How To Find Calm In A Burning Building? Yoga

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After returning from New York in the wake of Sept. 11, Somerville firefighter Blanca Alcaraz felt restless. She needed something to occupy her anxious mind. She dismissed the suggestion to try yoga — "Don't you eat that?" — at first. A former professional rugby player, Alcaraz never imagined yoga as demanding. All that came to mind was Olivia Newton-John and full-length leotards.

Blanca Alcaraz with fellow firefighters Mike Heck and Tom Gibson (courtesy photo)
Blanca Alcaraz with fellow firefighters Mike Heck and Tom Gibson (courtesy photo)

But she gave it a try. "I never looked back," she says. “I was in love” after that first class.

Alcaraz is not the only female firefighter in Somerville, but now she may be the only firefighter who also owns a yoga studio near her home (and firehouse) in Union Square.

Alcaraz is a firefighter, through and through. Her fellow firefighters slap her on the back as she introduces them. It’s obvious they respect her, even though her size and gender puts her in the majority. She explains, with a big smile, "I love driving that engine, even if it takes a thick stack of yellow pages to help me reach the pedals."

Be In Union yoga was born out of Alcaraz' mission to make the practice more accessible to emergency responders. She opened her sun-drenched studio in the depth of winter, the orange walls, wood floors, and friendly welcome warming the strangers who streamed in to check out the new studio on the block.

Her firefighter colleagues clearly admire her tenacity, so much so that some have even tried this thing called yoga. If Alcaraz has her way, the entire Somerville Fire Department will be doing downward-facing dogs by New Year's.

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This program aired on May 17, 2010.


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