Skydiving and Yoga

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What Does Yoga Have to do with Skydiving?

As a yoga teacher I am always trying to build bridges for my students – showing them how what we are doing in yoga class applies to life off the mat. This is because I believe that Yoga is the purpose of Life  – one intentional movement after another on the journey home to unity with our true Self.

So whenever a challenging situation in Life appears I ask myself, what would the Yoga teachings have to say about this?

This week I was invited to jump out of a plane at 14,000 feet, freefall at 120 miles per hour for 9,000 feet and then hope a parachute opens and coast to the ground. Skydiving of course. Hmmmm….what would Yoga have to say about this?

First, attune to my highest wisdom. Does this feel like a safe thing for me to do today? Just like in asana class, each day and each body is different and not everything is right for everyone. We need to listen to our internal guidance system. Some fear was definitely present, in the same way that someone learning an inversion feels trepidation at turning their world upside down. I wanted to do it but was about to completely let go of my safety zone and fall into the ozone of trust. Knowing that if we listen internally, we know if and when its okay for us to approach these places, I checked in and said “Yes, let’s go!”

Second, assess the instructor and his skill in guiding me into the unknown challenge. The tandem skydive instructor happened to be a yoga student of mine with a career of 17 years and over 12,000 jumps from even greater heights. He coached me clearly and shared his joy. He was not pushy and he made me feel safe. If a yoga teacher is not doing the same, then its time to leave that class. I felt ready.

Third, remember to breathe. I admit although I have 18 years telling other people to breathe in yoga class, my skydive instructor had to remind me to take in some oxygen as our small prop plane ascended and I watched the familiarity of earth disappear beneath us. My heart was racing. Long slow belly breaths – basic yoga style – brought me back to calm.

When it came our turn to launch out, he reminded me of the fourth and most important thing of all.  “Have fun!” Ah yes…that is the goal of Yoga and Life – JOY! When we can get out of the way and expand back into the consciousness of our true nature, the yogis tell us it is all BLISS. So, I took an extra deep breath and we flew over the edge into freefall. Like someone propelling themselves up into a handstand for the first time feels a rush of elation, the experience of being completely without attachment, without control, and without agenda took over. Forty five seconds of freedom seeing earth from space – what I normally perceive as everything just a pin prick beneath me – was astounding. I could palpably feel the Divine essence all around me, in the light, the air, the beauty, the exhilaration.

The view as we coasted down was spectacular, like the sweet moments of relaxing within an inversion. Of course touching down was a relief and truly felt ‘grounding.’ But the experience reminded me that every movement we make – on or off our yoga mat – as long as it takes us closer to the realization that we are the awareness within the movement and not just the external mover, IS Yoga. And Yoga is Life. And Life is good.