Denver first responders are incorporating yoga into training

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DENVER -- Finding your center is an important lesson no matter your profession. For first responders, like the recruits for the Denver Sheriff Department, being able to maintain focus despite a challenging environment is critical.

To help new recruits find this balance, the Denver Sheriff's Department is thinking outside the box, incorporating yoga into their training.

"It’s not just good for first responders, it’s meant for first responders," said founder of Yoga for 1st Responders Olivia Mead. "It’s meant to train warriors."

Mead founded the non-profit, started her work in Los Angeles, and has already worked with several agencies in Colorado, including the Denver Police Department. She paces up and down a padded room with sweaty recruits in plank position, giving instructions like a drill sergeant.

"First responders are trained tactically, and true traditional yoga is delivered tactically," Mead said.

"Law enforcement is paying a lot more attention to wellness, and the wellbeing of the staff and the recruits now," said Captain Anthony Gettler with the Denver Sheriff's Department. "Back in the day it was a lot of go home and deal with it."

As a room of roughly two dozen recruits focus on their breathing, while maintaining a yoga pose, Mead has them reach for their hips with slow and controlled movement. She says she tries to mimic certain situations that will apply to their jobs, like reaching for their weapons under stress.

"I had a recruit say to me today, that when they did the pepper spray, he immediately went to this training to control himself," Mead said.

For recruits with the department, who will have to oversee the Denver County Jail system and keep their head on a swivel, there is a lot of value in these lessons.

"I think this helps you out because you get in certain positions here where you have to maintain your breathing, maintain your focus," said recruit Dante Barron.

Mead says the training also gives first responders the ability to "reset" and hopes yoga will help when it comes to the mental health issues and struggles associated with a career in law enforcement.

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