For most people, the idea of willingly stepping into thin air some 10,000 feet from the ground might seem like the antithesis to the calm you hope to achieve through yoga. But some skydivers find that the practice is just what’s needed to help keep them in the right physical and mental shape needed to perform their sport.
Amy Chmelecki, the sole female jumper on the Red Bull Air Force skydiving team, was introduced to yoga through skydiving 16 years ago, and now relies on it as a way to keep her mind and body both strong and flexible. “When I’m engaged in skydiving it’s got all my focus, I’m 100 percent engaged,” Chmelecki says. “It’s similar to the feelings I have in yoga.”
Chmelecki will use yoga in the training program for 79 female skydivers from around the world who will attempt to break the world record for the largest Women’s Vertical Jump next month. Chemeleckie organized the current record jump in 2010. “We’ll do yoga together every morning to get everyone focused, to get their bodies and minds warmed up, and relax them a little bit, too,” she says.
Chmelecki isn’t the only skydiver to make the connection between yoga and skydiving. Yoga teacher Kathryn Budig, who writes Yogajournal.com’s Challenge Pose blog, is also an avid skydiver. “Skydiving can be a high stress situation, and when the body tenses up in freefall it can create quite a mess,” she says. “A skydiver needs to be able to control and relax their body at the same time to create the shape and movements they desire, just as a yogi does on the mat.”
Yoga also helps Chmelecki deal with the stresses of the sport, though, she doesn’t get stressed about jumping or falling in the way a new skydiver might. “It’s more the normal stresses,” she says. “I want to perform well, and do a good job.” That’s something that everyone can relate to—even those with their feet planted firmly on the ground.