Extrication is like Yoga

Extrication is like yoga.


I remember my first day of extrication training in the academy. It was the zenith of summer in South Florida, and I thought I was working in purgatory. The sun was drilling us, and the tools felt like blocks of steel. Just to lift the Jaws and place them where they needed to be on the car required an immense effort. At a buck twenty, I really wasn’t sure if I could ever excel at this, but since working in a Battalion with a junkyard and a great TRT instructor, I now know that’s a bunch of bull, and I can honestly say that I love extrication.


The funny thing with extrication is that with each passing year the tools feel lighter even though I weigh a few pounds less than in the academy. But they feel lighter because I’m more comfortable with them. I don’t fight the equipment like I did in the beginning. I relax more while I hold the Jaws and let them do the work for me. Instead of trying to dominate the tools, I work with them, shifting and readjusting when necessary.


The more limber we grow in mind, the easier extrication (and life) becomes.


It’s another form of yoga, and I try to remember this as I work. Yoga is about learning to be comfortable in uncomfortable situations and moving beyond perceived obstacles. It’s about breathing when you feel you can’t and relaxing into pain or unease. When you feel discomfort, relax and breathe. You do this thousands of times until it begins to rewire your nervous system and alter how you deal with discomfort. Instead of fighting it, you accept it and continue on.


Often in firefighting we power through, yet sometimes the struggle is in our own minds. The impulse to manhandle tools is natural, but I’ve come to learn that most tools want to do the work. A ladder wants to balance itself. Cutters want to cut. We just need to put the tool in the right place, guide it, and let it do the work for us. Of course, this takes a lot of practice, but as Ashtanga Master Pattabhi Jois famously said, Practice and all is coming.