What is your life’s purpose?
My life’s purpose is to translate the ancient practices of yoga into practical training tools for the first responder and military populations.
How are you living your purpose?
I am living my purpose through the non-profit organization I founded, YogaShield® Yoga For First Responders® (YFFR). After several years of studying yoga, I discovered a way to introduce it to populations such as military, veterans, and public safety in a manner that was practical, tactical, and effective. This method is now referred to as the YFFR Protocol. The non-profit organization serves as a vehicle for offering the YFFR Protocol through training and classes, in-person and digitally. The YFFR Protocol not only addresses why these ancient practices are important, but how to effectively implement them as an individual as well as organizationally within a department.
The YFFR Protocol trains first responders on how to consistently process stress, build resilience, and enhance job performance. This involves breathwork techniques, the physical practice of yoga, mindfulness, and our version of meditation we call “neurological reset.” Along with this we also use Cognitive Behavioral Techniques for mental reframing and for training a growth mindset.
These practices have shown to improve decision making under stress, lessening organizational liability and citizen complaints among several other benefits.
Modern day understanding of yoga has isolated the first responder population from this powerful training of yoga. My job is to bring yoga back to its original intent and offer it to a population that sees more trauma, loss, death, and destruction in one day than the average citizen will see in a lifetime.
The other part of my job that keeps me in alignment with my purpose is to consistently practice these techniques myself, continue to learn more, and revise my offering for enhanced effectiveness.
How did you find your purpose?
I was unhappy with how community yoga studios were representing and offering yoga classes. I felt they glorified yoga as an exercise modality for the privileged few or trivialized its benefits by surrounding it with too much “woo-woo.” Another part of me really wanted to be of service to a community that needed support. There are many marginalized and underserved communities that could use this kind of support and yoga can be applied to any culture. I was passionate about serving those who serve their countries and communities and making sure they had what they needed to find resilience in the face of extreme stress and trauma.
Offering traditional yoga in a manner that is job-specific and culturally informed seemed like a perfect marriage of what the community needed and what was going to set my heart on fire with purpose. I knew I was on the right path because the hard work also came with ease. The hard work was keeping up with all the requests for classes that were coming in. The Universe was saying yes, so I knew that was my mission.
What advice do you have for purpose seekers?
Be still. Get quiet. You will feel pressure from family and friends, especially ones you care about and who care about you, to make certain choices or go down certain paths. To really know what the right answer is for you, you must unplug from all the noise and listen for your deep knowing voice to guide you. How to do this? Journal, go to nature, be alone, read. The more we add chaos to our lives, the less we can hear our inner guidance.
Go toward what makes you feel good. What makes you want to get up at 5am and start working on a mission? It’s okay if it hasn’t been done before; invent it.
Lastly, embrace everything about yourself. The more you embrace your uniqueness, the more your unique purpose will reveal itself.
What resources do you recommend?
For finding your peace I recommend A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle and any book by Gabrielle Bernstein (start with Super Attractor).
For leadership I recommend Call Sign Chaos: Learning to Lead by Jim Mattis.
For processing stress, building resilience, and enhancing performance I recommend the app from YFFR, Cyber Academy. You do not need to be a first responder to apply the practices and feel the benefits.
Olivia Mead graduated from North Carolina School of the Arts in September 2000 as a ballet major. Following graduation, Olivia moved to New York City and attended Circle in the Square Theatre School for musical theatre and classical acting. For the next 10 years Olivia performed professionally in stage productions including the National Broadway Tour of The Producers, as a Las Vegas Showgirl in Bally’s Jubilee, as well as several regional theaters.
In 2003, Olivia attended Yoga Teacher Training under Yogi Raj, Alan Finger. Since then she has studied with many master teachers in the United States and Rishikesh, India for yoga, mindfulness and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Her education for teaching segments of the population that are at-risk for Post Traumatic Stress began by becoming certified in Trauma-Sensitive Yoga under Yoga Warriors International. She started working in the VA with veterans who struggle with Post Traumatic Stress and active military specifically before bringing this work to first responders.
In 2013 while living in Los Angeles, Olivia adapted her offering of yoga to veterans to fit the first responder population by working directly with the Los Angeles Fire Department and department psychologist, Dr. Robert Scott. This method Olivia developed of offering yoga to first responders soon became a field-tested protocol specifically for processing stress, building resilience, and enhancing job performance in an approach which was job-specific and culturally informed for public safety. Olivia was requested to train others in her method to bring the resiliency-building tools of yoga to the first responder demographic nationwide. The development of this teacher training program was the birth of YogaShield® Yoga For First Responders® (YFFR) as an official 501c3 not-for-profit organization. Since then, YFFR has hosted 11 teacher training intensives and currently has 120 active teachers.
In 2019, classes taught by YFFR trained teachers had over 12,000 first responder participants in 150 cities across U.S., Canada, Australia and the Netherlands. YFFR has been featured in “O” the Oprah Magazine, CBS This Morning, National Geographic and more.
Along with being Founder and CEO of YFFR, Olivia continues to teach for her local police and fire departments in Denver, Colorado as well as traveling across the country speaking and teaching for organizations such as the US Air Force, FBI, NYPD, International Association of Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association, National Firefighter Conventions and more. Olivia is a contributing writer for publications such as PoliceOnce.com, FireRescue1, National Association of Tactical Officers’ magazine, The Tactical Edge and more.
Olivia resides near Denver, Colorado with her fiancé Eric, a former firefighter, and her dog and cat.