Photo By Capt. Charles An
DES MOINES, Iowa – A handful of Army Reserve Soldiers were on mats ready for a physical training session. Instead of being in the front-leaning rest position, or push-up position as most military physical training is known for, they were arching their backs and learning to control their breathing.
Spc. Dakota Trogdon, human resource specialist for the 103rd Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), expressed that “the things I took away from this were ways on how to relieve stress” which was the goal of the Yoga session.
The Yoga session started with a lecture on the history, the various types of Yoga, and the benefits of Yoga which were given by Olivia Kvitne, founder and director of Yoga for First Responders.
“There’s a lot of miscommunications about Yoga,” said Kvitne. “So when people come to the mat without any knowledge of why they’re coming they’re going to think we’re going to be there to stretch, to be flexible, to chant a few oms, and put our fingers together to sit and meditate.”
“I break down the nervous system, I break down the brain, I break down the practice of Yoga, so when they finally come to the Yoga mat with me they know why they’re there,” Kvitne continued. “They’re there to process stress, self-regulate, build resiliency and enhance their performance.”
“The most interesting thing was how old it is, and how many different types of yoga there are,” said Trogdon after hearing Kvitne’s lecture on Yoga.
After the Soldiers received the lecture, Kvitne moved on to the actual Yoga portion immediately after. This was where the participants actually applied what they learned from the lecture to the physical instruction which was what the Soldiers were anticipating. This portion proved to be a more difficult task than assumed, and for Trogdon the most difficult thing was doing raises with his feet.
Tiffany Griffin not only participated in the event, she had coordinated for Kvitne to provide the class. “The expectation was to talk about the history and the purpose of Yoga which she absolutely did,” said Griffin regarding Kvitne.
Griffin is the Sexual Assault Response Coordinator (SARC) for the 103rd ESC. It was during a SARC meeting that Griffin heard Kvitne give a brief overview of Yoga for First Responders. It was Kvitne’s work with veterans and service members with post-traumatic stress disorder that gave Griffin the idea to invite Kvitne to provide a session with the full-time staff of the 103rd ESC.
Kvitne has been teaching Yoga for about 15 years and received her original certification in New York City. She studied in India for the most advanced certification, and also received special certification in Trauma Sensitive Yoga for veterans in military which opened the door for her to be the founder of Yoga for First Responders.
Yoga for First Responders is involved with the Iowa National Guard and the Des Moines Veterans Association, as well as several fire departments and Iowa law enforcement agencies.
“Yoga can take the stress you encounter on the job, and help you do your job better, so it leads to performance enhancement,” added Kvitne.