Recently, I offered yoga sessions as a complementary practice for an acrobatic clinic that Max Maren, one of my favorite paragliding instructors and acrobatic pilots is offering in Turkey this fall 2020.
After a series of conversations about having this “mix of acro and yoga” I realized it did not sound appealing at all to Max. At first I understood that due to our tight schedule we won’t be able to include yoga sessions in the clinic, but recently I was told the real reason why Max did not want to add mindful movement in our 10 day trip, and let me tell you: I found the reason fascinating!
I expressed to Max and the other organizers that I usually do yoga every day, in case someone would like to join me. Hopefully we would have a nice place in the hotel to do it, otherwise my room could be the shrine. I know Max’s heart and kindness and he has shared with me some of his physical aches, therefore I was not willing to give up my idea of acro and yoga that easy. I really believe yoga and paragliding are a great blend, for us, for our sport, for our paragliding world!
Acro is a modality of paragliding usually done by tough and expert pilots who enjoy extreme emotions in the air, they perform advanced maneuvers that from the eyes of the expectators, they look very dangerous, and yes, they are! It gives me chills, goose bumps and makes me very, very dizzy!
During an acrobatic clinic, based on my own experience, FIVE things are required from the participants: good attention, strong muscles, endurance, capacity to respond instead of react and willingness to relax. And more than ever we also need to have a deep connection with our glider, that we also call “wing”.
Based on the experts at justacro.com there are about 30 tricks! One of them is called helicopter. Can you picture how this is just by the name? “Helicopter is actually a controlled spin, the wing turns like the rotor of a helicopter and it is considered to be one of the most difficult maneuvers, which requires very precise brake handling from the pilot.” To master this kind of “tricks” the pilots practice many hours, they developed skills beyond my comprehension.
From my personal view these tricks look like intricate and advanced tango moves in the sky. I have a friend who during a trick, ended up trapped into the wing, her body was falling from the sky like trapped in a taco! Scary! Yes!
She is for sure a tough pilot and a great yogi, who landed on water safe, lucky enough to have the skills to deployed her reserve parachute just on time to save her life! I believe, like yogis do, pilots need a heaven of concentration, no ego and lots of humor.
I watched these tough pilots with both admiration and preoccupation. Some extreme maneuvers can lead to bad accidents and unfortunately to death. We need to face the reality: accidents can happen in any sport or activity even driving a car. However, paragliding acro has an aditional danger component. As pilots we need to make decisions every moment in the air, not only when we are flying but also, and most importantly, when we are taking off and landing.
I would like to confess that I deeply admire acro pilots. I am not a big fan of roller coasters and I am very scared of them. I imagine myself in Turkey practicing a series of basic tricks guided by Max that I will learn for safety reasons, in case I have to handle a collapse or a situation like being sucked by a massive cloud or being in a rotor, ll of these scenarios require “more piloting” in which, perhaps, I might have to throw my reserve parachute, and hopefully not ending up like a taco. We, pilots, agree that our own safety and enjoyment also influence our communities in the sky and on the ground. We really need to be the pilots of our wings, not the other way around!
I asked Max to tell me the truth. I consider him my bird brother. This sweet tough man has been flying since he his 13 years old and holds a world record on tumbles. I was very curious to hear his real reasons. Well, he told me to change the word yoga for "athletic stretching".
I was packing my glider and thinking about the power of words, the limitations of concepts and ideas… The universe between languages and perceptions and the trick this mess makes on us! Come on!
I contacted him again trying to find a common ground for negotiation. Max said in his voice message: “hey Sofia, as far as the athletic stretching versus yoga... I think it just sounds more masculine, right? Because, you know, a lot of time with paragliding is guys and they want to be athletic, they want to call themselves athletes. The words that you use, and maybe a little bit of how this is done... I think guys would prefer it to be athletic versus mindful, if that makes sense.”
I was fascinating. Once again.
I found something online:
“Yes, Real Men Do Yoga-including some of America's greatest athletes! "Yoga has made my entire body more flexible, I'm stronger in my upper body, and I'm living proof that yoga prevents injuries. '' ... "In sports, you need balance, strength and flexibility, and yoga helps so much in each of those areas”.
"Men are often less flexible than women, so if guys don't stretch at all, they're at a big disadvantage. Men who practice yoga regularly are able to build more muscle fibers, which means bigger muscles. And with advanced flexibility, they are able to explore more positions between the sheets."
Let’s fly together with whatever name serves us better, and thank you for being safe!
I believe in the power of words. Let our actions speak for us.