene thing. We made a habit about brushing our teeth. We don't say, Oh, I don't have time today to do it. I mean, we get it done here, you know, somehow. So make it like brushing your teeth.

Jerry Dean Lund  42:37
Yeah, yeah, I was listening to a podcast by his name's Rob Dial, Jr. and he was talking about how we will do things for others, you know, and we won't do the same things for ourselves, we'll go out of our way for others to do things, but we won't do for ourselves. And how we don't often will keep our word to somebody else. But we won't keep our word to ourself.

Olivia Mead  43:00
Oh, 100%. And I've actually been thinking about this a lot, because especially in our culture, I don't know any culture that's actually different. Maybe Italians. Because I really into like living. But you know, the, when someone is self less, that is a badge of honor that's celebrated. And the word self ish is a negative word. And that's definitely what I lived by for most of my life. And I was not happy. I was I was happy, like with things, right? I was happy with, I have a wonderful husband and I have a house and I have a dog and a great. There were all these things. But I wasn't happy inside here. And it's because I wasn't making myself a priority. And so I actually believe that the more selfish you are, maybe let's find another word self prioritizing, let's call it that, then you feel steady enough to want to serve others, like even our our conversation right now. You know, in the past, I do podcasts. And even though I enjoyed what I was talking about, I'd be like, Oh my god, oh my god, I have so many things to do for other people that I'm still on this interview, right? But because I really prioritize what's going to make me feel my best I can 100% be here with you right now. And feel good about it and enjoy the conversation. So I would say that choose yourself first. And I know that's hard in public safety when you literally have to drop everything and help someone else I get it. But maybe that can happen if the rest of the time so when you get back to the station. Here's the thing. What if, even if it's a great call that went great or really fun structure, fire, whatever it is, instead of coming home to the station and doing whatever, what have you said, standby. I gotta go do 15 minutes of yoga, because by moving the body and breathing, you're completing your stress response and coming back down to regulation? And then 15 minutes? Okay, now go out and you know, talk to everyone. But what if we could could make that a habit? You know, I just read something too about the game Tetris. You know, the game Tetris does the same thing to your eyes as EMDR? does? And yeah, so there's actually this sort of idea of what if, after a traumatic event, you play Tetris, I mean, it's proactive, it's deciding to do something more than just sit, because when we sit, then the nervous system sort of makes an imprint of what you just experienced?

Jerry Dean Lund  45:41
Yeah, I think a lot of being a first responder is, you know, reactive in the way we do things, and not very proactive, because, you know, the calls and things like that it's very reactive in the situations. So I think doing something proactive is kind of like a cultural change. Especially if you're trying to get this type of change into, you know, first responders daily lives, like, you know, it's got, it's got to be my choice in the end, and don't just write sometimes we, I want to do it for myself, but I also need to do it, you know, like you're saying to, if I'm good with myself truly good with myself, then I'm good to do other things for other people. And when you were talking about that, I was thinking, I wonder how many first responders are truly, truly deeply happy with ourselves.

Olivia Mead  46:30
Yeah, you know, I know a couple. You know, I really do know, a couple. And we literally ask them, like, how, like, I know, maybe three, and I've worked with thousands. You know, and I know three that I can think of it, I'm like, "How are you you? How did you...?" And what they have said in common is that they decided really early on, sort of that proactiveness that they were not going to be a statistic and they were going to do everything they could to be to be different. And they're they're the ones that believe in our work and bringing us into department and stuff because they want to share that. And you know, you're absolutely right, that it is getting a little better in terms of the proactive versus reactive, except that the proactive typically is still not mandated. So you know, in the in the academy, you can be like, Hey, if you feel like doing firearms training, you know, it's a good idea. I know you're required to do it, you're qualified on it, you know, all that stuff. So what if why can't we qualify someone to regulate the nervous system? We got the biofeedback machine do it. So why don't they have the same amount of training for their longevity, and they can't graduate until they can prove they can regulate their own nervous system by their own hand. We've got the technology. But I'm just wondering, like, what, I brought this up to departments. Yeah. You know, and I know, there's bureaucracy, red tape, all that stuff that, you know, is a whole other conversation. But I also think it's a matter of priority too.

Jerry Dean Lund  48:08
Yeah, I think, yeah, we need to change the culture into take care of and take care of ourselves. Like, I love this job. And I've done it for a really long time. But when I retire, I want to be as best physically and mentally fit as I can be as maybe better than when I got into the service. And that's a goal for me. But I'm developing the tools to do that, right, like through yoga and through these different things, but as a department and departments, we need to step up and do that for others get that started for them. Go ahead.

Olivia Mead  48:46
No, no, I was gonna say 100%. I agree.

Jerry Dean Lund  48:49
Like there's, I've had a couple of people prior on the podcast talking about you know, doing some coaching for people are getting into the first responder world and stuff like that. So I think there is some of the newer generations are looking for this type of stuff, and are going to implement that sooner into their careers than than later on. So I think yeah, just naturally, right, we have that time to do it is just doing it and not letting your stupid phones and things other things, control our lives. And just taking away the wellness of our lives.

Olivia Mead  49:23
Listen, that's mastery of the mind. That's discipline. That's the whole thing is like, you know, I can get away with saying a lot of stuff. I always joke that no rank is top rank, because I can get a lot more things and not get in trouble because he's going to get me in trouble. So so I'll tell people like I'll flat out say like, this is a display of weak mindedness. And don't worry, I'm not putting you know, put, you know, pointing you out or saying you're bad or whatever. This is us. This is human nature, right? It's human nature to want to sit down and do this on your phone. Instead of get up a new train. I've done it 1000s of times, everyone does disciplining your mind, mastery of your mind a discipline, you know, is, is reserved for the elite. You know, and it's up to you if you want to be a leader and I ask and the when I teach an academy, I say, "Who in here wants to be elite?" There's maybe two people that raise their hands. And I'm like, "What about everyone else?" Like, we're just trying to get through the academy. That's the issue. Yeah, well, then then you're just gonna try to get through your career. Right? So if you're going into a profession that has to do with trauma, loss, death, destruction, I'm sorry, you have to be elite. Otherwise, you're a liability to yourself and others. You know, so listen, so many times I've also I'm because I'm not saying I'm better. I'm still working on this. We're as humans, we're always gonna work on this thing. Right? You never checked the box? And did it? Yeah. Right. You're always training and always working. So yeah, I get caught on my phone. I procrastinate. And then like, this morning at 6am, my alarm goes off to do my, my yoga. And do I want to stay in my warm bed? Yes. But I'm I, you know, I'm like, Alright, I'm mastering my mind today. And I go down to my basement and I and I do it. So it's, it's not you're either disciplined elite or not. It's a constant work a constant working on it and working towards it. You know, unless and and some people just may like, maybe like, Yeah, I'm one year before retirement, I don't really give a shit anymore. I'm not, you know, I'm not gonna do that. Yeah, we give these tools, we hope people will take them. But I really hope that one day, it's no longer an option. And it's as mandatory as all other tactical skills. Imagine, imagine a world like that, where proactive resilience training was mandated. I'm just curious, what would happen with these stress based statistics? You know,

Jerry Dean Lund  51:58
Yeah, yeah, me too. Me too. And I always think in these type of services, we're like, so skilled, right? All everything's about a skill. And there's some mental side of that, of that training. But I'm like, what if we train our minds just a little bit more and focus on our minds a little bit more? And maybe just 1%? Better? 1% Better 1% Better to each one of these skills? Like, yeah, and how would that look like in the lives that we saves or the the property that we can served and you know, and our owned, you know, physical well being if we could just train our minds just a little bit more. And it's just like that unfocused thing in first responder world that we just don't focus on some of this mind, mind even called mindful training. I don't really mean or just being just, you know, practicing the things that yoga will teach us.

Olivia Mead  52:52
Yeah, I asked myself the same thing every day. And on my end, what I'm working on to make it easier is I we have a curriculum. So for our instructors, I have created a curriculum for academies, I've created a curriculum for in service training. I, we have the data and the research to back up what we're doing, right. So literally, we just need departments to say yes, and then we just plug it right in. And I know there's a lot to that there's everything else you have to do. There's budget, there's this there's that I do understand the roadblocks. And I also believe that it could still happen if it was just more of a priority for certain people who are putting those roadblocks up. And maybe that's, you know, listen, when people hear the word yoga, maybe you know, a chief is like, you want me to spend my time and budget on frickin yoga? Like, that's why we have to educate that we're not teaching stretching. We're actually teaching something that's changing brainwaves and growing gray matter and improving cognitive functioning like, you know, that's why it's really important for us to have these conversations so that everyone can be on the same page about this type of training tool.

Jerry Dean Lund  54:10
Yeah, I see it. Our chief is actually our deputy chief is actually used a couple of your videos and brought us into the training room. Yeah. And oh, really? Yeah, some of those videos on YouTube. And we've watched them and and done them together. So yeah,

Olivia Mead  54:25
That's great.

Jerry Dean Lund  54:26
I think some of the problem in a fire service is the different personalities want to do different things for different types of workouts. You're right. Yeah, I think that is like the main challenge. I see. I get everybody onto one page of a workout or 20 minutes and it's not like you do your 20 minutes of yoga and then if you want to go lift or go right on or go go do those things, but this is the core foundation of what we're going to do as a department.

Olivia Mead  55:01
Yeah, and I agree with that. And I see that same thing, some arguments here and there, there was one guy I wrote, he inspired me. Listen, if someone gives me a hard time and inspires me to write an article, so whoever thinks they're gonna give me a hard time, I will write something about you. So here's gonna be a hard time this was a few years ago saying something about, like, the physical training should never replace something or other and, and so the answer to any of that is, I'm not replacing anything we're adding. So go do CrossFit, go do biking, cycling, do whatever. But like you said, this is something that can only help and help those things. It will help you lift it will help with your cycling, it will help with your running, you know, if you do this neurological training, so let's stop thinking of yoga as physical training. Even though we use the physical body as a vehicle. Let's start thinking of yoga as a mental and neurological training. And I know that CrossFit has that I know Cycling has that too. Great. Here's a little bit more of it, then. But it's something that everyone can do as a department. Well, if you think of like, defensive tactics or wrest control, there are many different approaches, right? Sometimes there's jiu jitsu people that are teaching it. There's the spear program, there's different approaches, but the goal is the end, like, you know, to wrest control contain the suspect, you know, whatever. Yeah. So it's the same thing. It's like, it, just just do do the end result is the same, right? So so why not practice yoga, you're getting to the same place that we that we want to get nothing is is deterring from anything else, or contradicting anything else. I had a recruit that filled out a evaluation about yoga, do you like yoga? Yes, you're gonna recommend yoga? Yes, it's all yeses. And the last line was, will you continue your yoga practice? And he said, No. But everything else was great, right? So I went up to him, I was like, What was that about? And he said, Well, I'm a cyclist and everything you've taught me about mental reframing, moving the body breath work, meditation I do on my bike. Okay, fair enough. You know, like, because I'm not selling yoga, I'm selling, that you need a training tool for proactive resilience. And I think that checks all the boxes. Yeah. So yeah, I absolutely believe that if people just said, Hey, 20 minutes out of your life to come together and get a group flow, you know, you can get in groups, too. So if you guys as a team are all breathing and moving together, you're all in a group flow, which is only going to be great for a crew, you know, an entire shift working, but also a crew working together. And so think of it as something else, and then go lift your heavy things and put them down. 

Jerry Dean Lund  57:46
Yeah, no, I love it. I love it. Hopefully, this podcast will inspire some change in departments and inspire change within individuals. But usually that change comes from within the individual that's inspires the departmental change.

Olivia Mead  58:01
Absolutely, absolutely can bring a horse to water but you can't make it drink.

Jerry Dean Lund  58:09
Olivia, where can people find this information that there's the app and like, where else? And information,

Olivia Mead  58:16
Everything you can find Yoga for First Responders. So yogaforfirstresponders.org is our website. And from there, you can pretty much get to everything else. So if you want our online platform, on the website, it'll say classes and then there'll be the pulldown, it says on demand. So go to that. Once you sign up. You can download the app from the App Store. It's on Roku, Amazon, fire, iPad, all that stuff. Remember to use the code "Enduring". And that will make it $4 a month. And just don't forget as a nonprofit, we're nonprofit. So those four little dollars go straight back into someone else's program. We were able to fully fund the El Paso Fire Department's Cyber Academy all of their firefighters have it in their stations and everything. So just remember that about the $4 and then YouTube like you mentioned, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Yoga for First Responders that you can find us if you have a burning question, email info@yogaforfirstresponders.org

Jerry Dean Lund  59:23
Awesome, awesome. That is going to be a just a great place to find all this information. Like I said, we've used it before and, you know, please support the nonprofit organization $4 is is really nothing you know, for a lot of you guys that's, you know, a rock star or two or a monster or a couple coffees. But this is

Olivia Mead  59:44
Yeah, do the yoga instead of the monster one. Yeah.

Jerry Dean Lund  59:48
Yeah. And those classes that you do offer for instructors and other people they fill up fast because I know I've seen them come online and then they fill up really fast.

Olivia Mead  59:57
Yeah, they do. And by the way, I'd love to have you at one those instructors school I think 

Jerry Dean Lund  1:00:02
I want to be there. Yeah, 

Olivia Mead  1:00:03
Yes. Okay, good. So we just finished our last one for 2021. 2022 will be coming out shortly, they do fill up fast. And we're also limiting the amount we did like seven or eight last year. It's a lot when we're battling with COVID restrictions in each department and stuff. So we're gonna back it off to only about four for 2022. So they're really going to fill up fast. So here's what you do on the website under instructor school. That's where you train to be an instructor. There's a sign up and it says early notification list and you give your name and email. If you put your info there before we publicly put out registration, we send it to that those people so you get kind of first dibs. Keep in mind they're about 1000 people on that list. Yes. So even so, so what we do is we kind of warn you, we're like it's coming out with it. Don't forget Wednesday at noon, Wednesday at noon, so then you could be like at your computer. So um, you know, and if your department wants to send people that would be, you know, email us instead. Or if you want to host if your department wants to host please email, and we'll discuss it.

Jerry Dean Lund  1:01:16
Awesome. Well, thank you so much for being on the podcast today.

Olivia Mead  1:01:19
Yeah, happy to do it. Great conversation.

Fire and Fuel Apparel  1:01:23
Yeah, thank you. Hey, everyone, please check out my very own apparel Fire and Fuel apparel. There you will find a wide array of apparel honoring first responders that can be shipped worldwide. Please give me a follow on Instagram too. 

Outro  1:01:35
Thanks again for listening. Don't forget to rate and review the show wherever you access your podcasts. If you know someone that would be great on the show, please get a hold of our hosts Jerry Dean Lund through the Instagram handles @jerryfireandfuel or @enduringthebadgepodcast. Also by visiting the show's website, enduringthebadgepodcast.com for additional methods of contact and up to date information regarding show. Remember the views and opinions expressed during the show, solely represent those of our hosts and the current episode's guests.

Olivia MeadProfile Photo

Olivia Mead

Founder / CEO / Entrepreneur

Olivia Mead is the Founder and CEO of the non-profit organization YogaShield® Yoga For First Responders® (YFFR). Olivia is a life-long yoga practitioner along with having studied Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Human Performance and Trauma-Sensitive Yoga for Veterans. She has taught yoga since 2003 and has focused primarily on public safety since 2013 starting at Los Angeles Fire Department and Los Angeles Police Department, where she developed the unique protocol that YFFR now uses to offer yoga to the public safety population in a job-specific and culturally-informed manner. Olivia has taught and spoken around the county at several trade conferences and public safety agencies and is a member of the Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association and the International Society of Fire Service Instructors.