By Brian Maass
DENVER (CBS4)– Some police officers in Denver are packing guns, handcuffs and yoga mats as they head to work.
“I feel great,” said Denver Patrol Officer Steven Hammack, 42, after a recent 7 a.m. Denver Police Department sponsored yoga class that has become part of his weekly routine.
“It puts your mind at ease with a lot of stuff you stress about. It gets you one with yourself.”
Hammack has been on the job for five years and is part of DPD’s citywide impact team.
He is one of 15 Denver first responders, made up of officers, sheriff’s deputies and other public safety employees, who regularly take a Thursday morning yoga class at a public safety building.
The lights are low and the music is soft as veteran cops like Sgt. Carla Havard roll out their yoga mats and take part in poses like downward-facing dog.
“I think it benefits us in reducing injuries and recovery time is lessened,” said the 20-year veteran. “When I come and its over I feel much better and have a different outlook on the day. It feels like it gives me confidence and courage to confront anything that may come my way.”
Havard said teasing from other cops is predictable and relentless, but she knows it’s all in good fun.
The yoga classes for cops began in 2016 as a pilot program and Havard said, “It wasn’t well received. We’re used to being in the gym with weights and grunting but this is just as beneficial as that sort of wellness.”
Officer Nate Magee said he takes good natured ribbing from colleagues for wearing yoga pants.
“I get flak all the time from the guys,” he said.
But he also said he wouldn’t miss the Thursday morning sessions, “It’s great for stretching, literal balance. Every single time it’s great.”
He said he “feels energized and ready to go into the day with vigor- it’s great.”
Yoga teacher Shigeko Levenque told CBS4 she is well aware that her police and first responder students face an intense work environment.
“So my number one thing is to bring the opposite, which is slowing down and bringing more ease and peace.”
Kelli Christensen with Denver’s Department of Public Safety told CBS4 that yoga classes are being offered at the police administration building, at Districts 1 and 3, as well as Denver 911, the two Denver jails and the sheriff’s training facility.
The city is considering making yoga a regular part of the curriculum for police, fire and sheriff recruits. She says the city is also considering putting on yoga classes in Denver fire stations to accommodate firefighters.