By Brandon Lomenzo Black, Images by Jaime Nicholson
In the past five years, the Pasadena Fire Department lost two firefighters to suicide—the second-leading off -duty cause of death for firefighters nationwide (cancer is the first). The inherent trauma and stresses Pasadena firefighters routinely face have contributed to posttraumatic stress, depression, and infidelity, among other problems.
In response, the department is taking an unorthodox approach to improving the mental health of its men and women in uniform. Starting with its academy recruits, it’s introducing the practice of hot yoga.
Conceived and spearheaded by firefighter Tony Zee in collaboration with yoga instructor and Lululemon brand ambassador Stephanie Findon, hot yoga is now part of the curriculum at the fi re academy; it’s also being embraced by firefighters in the department’s eight fi re stations.
To produce optimal conditions for the body to stretch and facilitate deeper flexibility, the temperature inside a hot yoga studio is set to between 90 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Hot yoga strengthens the joints and improves core strength to induce proper breathing and control, the latter being an invaluable tool utilized by firefighters to improve mental acuity and conserve breath in situations calling for utmost awareness.