By Brigid Godwin
I can't but not share what I've been up to this week, even though the yoga connection may at first not be that obvious. I'm still totally buzzing from my first ever paragliding flight that I did a couple of days ago!
I bought my fella a paragliding lesson last year for his birthday. After his very first day of flying he immediately jumped in at the deep end (or rather more accurately, ran and jumped off a very very high slope) bought all the kit and signed up for the full pilot’s course. Nowadays I don’t really see him anymore. But he does send me nice photos of the beautiful East Sussex flying sites that he toggles between while chasing the perfect flying weather and occasionally doing some work.
He returned the favour at Christmas 2017 and bought me a voucher for a tandem flight. Yes, Christmas last year. That’s a whole 10 months that the voucher has been staring up at me from my desk reminding me what a coward I am. I’m not a coward about everything – in fact I have often challenged myself with the task of specifically doing something because I was scared of it (standing up in front of a group of people and teaching them yoga for instance!). But I am quite scared of heights bla bla and lots of other really pathetic non-excuses that I really won’t bother you with the details of but you can find them all huddle together in a corner of my brain wearing matching T-shirts that say ‘self-limiting ideas’.
So, probably mostly because he didn’t want to have wasted his money and the voucher was about to run out, my fella realised this week that I had a work-free day (half term), did a quick check on the weather app and presented me with no choice but to fly the following day.
It’s funny how easy it all was after months of procrastinating. We got up early. The weather was stunning. Managed to prise one of the teenagers out of their beds (at the very least she would get some fresh air while Instagraming I thought.) On the way to the site near Lewes I felt pretty sick. But that wasn’t adequate enough reason to turn around apparently. We found the site. I was allocated my pilot, Tim (after a short but very intense interrogation I discovered he had 17 years flying experience). We were strapped into harnesses. The ‘wing’ was effortlessly inflated (I’m sure thats not quite the right term). Then I was told to run towards the edge, which is odd as previously I’ve only been told to stay away from edges. And then we were flipping flying!
I remember one time I was snorkelling in Egypt happily kicking around comfortably in my depth. Suddenly the ocean bed just fell away to hundreds of meters below and I felt like I had just accidently jumped off a building – complete with all the feelings of regret that would have come with that. Well this moment of flight felt just like that. I forgot to breathe (I know – shameful!) and then hyperventilated (I know!). Tim started off really kindly being all gentle and swooping from side to side and then when he thought I had calmed down a bit he decided to pull out the multiple death drops and started soaring hilariously close to the tops of trees. I screamed a lot. And laughed a lot. I think I even did involuntary ‘whooping’. And then something truly terrifying happened. He handed me the controls and I stopped breathing again. He started giving me some very important information – you know the sort of information that was going to keep us both alive. I’m proud to say that I did at this point at least fall back on my many years of training and remembered to breathe. Unfortunately this wasn’t enough as the translation part of my brain had stopped working so I wasn’t going to keep us alive for very long, and that was all a little uncomfortable so Tim decided best to take the controls back.
I have no idea of time but I didn’t want it to end. But it did and with no death which was good. We landed softly back on the hill where we had started. I didn’t even fall on my bottom which was a relief as fella and teenager were watching and I didn’t want to end up in a heap on Instagram.
Of course, I’m going to bring this all back to yoga. The whole experience was the most wonderful wake up. Going way beyond what I thought were my boundaries (physical, mental and gravitational!) to find there was so much more I was able to see and feel through this body (with the expert assistance of Tim of course). Living in full sensation. 100% present in the moment. New perspective on the world. Almost remembering to breath! Pure yoga!
In class we work a lot on exploring our physical and mental edges. We use our yoga practice as a safe and gentle way to wake ourselves up to ourselves by listening to the mental chatter and seeing its relationship to what we think our bodies can or can't do. The simple practice of fully inhabiting our bodies can be hugely empowering. Over the years I've seen again and again how students gain new confidence and power by exploring what their bodies are actually capable of. Inversions and back bends can be quite challenging places be. Often students describe their limitations as ‘mental blocks’. It’s joyous to see when they are able to move through these blocks and discover a whole place in their bodies that they simply hadn’t been in before and how empowering facing their fear can be.
A lot of the poses we do in yoga look and feel powerful. Think of all the warriors, triangle, tree, dancer etc. When we hold poses that are expansive this literally makes us feel strong and confident. The power and control over our bodies during our yoga class can and does translate off the mat too, which is where the real value lies. For me having strength, balance and poise means I’m more independent (not always having to ask for help lifting, carrying, moving things) but means I get more pleasure out of other physical pursuits (walking, gym, dancing) and the confidence that comes with that has also certainly helped me manage other challenges in my life. Everything from childbirth to starting a business, letting go of negative relationships or advocating for myself and my kids. OK so it took me 10 months, but I also ran straight off the edge of a very big hill into the unknown (thankfully attached to a professional!) and this week that was my best yoga practice.
Your Body Language May Shape Who You Are https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ks-_Mh1QhMc&t=28s