top of page
  • Writer's pictureCMPS Staff

A Gravity Yoga Cop's Journey to Trauma Recovery for First Responders with Constable Amy Bourdreau

Updated: May 7

Join York Police Constable Amy Boudreau, an accomplished Yoga and Mindfulness Teacher, as she shares her transformative journey and addresses the unique challenges confronting first responders. Gain insights into her mission of equipping first responders with effective mind-body strategies for navigating high stress and counteracting the health impacts of chronic stress and trauma exposure. Delve into Amy's personal evolution through yoga and mindfulness, and explore the juxtaposition of bottom-up versus top-down stress management approaches, along with healing trauma and sustaining holistic well-being. Discover how the Gravity Yoga approach intertwines with her methods, promoting mental and physical rejuvenation. Amy Boudreau's expertise sheds light on the invaluable role of yoga and mindfulness in bolstering resilience among first responders and cultivating enduring wellness.


SUBSCRIBE to our weekly podcast - available on Podbean OR:

For more info on the trainings visit our Training page

A Gravity Yoga Cop's Journey to Trauma Recovery for First Responders Transcript

Katie Carlson: 

Hello everyone, and welcome to another session on day one of the Global First Responder Resilience Summit. My name is Katie Carlson, and I'm one of your co-hosts for this session. Today's theme is physical fitness and resilience. I'm very excited to be here today with Amy Boudreau. Amy, welcome. 

Constable Amy Boudreau: 

Hi, everyone. Thanks for having me, Katie. I'm really excited to be here as part of the Summit. 

Katie Carlson: 

Well, I'm going to begin by sharing some of your bio. It goes without saying that you stay very busy. To start, you have spent the last ten years as a police constable and also as a writer, public speaker, yoga and mindfulness instructor who advocates for mental health and well being for members of public safety, as well as the general public. 

You're known as the Yoga Cop. You use social media platforms to educate, inspire, and spread awareness on wellness. You're also a gravity yoga certified instructor. You hold corporate yoga certification, trauma-sensitive yoga certification, mindful at work certification, and you use tension release exercises to help others in reaching a state of balance. We'll talk about that a lot more in our interview. 

In addition to all of that, you sit on several working groups to promote culture change and enhance overall well-being within the policing industry. That includes as a volunteer peer support team member, an ad hoc instructor for the mindfulness-based resiliency training police course, the Wellness Project Manager for your police agency, and is part of the First Responders' Mindfulness Network. 

Amy, thank you so much for being here. I'm so excited about this interview. Let's just get started with the basics. All right? How do you define trauma? Why is it important for first responders to understand how trauma may affect them?

Constable Amy Boudreau: 

Thanks, Katie. I think trauma is really important to look at when you're a first responder because we're exposed to that on a regular basis. Some might ask, "Well, what is trauma?" It's anything that really overwhelms our capacity to cope or respond. It can leave us feeling hopeless, helpless, and a lot of times out of control. 

As first responders, we really like to have control of a situation. We also like to come up with solutions, and we want to fix things, right? So, a lot of times, with some of the trauma that we're exposed to, we don't necessarily have control over the outcomes, even though we do our best. So, I also think it's important to understand being exposed to that and what's happening to our bodies so that we can come up with practical ways that we can reverse maybe some of the exposure and the effects it has on our body. 

Just so people understand what type of trauma I might be talking about, there are two different types. One is the big T, and then there's the small t. So, some of the bigger stuff that obviously we're aware of would be a death call, maybe different types of crimes that we see against children or sexual assaults, anything on the frontline that we're going to be exposed to unsavory people, or a lot of stress responses, right? Because maybe people are argumentative or want to be combative with us. 

And other types of things could be domestic violence, systemic racism, and oppression, those types of things. And then, some of the smaller ones, which as first responders, we still are human beings and we have personal lives. We also are dealing with some of those personal things too, right? So that could be possibly non-threatening injuries, maybe someone has an injury, maybe their pet has just died, possibly separation or like a breakup - a significant loss in a relationship. Financial security if people are moving. Anything that can add more stress to our lives. Even childhood experiences that are carried with us. We have our normal daily lives with stress and trauma, but then we also, as first responders, are being exposed a lot more than the general public. 

So, understanding how our body responds and then countering those is really key to be healthy long-term in a 30-year career. If we don't, and we don't understand what's happening to our bodies, we can spiral into negative health effects that could be either mental or physical. So, you see a lot of chronic diseases, illnesses, digestive issues, respiratory issues, inflammatory issues all over our bodies - response to constantly being exposed to the stress response without being able to come back down to equilibrium. 

I think it's really important, which is why I'm trying to promote a lot of this work because when I got hired, we weren't taught any of this information. And actually, over the last ten years, more so the last five years because the first half of my career, the first five years, I actually experienced a lot of this myself. And then the second half, I really focused on doing some research and really wanted to understand. If we're going to last and be healthy in this job, what should we know, and how can we counterbalance with some tools? 

Katie Carlson: 

We started to touch on it with having a lack of learning and then really beginning to teach yourself or figure it out for yourself, but what really brought you to the work of sharing these skills for processing trauma with first responders? 

Constable Amy Boudreau: 

Yeah. I'll just get into what sparked me on this mission or this journey if you will. Do you know what's challenging? Like I mentioned, my first five years on the frontline, people talked about shift work, and they talked about the nature of the work. It's like, yeah, yeah, yeah, okay. You hear it, but until you actually live it, then you don't really realize how it can start degrading your well-being in the long term. 

As I mentioned, I had digestive issues, inflammation. I was averaging maybe three or four hours asleep, working tons of overtime, the type of calls we were getting were very high risk. The first thing that you stop doing when you're tired, and you have a lack of energy is your diet goes off, your exercise regime goes off. So, I started to spiral down into being not so healthy. 

I looked like I was in shape, but I didn't feel healthy on the inside. And then, even though I was practicing, not consistently, but I was already practicing yoga and some mindfulness exercises before I got into policing, but nothing could have really prepared me for what happened in 2015. 

One of my best friends was also an officer in my platoon. She had three children at the time. Her middle child was 12. She died in an ATV accident, which was horrific news. I ended up moving in with them for about two weeks to help support them. It was a really challenging time in my life because you're watching your friend experience something that's the worst time of her life and then trying to be supportive of that. And then, also grieving the loss of somebody really close to me, like that was like a niece. 

I went through that two weeks. I helped plan with the funeral arrangements and all that, but then I went back to work. And then, there was a series of calls where I had all sorts of calls before, but I think because it was a compounding effect of dealing with something in your personal life and then coming back to work and then having certain calls that were similar or we're triggering. 

I had three calls that are back-to-back that, I guess, added more grief to my already grieving process. It was a seven-year-old who had died from choking that I was first on the scene to. The second one was a double fatal car accident where two young 20-year-olds had died in a collision, and it was one of the most gruesome ones I've been at. And then the third one was a good Samaritan who was trying to break up a road rage incident and got ran over. And then, I did the death notification. All these children are the same age. 

I guess myself, I could feel a shift in me for about a seven-month period. I didn't know what was happening. I didn't know why my body was responding a certain way. I didn't really know too much about all the different supports that were out there at the time. So, what sparked me to understand what was going on was the following year. 

I ended up traveling to Thailand for a month. I learned everything to do with trauma and stress and what it does to the body. I was doing one on one sessions with different types of yoga, tension release exercises, which we'll get into in a minute. I went up into the mountains with some of the monks and learned all the different types of meditation, how it trains your mind and body differently. 

What really sparked my interest was understanding the nervous system and how to condition your nervous system to build resiliency. Once I learned that and really brought it home with me and started doing some of these practices, I wanted to extend what I've learned to other first responders. 

I actually started to organize some meditation sessions at our local temple. We would run two eight-week sessions a year in the spring and the fall. That kind of continued my journey with really trying to understand the body more through trauma and stress. And then, different tools, again, that we can use that are holistic because the body is super smart. When you give it the right conditions, it's able to heal itself. 

Again, everyone has to kind of pick and choose what's right for them. But I just want to give people more tools and more options to explore to see what might work for them. And these are some of the practices that I've discovered along the way. 

Katie Carlson: 

Thank you for sharing all of that. I'm sure that it was difficult then and still difficult to talk about now. But when it comes to addressing trauma and really addressing trauma in other public safety officials, you've got a bottom-up approach. What does that mean? 

Constable Amy Boudreau: 

Yeah. A bottom-up approach. So, a lot of people often will talk from a top-down approach. We often talk about the mindset, changing your thoughts, changing the narratives that you tell yourself, your different belief systems. So, from the mind, changing that aspect so that you change your body responses. Whereas the bottom-up approach is really just getting it back into your body, feeling your sensations, and moving your body and changing your energetic state so that you're changing your mood and you're changing your mindset. 

These are both approaches that you can do, but I think we often will focus on the mindfulness aspect, as opposed to getting back into your body and just really shifting from that state. When you're exposed to trauma, actually, a lot of parts of your brain shut down because it's very high-intensity stress. So, some of the language centers will shut down. 

Even though talk therapy is good, sometimes it doesn't work for everybody. What the others have found is that if you get back into your body, some of the traumatic experiences, remembered through your senses and through pictures. And so, when you get back into your body, it's almost like reverse engineering back to your equilibrium state through those movements. Again, these are just different options for people to explore to see kind of what works for them and to see what else is out there. 

Katie Carlson: 

Along with this bottom-up approach, you've been incorporating a type of yoga into your practice that is called gravity yoga. It's something I hadn't heard of before meeting and talking to you. Can you explain what gravity yoga is and how it might help first responders? 

Constable Amy Boudreau: 

I recently got certified in Gravity Yoga. It was through the Yoga Teacher College. There's a guy overseas from Barcelona. His name is Lucas Rock Gordon. He started up this Gravity Yoga approach. It's in 81 different countries. The idea behind the gravity of it is kind of like just letting gravity do the work. 

Oftentimes, some of the stretches or yoga practices that are out there, they're more so for warming the body and moving the body. But it doesn't actually make significant changes in your flexibility or the structure of your muscles and tissues. 

As first responders, I'm going to speak from my experience as a police officer. We were aware of all this equipment on our body, vests, our kit. We're sitting long hours, whether it's in a police cruiser or in front of a desk, a computer. I just want to mention too, I know I'm speaking from a police officer's point of view, but there's also secondary trauma. 

If you're working within the first responder industry, whether you're civilian or sworn, a lot of the stress will affect you the same way because it's kind of like vicarious trauma. You're reading reports. You're dealing with the same type of culture, so it can wear and tear on you as well. That's why it's important for everybody who's in this profession. But yeah, wearing the equipment, sitting for long hours. 

We're constantly in this position. And then obviously, with our modern society, laptops, maybe some of us have been working from home because of COVID. We're constantly on our phones for hours. We're constantly in our vehicles driving to and from work as well, right. So, a lot of our daily movements are very minimal. 

So, what happens over time is we get very, very tight in the front of us and our hip flexors. Over time, we can get back issues, knee issues. Our range of motions is not the same. Especially in this line of work, you were expected to be fit, right? So, a lot of us are lifting weights, or we're working out, or we're doing CrossFit, or maybe you're cycling. 

All of these activities that we're doing to stay fit are also not benefiting our flexibility. It's actually making all of our muscles tighter. Gravity Yoga actually targets your hips, your back, your hamstrings. It is mobility training, so it's targeted flexibility training, which is going to lengthen your muscle and change the shape of your fascia. So, each of the poses has to be held for between three to five minutes, which doesn't sound like a lot, but actually, it's super uncomfortable. It's not the same as regular yoga. You really have to hold these poses. And then, you want to activate your breathing. 

There are three principles. They say wet noodle, so you really are passive stretching. Really relaxing, like gravity do the work. And then, while you're in those poses, you're breathing 4-8, which means you're breathing in for four, exhaling for eight, which is going to turn off your stretch reflex. It's kind of like a hack system so that you can actually go deeper into the pose to get those changes. 

And then, each time you practice, you want to meet or beat your time because that's what's really going to gain those long-term flexibility goals. I just want to mention because I know we were talking about stress and trauma, so how gravity yoga works is what I didn't realize, which I know now is the majority of your ability to stretch and your resting tension of how your posture is and just everything about how you're in your body, 50% of that comes straight from your nervous system. So, your ability to stretch and lengthen. 

Some people say, "Oh, that hurts. I can't do this." Stress and our exposure to that actually change our bodies. When we're constantly being exposed to the stress, and you know, here we are, we're up really high, but we don't know how to come back down to equilibrium. It just keeps building, building, building. We think this is our normal, how we're operating. Meanwhile, our baseline is down here, and we don't even know what that feels like anymore because our muscles are so tight and our bodies change. 

These practices will help get you back down to that equilibrium so that your resting tension is more relaxed. You're aware of where maybe you're holding your posture, your stress in your body. It's very interesting when you understand science because then you can counter some of those things. 

Katie Carlson: 

When responding to threats, we often hear about going into fight-flight-freeze modes, but you would add another category to that - faint and fidget. What is faint and fidget mode, and how can first responders learn how to navigate that? 

Constable Amy Boudreau: 

Your fight-flight-freeze response is a natural unconscious primitive response in our bodies. We don't even think about it. It's just the same as how your heart beats or how you breathe. You don't think about those things. It just happens, right? So, that's coming from our reptilian brain. It's through evolution. It's kept us alive if there's a threat in front of us.

Oftentimes in the wild, when animals are exposed to a threat. Let's say a deer and something's tried to eat it. Oftentimes, when they get away and like, "Oh my gosh. I almost died there. My life was in danger." Their full trauma response, or like that full nervous system response, usually is finished because it's a cycle. It's completed by fainting, or they fake death, or then they shake, which is the fidget. But as humans, we got our logical brain as well, right? 

Maybe when we're kids, if you're upset or you're scared about something, your hands will shake, but as we get older, we turn off that response, and that we start to control our bodies a certain way because that's not brave. If you're shaking or something like that, we really try to control our natural responses. Especially as first responders, right. We're in a profession where we're seen as being stoic. 

To a certain degree, we have to turn off some of those responses so that we can respond to the crisis and still do our job. But it's not effective after the call when we're still holding on to that trauma or that experience. Oftentimes, we don't really know how to release that, so it gets trapped in our bodies and it just stores within ourselves. 

In order for us to reach an equilibrium, what happens is when our body shakes, it resets our nervous system. Any type of deep chronic tension or stress is dissipated through our bodies. When we shut that shaking down, which is called neurogenic tremors, we don't come back to an equilibrium. So, anyway. There are different practices that are out there that you can safely and naturally invoke the shaking to help release some of the stored trauma and stress that's still in your body from some of these calls. 

Katie Carlson: 

Well, that was a good lead-in to our next topic of conversation, which is the tension release exercises. But before we really get into that, let's talk about why these exercises might bring up vulnerability in the people who practice them and why it's important really to tap into our vulnerabilities in order to move through trauma using these exercises or otherwise. 

Constable Amy Boudreau: 

Yeah. I love that you brought up the vulnerability piece. Even though I teach some mindfulness movement through different yogas through our mindfulness-based resiliency training course, I never do these practices in the work environment because they are very vulnerable. And this is something that you want to do, maybe in the privacy of your own home if you want to test it out. 

I think the importance too of practicing these vulnerability poses or exercises, first off, is practicing to be vulnerable in your body. You're practicing being in tune with maybe your feelings or feelings in the sense of where you're feeling sensations in your body. A lot of the poses are very opening, so opening your chest, opening your heart center. Butterfly posts, your knees, and those things. 

When you're practicing through your body, then it's a little bit easier for you to open up later on, maybe to other people, about talking about certain things. So, it's a way to kind of practice on your own before maybe you muster up the courage to open up. And again, first responders often have difficulty seeking help or seeking support sometimes because they don't want to come off as being weak or being vulnerable in a certain way. 

Being vulnerable is very important. That's why I share my story. I know as a first responder that there isn't one person who doesn't have a day where they have a call that sits with them a certain way. As first responders, we have to recognize that we all have that. And so, it's not really fair to suffer in silence. I think that when we open up and are there for each other, we can normalize a lot of the adversities that we face in this job because a lot of people don't really experience some of the stuff that we do on a daily basis. 

Another part of vulnerability is your attitude. It's kind of how we like to be in control all the time. It's kind of just letting that go and just releasing yourself to the practice. Whether that's yoga or the tension release practice, just being open to the possibility to see kind of like how your body responds or just being in it. So more of like in the present moment as opposed to just trying to control the pose or how it feels just kind of releasing and just listening to your body and what it needs. 

Anyway, I like that you brought that up. Thanks for bringing that up. 

Katie Carlson: 

When we first went into this word of caution. This might make you uncomfortable. You can do them by yourself in the privacy of your home because that's something that you would expect people to feel is a level of discomfort with these exercises. 

Constable Amy Boudreau: 

Yeah. I feel like the more that you practice that vulnerability, the less awkward you'll feel in it or doing it or talking about it. So, again, mindfulness, yoga, trauma-sensitive yoga. These types of things are, I guess, newer. Like, these interventions are a little bit newer for policing? 

Some might even say like, what the heck does this have to do with policing? When you're taking care of yourself, you're able to take care of other people better. When you're practicing mindfulness and self-awareness, the way that you show up at work for your team, as a leader, let's say, or even just in the community, you're able to up your performance because you're direct experiencing as opposed to being kind of distracted. Anyone who's top athletes or CEOs, like, a lot of people do practice these types of mindfulness practices to up their game or level up. 

Just before we get into the tension release exercises, I just want to make a disclaimer that this is not anything that's going to take over any type of, I guess, like talk therapy, or a clinician or if you're with a clinician, to make sure that you run it by your clinician to make sure that you're in a safe space mentally and physically to practice some of these. Because it can be vulnerable, and it can sometimes trigger maybe certain emotions or maybe events that you've been at. So, you just want to make sure that you're doing it safely. And it's not a therapy that's to take over all the other therapies. It's just something to add to your tool to explore. 

Katie Carlson: 

Great! Well, I'm so excited to learn more about these. Will you start to walk us through the tension release exercises? 

Constable Amy Boudreau: 

Okay. So, I'm just going to run through a couple of different exercises that can help relieve some of that stored trauma and stress in our bodies. There are going to be seven poses. Let's get started. 

This is just a slide just explaining the top-down approach and the bottom-up approach that I was mentioning. There are a few different examples of each listed there that you can look into if that's something that people are interested in. 

Just quickly so people understand how these exercises work, we're going to be focusing and targeting the psoas muscles. Where they're located - it's back in behind the pelvis. It attaches your back to the pelvis to your legs. This is considered the fight-flight-freeze muscles of the human species. Anytime we have that stress response, these muscles will intensely tighten up because it wants to protect your underbody and all your major organs. 

It will stay in that state until it has that full cycle and that tremor release which again, a lot of us are doing that tremor release because we've taught our bodies not to shake. And so, what can happen is, over time, like I mentioned, our bodies will start to change the way that they rest, and then our posture, etc. That's where you can get back pain and all that other stuff. 

The first thing that you want to do to start with exercise one is you're going to just roll from side to side on the bottom of your feet. You can see this in the diagram there. And just creating a stretch on both sides of your ankles from side to side. As you're going from side to side, you want to make sure you're taking a slow deep breath. You want to count five reps for this exercise. These exercises are in a sequence so that you're gradually tiring out the psoas muscles through these poses so that you can invoke the shaking response. 

The second exercise is you're going to get a chair, and you're going to put one foot up, and then you're going to raise yourself up on your toes, and then you're going to low yourself back down several times. You're going to do that 15 reps on one leg, and then you're going to switch to the other side. You might feel a burning sensation. If you do, just shake your leg out and then just continue. 

For the third exercise, you're going to put both your hands on the ground, and you're going to lift one of your legs up behind you. So, while you're touching the ground, you're gently going to bend your standing knee, and then you're going to straighten it. You're going to do this on one side of the leg for ten reps, and then you're going to switch to the other leg and do the same thing. Again, if your leg starts to burn a little bit, then just shake it out and continue with your reps. 

For the fourth exercise, you're going to stand with your legs apart so that there's some tension on the inner legs on the muscles there. And then, you're going to forward bend until you touch the ground and that second pose there. So, you should feel the stretch when you come down in your inner thighs and then at the back of your legs. 

This is still Exercise #4. So, once you come down, you're going to slowly walk your hands over to one foot and then hold this position for three slow breaths. Once that's completed, you do the other side. And you're just going to repeat the three slow breaths. And then from there, you're going to come back to center, and you're going to bring your hands to the middle and then try to reach between your legs behind you. And then you're going to hold this position as well for three deep breaths. 

And then, at this point, you might start to feel a little bit of shaking in your legs because you're starting to tire out that psoas muscle. So, just allow that to happen. That's what we're trying to do. To complete this exercise, you would just slowly come back up to the standing position when you started. 

For the fifth exercise, you're going to make two fists, place them on the top of your buttocks. And then, you're going to push your pelvis slightly forward so that there's a gentle bend in your back. This is where you really want to feel the stretch in front of your thighs in front of those hip flexors. Pretty much, you're going to feel it through your psoas muscles as well. And then, gently, you're going to twist from the hips. Pick a side, and then you're going to try to look behind you in one direction. And then hold that for a breath. And then you're going to turn again from the hips and go to the opposite side. Take a breath, and then come back to the standing position. 

For the sixth exercise, you're going to sit with your back against the wall. Just kind of pretend you're sitting in a chair. If anyone's played any sports, you'll remember these. I used to hate them. So, you're going to hold it as long as you can until you start really feeling that burn and maybe your legs start to shake. Once that happens, then you're going to come up the wall about two inches. And then hold it again for a few minutes until you start to feel that burn and shaking once it burns, come up another two inches. 

You want to get to a position on the wall where your legs are shaking, but you're not in pain. You want to hold it there for five minutes. After the five minutes is completed, you want to hang over forward, and then you're going to hold that position with your hamstrings. Your knees are slightly bent, but you're trying to stretch out those hamstrings, and you're going to hold that between three to four minutes. It's good to have maybe a stopwatch or timer with you for some of these poses. 

Now you've burned out the psoas as much as you can. We're going to get into more of the neurogenic tremors that you're invoking. You're going to lay flat on your back. And then, you're going to put your feet together and just let your knees fall open as wide as they can go in a relaxed position, and you're just going to hold that for one minute. From there, you're going to keep your feet the same, and then you're just going to raise your pelvis off the ground approximately three inches or so. It doesn't have to be very, very much. And then, you're going to keep your knees open. You're going to hold this for one minute. 

After this, you're probably going to start feeling your pelvis bouncing a little bit because your legs are shaking. From here, you're going to place your pelvis on the ground and relax with your knees open. You're going to hold that for one minute. You're going to keep doing that for another two rounds. Every time you do another minute, you're going to close your knees just ever so slightly, maybe about an inch. Now, you're really going to start to feel quivering because your muscles are really tired. You want this to happen in a relaxed manner. 

Another thing too is once you keep holding that, your legs may start to quiver even more, like shake rapidly. Just allow that to happen. That's natural, and that's what we want. We want to feel that because it's sending signals up our nervous system to release and dissipate any deep chronic stress or trauma patterns that have been sitting in our bodies. 

And then, for the last position, you're going to put your feet flat on the ground, and then just keep your knees a little bit wider than your feet. And then you're going to hold that last round for three minutes. 

That's pretty much it for the tension release exercises. Again, some of these poses are very vulnerable and opening. That's why you want to kind of do this on your own. Just be aware that sometimes this can also cause some emotional release. Sometimes people might cry a little bit afterward, or it might trigger maybe a memory. Just allow that to pass and just know that it's temporary. That's just your body's way of processing some of that out of your body. That's it for the tension release exercises. 

Katie Carlson: 

Wow, Amy. That was really neat. We've been here wanting to kind of do it right now. I'm sure everybody kind of was as you presented it. That's a really interesting material. I can't wait to give that a try here soon. So, thank you for presenting all of that. 

You also have other ways that first responders or anyone really can access the parasympathetic nervous system, even while out in the field. Can you go through a couple of those? 

Constable Amy Boudreau: 

Yeah, sure. The parasympathetic nervous system is key when you're trying to activate your rest and digest. It's the nervous system that really creates calm in our bodies. And when your stress response activates, it's the parasympathetic nervous system. It's the one that's unconscious. It's trying to get you away from the threat. 

Three things that you can do to really activate that. The first one is to orient yourself. These are really great too because you can do this. You might have to be switched on at the call or whatever it is that you're engaging in. But then, after the fact, you really want to do some of these practices to try to counterbalance some of those and get that calm state back into your body and your nervous system. So, orienting yourself is key. 

One way that you can do this is actually by turning your head 180 degrees. So, if you're turning your head all the way around, and you're looking up, you're looking down, you're looking side to side, you're looking all behind you, what's happening is when you're moving your neck, it's stimulating the back of your brain stem cell, which is attached to that primal reptilian brain. 

And so, what these three practices do is it bypasses your thinking mind, and it goes straight to your limbic system. It's orienting your five senses, so it's directly communicating with your limbic brain, telling it that your body is now in safety. You can activate that through all your five senses. Again, you can just even notice, bring your awareness, your attention to your five senses. What are you seeing, smelling, hearing at the time? That will help ground you as well and really settle down your nervous system. 

This you can do in your cruiser. You can do it when you get to a scene. If you think like your body is reacting a certain way or even if you're sitting at your desk and you have a meeting or presentation that you're kind of nervous about, or you get that email, or you got that person that kind of just rubs you the wrong way. These are some practices that can also just kind of bring your body state down. 

The second one is grounding yourself. You can bring awareness to feeling a certain part of your body. Maybe paying attention to how your feet feel in your boots, like paying attention to your feet on the ground or in your cruiser, or for paramedics when you're driving and you're in your ambulance, etc. 

Another thing is if you're at a call and you don't bring awareness to your feet, let's say. You can even just touch the tips of your fingers with your thumb, and just bringing that awareness to the sensation will really ground you in the present moment. Again, you can do this anywhere. You don't have to be out on a yoga mat somewhere doing these tension release exercises. 

The third one is our breath. I know we talk often about taking deep breaths. I do it all the time when I'm on the way to really high-risk call because I can feel my heart racing. Your mind's going. You're trying to think, okay, what's this situation going to be when I get there? How many suspects? Where are the weapons, etc.? 

So, taking those really deep breaths will actually help bring your heart rate down. What you're trying to do is treat. So, you're not reacting when you get to the club, but you're responding. You're giving yourself that split second because things happen really fast. Split second to be able to optimally perform at your best. The breath is really going to help that. 

And then, another thing too is you really want to bring the breath down, because a lot of us actually stopped breathing when we're stressed out or had it to a call, or we're breathing really shallow. In order to activate the parasympathetic nervous system and also to engage the vagus nerve, which is a calming effect, you have to bring the breath down into your belly. It's called belly breathing. You should really feel your belly come out and then go back in. You can do this even before you go to sleep to relax your body as well. 

If your mind is racing, and you don't know how to turn off your body or your thoughts, that deep belly breathing is really what's going to do that. So, you can do any of these three things anywhere, which is if you're out in the field, just practice some of these things consciously, and they will make a huge difference and an impact in between your calls and how you're showing up at your calls as well. 

Katie Carlson: 

Thank you for sharing that, too. I think it's important too. A lot of these are directed towards public safety and your examples, but it's a lot of tips and material that could be available or accessible to anybody. 

Constable Amy Boudreau: 

Yeah, and I mean, a lot of these practices too, it's really getting your body out of the fight flight-freeze state because it's reorganizing your body's perception of danger through movement through your senses. So, just bringing a level of awareness to those practices daily. 

For me, yeah, it's good to practice when you're at home, and you've got time, which is great. But then sometimes we're training our bodies to be like, "Oh, there's a place to be calm, and there's a place to be stressed." When I go to work, or if I'm with my kids, then you're stressed. The key is to practice on your own time, but then you really want to be practicing in the stress, in the chaos, some of these mindfulness practices, these other things you can bring to work with you. That's really, really where you need them, right. 

Katie Carlson: 

As we begin to come to a close, I feel like that was a really good lead-in because it's not just about practicing at work or practicing at home, but it's about practicing in all of the different phases of our lives. You also have some stuff to share about really how to kind of utilize these practices or pay attention to first responders throughout the different phases of their careers, and how this might help, and how to kind of pick and choose what you need at what stage? 

Constable Amy Boudreau: 

Well, it's interesting that you bring that up because I feel like sometimes it depends on where we're at in our career or what's going on in our personal lives that when you hear this information, it will resonate with you. 

There are different mindfulness courses that I've taken several times, and every time I take new information away from it because either I'm dealing with something at that time that I can relate to it now that maybe I didn't before. So, that's why having some of these practices in place or constantly educating yourself or exposing yourself to different holistic practices because you really need that mind-body-spiritual approach when you're in policing or in any first responder. 

And again, different aspects of your career will pose different things. Early in someone's career, maybe there's like marriages or buying homes. You've got different family dynamics, maybe having kids. Sometimes people go through separations or divorces. Sometimes the job is wearing on you now because you've actually been on the job for a certain amount of time. So, really staying connected with your why and your purpose and the reason why you got into this profession in the first place. 

A lot of us want to help other people and each other. That's why it's really important to figure out how to build resiliency over a long period of time. You need a variety of different tools to be able to do that. There isn't one particular thing that's going to solve or fix anything, so at the end of the day, it's up to the individual. You can be exposed to some of these practices, but you have to meet other people halfway. You've got to want to do some of these or learn and take some ownership of your self-care and your health, right? 

One thing I want to mention, which is another thing that people can do on a daily basis, because when we're constantly in this job, and we're faced with a lot of negativity, we're faced with a lot of challenging times, and in the worst possible situations of other people's lives too, right, because no one calls 911 for anything positive on a good day. It's usually because there's something serious going on. So, when we're exposed to that all the time, it can really drain us. It can lead to burnout, compassion fatigue, etc. 

They call it heart-focused or trying to bring in specific feelings to offset draining emotion. There are parts of the brain where the stress hormone is produced and released. It's called cortisol. In the same part of the brain, there is another hormone that's released. I think it's DHT. I can't remember what it's called offhand. They're both created in the same center, so they can't be produced at the same time. It's either the stress one or it's the positive one, right? 

Some of these examples will be like ease the feeling of tolerance, gratitude, appreciation, forgiveness, love, courage, dignity, integrity, honor, adventure, enjoyment, any of these emotions. When you practice what those feel like and trust trying to switch some of the negative emotions or feelings that we get throughout the day because we're being exposed to these things. 

If you can counterbalance that, you are really going to boost your resiliency. You're going to boost your energy reserves. Because every time you're reacting, every time you have that emotional response, it's draining you. And then, it's harder for you to bounce back when you're dealing with some of these stressful things, right? Whether it's at work or our personal life. That's just another great way to kind of on a daily basis, just pay attention, and really be intentional because we're more prone towards the negative because that's what keeps us in survival mode. That's what protects us. 

We really have to make a conscious effort to practice these other positive emotions and allow that to become our natural default state, not the reverse, right. And if you're not practicing some of these counterbalances, you're just going to be operating thinking that's your normal default pattern, but it's really that stress response that you haven't just come out of right. So, yeah. 

Katie Carlson: 

Well, you've shared so much really helpful, really practical information with us today. I'm so grateful for that. Before we close, is there anything else that you'd really like to share with people who are watching?

Constable Amy Boudreau: 

I guess, maybe three takeaways maybe from some of the content that we were talking about today that might be useful for people. Just from my personal experience, I thought that being healthy when I first got into policing was "I'm eating right, and I'm exercising, so I'm good, right?" 

No. I found later on that you actually need to have additional practices for your mental health and for your nervous system because we are being exposed to this. If you're just focusing on diet and exercise alone, I wish you the best, but you need to probably look into some of these other alternative methods so that you can be fully holistic in your approach. And then, I would say the second thing is there's no, you know, we kind of touched on this, there's no one particular thing that's going to be right for you. 

So, just as diet is different for everybody. So as an example, some people might have intolerances or allergies, or they have different likes and needs. It's the same thing when it comes to your holistic healing. You have to figure out what's best for you. You have to know yourself. You have to put the work in to understand what your needs are. And until you do that, you're not going to know what you need, right? 

So, tension release exercises and some of these other yoga poses or mindfulness practices that invoke the parasympathetic nervous system are super beneficial, and they're all inclusive. It doesn't matter what your age is. It doesn't matter what your fitness level is. It doesn't matter anything. 

Your fitness and your health can happen at any age. It doesn't matter how long you've been on the job. So, if you think, "Oh, I'm too old for this, or I've been on the job for too long, I get a lot of years under my belt." Again, just be open-minded to some of these practices. You never know how it will help. 

What we also want to make sure is that when people are retiring, that they're also fit and healthy from that aspect because as we know, this job is go, go, go, busy, busy, busy, and then you retire. And then you're sitting with it in quiet, and you're reflecting. And sometimes, that's when things can come up. You really want to have some type of practice in place before you get to that so that you can also enjoy your retirement as well.

Katie Carlson: 

Well, thank you so much for being a part of this Summit. It's been a real pleasure talking to you. I think that this information is going to help a lot of people so thanks for everything you're doing. 

Constable Amy Boudreau: 

Thank you so much for having me. You all can give me a follow on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. I'm the Yoga Cop. I don't have a website just yet, but I'm gonna be sharing a lot more content to help people with some of these practices.


bottom of page