Out of the comfort zone
I often tell my students they need to get out of their comfort zones – whether it’s about moving further into a position, facing a fear or dealing with all kinds of situations in life. Recently, the tables were turned and I found myself in the position (and I don’t mean an asana) where I had to do it myself. You see, recently, some friends gave me the gift of a tandem skydiving jump but I’ve always had a fear of heights. I can’t exactly pinpoint why, but I think it’s probably the lack of control. For example, I have no problem going upside down or doing inversions but when it comes to heights, I get a very weird sensation in my legs and I know I just can’t control it. It’s such a physical thing, I’ve even had a panic attack on a roller coaster – I felt nauseous and I couldn’t breathe.
So, although skydiving was something I had never ever thought I would do in my lifetime, I thought about all the times I had told my students to face their fears and so I knew I had to do it. We travelled to a place that was about one hour north of Barcelona (the Balearic Islands are too small and have too much air traffic to do it here) to jump with a school called Saltamos. They tell you to arrive three hours prior to your jump, so I thought we’d be there practicing a lot of things but actually… you’re just sitting there in a field watching people going up to the plane, jumping down from the plane, go up and down, up and down… Three. Whole. Hours.
It gave me a lot of time to think and most of my thoughts were just ‘I don’t want to do this!’ But I’d gone all that way so of course I was going to go through with it, so it was up in the plane I went. We were a group of five, but the planes are so small we were split up. The aircraft is so tiny (smaller than the size of our studio!) it only fit about ten people and you were already attached to the instructor you’d be jumping with, so it felt like we were packed in like sardines. They tell you how the plane is really old, from wartimes and about halfway up – that’s two kilometres high – they open the door to show you how far you’ve come. It is SO HIGH.
It took around 15 minutes to reach jumping height, which is four kilometres above ground level and I just kept telling myself ‘remember to breathe, it’s going to be fine, just keep breathing, concentrate, you can do this’. Sound familiar? The all of sudden it’s showtime and there’s no time to think anymore. I was the last to jump from my plane and I swear, my body was subconsciously resisting when it came time to edge towards the plane door. My legs dug into the floor, and while I have a lot of strength, the instructor was a lot stronger than me – there was no going back.
You sit on the floor of the plane, then you’re hanging outside of the door as your instructor hangs onto the grab rail and then it’s like swooooosh and you’re gone and suddenly you wonder why you were ever afraid as this is the best thing you have ever done in your life! It’s a 60-second free fall then for the next two to three minutes it feels like you’re flying, or perhaps, more accurately, floating. It all happens so fast (you’re travelling at about 200 kilometres per hour), so you just take in what you can around you – to me the view was absolutely amazing and I felt like my face looked like a Sharpei with all the movement! The instructor let me grab the rail to control our directions and I was amazed at how strong you needed to be to direct it. The whole experience reminded me a little of diving – being in a part of the universe that is not a human domain.
After I landed, I was just so happy and so were all of my friends. I instantly wanted to do it again. And again, and again and again. Skydiving is definitely addictive (it would be a very expensive habit!). Around ten minutes later I started to cry (we all did) because the adrenalin and emotions were just so powerful. In fact, we all fell asleep on the train back into the city because we were exhausted from it all.
The overall experience really made me grow as a person. I can’t say that I have necessarily conquered my fear of heights, as I realised a controlled jump from a plane and standing on the edge of a cliff are very different experiences and sensations after all. I think my fear is getting better… but I’m not totally over it yet. On the other hand however, I’d love to learn to jump on my own next time. I would recommend it to all of you to try. It’s like nothing else on this earth – I swear, I am still flying from the experience.