More than 30 Airmen assigned to the Ohio National Guard’s 178th Wing and the Iowa National Guard’s 132nd Wing began a week-long, 60-hour yoga training program July 18 at the 178th Wing in Springfield, Ohio.
The training is a part of a pilot program called Yoga Shield, which aims to teach Airmen to reduce stress and to build mental and physical resiliency through yoga. The Airmen who complete the training program will become certified yoga instructors and will be able to provide yoga classes for their fellow Airmen.
“A lot of people hear the word yoga and think we're teaching people how to stretch or relax we're really teaching people how to master their own mind and nervous system.” said Olivia Mead, the CEO of Yoga for First Responders and lead instructor of the course. “There is a missing skill set in our Armed Forces training. And that is a proactive way to combat the mental and neurological consequences of such a high stress job and we see that in the statistics, and not all resilience training has been able to make a dent.”
Mead said the Airmen are learning a training protocol and how to deliver that to others. When the Airmen complete the program, they’ll be able to teach other Airmen how to process stress, build resilience and enhance performance proactively, addressing stress and other work-related issues before they become unmanageable.
The program began in 2021 as a proposal for the Warrior Resilience and Fitness Innovation Incubator, which aims to develop, implement, and evaluate new wellness initiatives, analytics platforms, and strategic partnerships. Upon receiving initial funding, the program training 60 Airmen and Soldiers in Iowa and has expanded to eight new sites.
Clare Long, The Sexual Assault Response Coordinator for the 132nd Wing and director of Yoga Shield, said the program has already had a lot of success.
“People are finding connectedness, they are having better sleep, because they're able to have neurological reset, mindfulness, less burnout, and it’s also helping with our recruiting and retention,” Long said. “This is important for the longevity, the health and the welfare of our Airmen. It's another tool in our toolbox. It's not the only tool, but it's one that can definitely help Airmen.”
Mead said it will help Airmen train for the mental and neurological impact of high stress professions, in the same way the military has proactively trained for the physical demands of military service.