Degree

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

School of Kinesiology

Document Type

Dissertation

Abstract

Firefighters routinely experience traumatic events while executing their daily occupational duties; in turn, this elevates their risk of experiencing post-traumatic stress symptomatology (PTSS). To successfully contend with repeated trauma exposure, effective and culturally appropriate treatment options for firefighters are needed. A growing body of literature shows that yoga effectively reduces PTSS, notably with those in male-dominated fields. Despite these encouraging findings, the impact of yoga on PTSS among fire service personnel has yet to be examined. Therefore, this dissertation aimed to: (a) obtain preliminary data on yoga’s effectiveness to reduce PTSS in firefighters, (b) investigate cultural appropriateness and firefighter receptivity to yoga, and (c) qualitatively explore the experience of yoga among firefighters.

The first study employed a quasi-experimental design to assess the effectiveness of yoga for reducing PTSS. Career firefighters (N = 108) from two fire departments in the southeast participated in a worksite yoga intervention. Firefighters were offered a 60-minute yoga class 1-3 times per week, resulting in 16 classes over eight weeks. Questionnaires were completed at four time points: six weeks pre-intervention, directly before and after the intervention, and six weeks post-intervention. Participants reported improvements in PTSD symptoms, alexithymia, and emotion regulation (i.e., PTSS), as well as interoceptive awareness from pre-to post-yoga intervention. Additionally, participants maintained benefits in emotion regulation and interoceptive awareness at the 6-week follow-up. At the end of the intervention, the majority of participants reported positive perceptions of the match between yoga and fire service culture.

The second study used qualitative methods to explore firefighters' experiences, opinions, and perceptions regarding yoga. Seven firefighters who participated in the yoga intervention completed semi-structured interviews at the mid-point (N = 5) and end of the program (N = 2). Recordings of the interviews were transcribed verbatim for analysis. Thematic development involved clustering exploratory comments based on the interrelationships and patterns among the keywords/phrases, which resulted in emergent and super-ordinate themes. Results revealed perceived benefits in both personal and professional areas. Taken together, the findings of these studies provide preliminary support for the efficacy of yoga to improve symptoms of post-traumatic stress and overall wellbeing of firefighters.

Date

9-28-2021

Committee Chair

Solmon, Melinda

Available for download on Saturday, September 21, 2024

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