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Saturday, July 14, 2007

fear of flying

i keep telling my eco-adventurous friends that, unlike them, even if i could find the time to train and build up the strength and endurance needed to climb to the top of mount whitney, at 14,494 feet the the tallest peak in california (and the lower 48 states), i probably would never attempt the hike.

why? because i have a terrible fear of heights. and at some point in the ascent and/or descent, i know i'll have to look down. and realize how far up i am. and how far down the bottom is. and my knees will turn to jelly and i'll panic. at that point, the only way i'll move from my frozen state is if someone comes to my rescue by holding my hand and guiding me down (or up) to a point where i feel safe again. just thinking about it is making me break into a cold sweat...

on the other hand, i have no problems looking out the window while i'm airborne 35,000 feet in the sky in an airplane. in fact, i love looking down, trying to figure out the geographical formations. am i in arizona over the grand canyon? or in colorado over the rockies? every time i board a plane, i look forward to flying high and enjoying the view.

i know what you're thinking; it makes no sense. but it really does, at least to me. you see, the difference is that while i'm hiking up mountains, i have no safety net. i can slip, trip, or lose my balance at any time, and nothing would stop me from falling. on the other hand, if i'm sitting in an airplane seat behind a sealed window in an aircraft being flown by an experienced pilot, i know that no matter what i do, i'll still be in that seat. behind the window. in that aircraft.

it all boils down to trust. while i trust the mechanics of the plane, the ability of the pilot, and the guidance of the control tower, i somehow don't trust myself to be able to control my own body. i honestly believe that if i think i might fall, i will. i suppose i could do something about that fear -- hypnosis, therapy, whatever -- but then again, i've gotten this far in my life and i don't think i've missed out on too many things because of it.

you're probably wondering what any of this has to do with yoga.

it's simple. i went flying this morning. and it wasn't in a plane. i had to rely on my own ability to balance and my partner's ability to support me. and not only did i not fall, but i had a blast!

i know; i need to back up...

in marc holzman's latest guerilla yoga** update, he posted something about acroyoga with huck hirsch:

(** guerilla yoga: donation-only classes taught by marc holzman, ross rayburn, and now tiffany fraser at two locations in the hollywood area. check the website for more details.)

AcroYoga in the Park(s) with Huck !

For all the AcroYoga junkies who have been missing their fix ... or for anyone new who wants to learn to fly, our certified Acro teacher Huck will be holding four AcroYoga classes in the park for the month of July:

"FLY in JULY!" outdoor AcroYoga classes with Huck on 4 SATURDAYS:
july 7th @ pan pacific park
july 14th @ hollister and 4th (santa monica)
july 21st @ pan pacific park
july 28th @ hollister and 4th (santa monica)

ALL classes are 2 hours: 10:30am to 12:30pm
for more info or if you have questions, please email huck@acroyoga.org.

and i figured, what's the worst that could happen? i fall a few feet to the grass below? it definitely wouldn't be as deadly as falling from the top of the sierras, right?

so after a short run with my running buddies this morning, i headed out to hotchkiss park in santa monica (bordered by 4th, strand, and 3rd streets) to take my first acroyoga class. including huck, there were 10 of us who showed up to practice a blend of acrobatics and yoga.

unlike last weekend, where the group worked on forward flying (and i unfortunately couldn't make it because i was out of town), this week we worked on backward flying. the difference is that while the partners are facing each other and can easily communicate as the "forward flyer" is being lifted, the partners are facing away from each other and have to go purely by feel as the "backward flyer" is sent airborne.

and there's where trust comes into play.

since i was the novice in the group and am relatively small, i jumped at every chance to "fly" every time huck demonstrated a new pose. and it was a total surprise to me how i could rely on my sense of balance to keep myself perched and relaxed on my partner's raised legs. and because i trusted that i would never be dropped, i never thought i could fall. and because of that, i never did.

we all took turns supporting and flying. and as our group formations started getting more elaborate and somewhat artistic, it became more and more exhilarating! and i kept mentally thanking all my yoga teachers for teaching me how to do all those backbends, forward bends, arm raises, and leg lifts because without that flexibility, it would have been difficult for me to get into some of the poses. and what fun would that be?

so now that i know that i can fly a few feet off the ground and be perfectly fine, i only have to work on getting over the fear of 14,491 more... whitney, here i come!


Blogger Flying without Fear.com said...

Come and see us at flyingwithoutfear.com On our forum we've got people who suffer from a fear of heights and who now go flying...it is possible to overcome the fear and open up a whole world.
Don't be dis heartened rather be confident that the chances are that you will overcome your fears


3:35 PM  
Blogger joni said...

hi keithe --
actually, i'm very ok with flying in airplanes. in fact, i was a willing passenger in a single-engine cessna with zero visibility while my friend (who happened to be piloting the plane) was perfecting his IFR skills. but thanks for the offer... i'm sure someone reading this could use your service :)

5:50 PM  

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