Training Day 2: Free-running basics

I wanted to wait a day to let my quads (and whatever else) stop complaining, because no one wants to hear my belly-aching for too long, or more about my love affair with Advil (and now Trans-act).

As i said, thursday’s training was awesome! Here’s why…

But first, a short, sad story about a little girl who wanted to grow up to be an Olympic gymnast…

I did gymnastics from about age 7 to 14. I was an active, tall, lanky girl and didn’t have much strength or awareness in my body. Admittedly, i was a bit spacey. I was always doing handstands in doorways and my mom likes to comment that, during this period, she saw more of my feet than my head. I loved gymnastics, but never moved beyond the basic elements: cartwheels, round-offs, walkovers, some jumps and turns on the beam, basic vault moves, and at uneven bars i was a complete disaster. I just didn’t have the core strength to get me anywhere, and i struggled with my long limbs. In a small community, a lot of effort is put into the students who had the best chance to ‘make it’, you know, those short, compact, strong kids with lots of parental backing. So early on i was side-lined for investments with a better return and ended up helping the younger kids with the basic moves. I also learned a lot about spotting, assists, how to teach an element, and how to spot the more advanced elements. Essentially, this early training became the foundation for my picking up the practice of yoga and eventually becoming a yoga teacher. I loved helping people, but i never got to try those aerials and back handsprings on the floor, the wild vaults and the effortless swinging from bar to bar that the other gymnasts got to do. I was, quite literally, grounded.

I still have dreams about these ‘flying’ elements, languid dreams where you float through walkovers, handsprings, tucks and layouts, and it all seems stretched through dream time, and infinitely easy. When i’m at my most agitated i can’t get to sleep thinking about beam routines that i would have loved to execute, but never could. Matthew Sweeney has a word for these things when they apply to yoga, he calls those dream asanas the ‘romance poses’. These are postures that are perceived as a pinnacle of achievement and are obsessed over by practitioners, usually when they are most inappropriate to their current ability. Hanumanasana (splits), Vrischikasana (scorpion), backbends, even Padmasana (lotus) fall into this category for many people. They are a romantic ideal of yoga asana and we yogis all have them.

When i started yoga again about 5 years ago scorpion was my romance pose. I thought if i ever was able to do that posture, that would be the height of my yoga practice, the apex, be-all-end-all of my yoga. I was able to do scorpion about 3 years ago. Ho-hummm (oops sorry, i meant So-Ham).

What i learned from having this goal is that nothing is impossible. I can do anything! It just takes dedication and practice. I’m still working on scorpion by the way, and in the ashtanga intermediate series scorpion gets very tricky. But i know now that it is not impossible- i will be able to do pincha mayurasana to karandavasana back to pincha some day. Those of you who know what i mean, know what i mean. Those of you who don’t- google it.

And so thursday i realized my childhood olympic gymnast’s dream of launching myself freely into the air in my first (and second, and third, etc) attempt at an aerial (btw: foam pits are awesome!). We also did back tucks and had a bit of fun on a bouncy floor with round-offs (the element that i executed very poorly as a kid and which kept me from advancing in other floor elements like aerials). Note: bouncy gymnastics floors are awesome! What a complete and utter high!

Free-running is the more expressive branch of parkour, it challenges your ability to get over, under and through various objects in flowing (non-stop) succession. It challenges your mind to think creatively about your approach, the element you’re trying to execute, and the (hopefully smooth) exit from that element. On the surface it seems more like tricks, but underneath there’s a lot of mental calculation going on, distance, speed, size of the object, etc. Of course 20-somethings make it look easy (or at least insane). On the other hand, at 40 i have stronger mind-body connection. I’m a bit slow on the uptake, not so quick off the mark, but the elements i do take on will probably have more stability and consistency over the long run. I’ve been dreaming of doing these things for a long time. And as Matthew Sweeney says, when you start dreaming about it, you’re getting closer to realizing it.

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