If you were looking for two disciplines that are completely opposite each other, yoga and skydiving might seem obvious. But to be completely honest, they are not only more alike than you might think, but complement each other. I’d make the case that if you want to be a better skydiver, one of the biggest steps you could take is to begin practicing yoga or pilates.
Why Practice Yoga?
One of the top reasons for a skydiver to practice yoga is for physical fitness. Serious yoga practitioners work on breathing, posture, and mindset which translates into improved focus, awareness, balance, stability, and flexibility. Sound familiar? These are many of the same factors that contribute to great skydiving technique.
When you are first beginning to skydive, there is too much going on to truly notice the physical challenges involved. However, once you begin to get more advanced, aches and soreness happen due to the sheer physical exertion involved in advanced skydiving technique. Yoga can help to counteract the strain of flying by unwinding clenched muscles and building core strength–which helps in every part of skydiving.
The other thing that makes yoga a great fit for skydivers is that you can do it anywhere. You don’t need any fancy equipment, and can even practice at your drop zone before or in between jumps. A basic yoga routine can help you limber up before a jump and get into a calm, focused headspace as well.
Yoga Moves for Skydivers
While all of the moves in yoga offer something to skydivers, a few can be very directly applied to flying positions and poses. Consider creating a personal routine that incorporates yoga poses that translate directly to flying positions you are working on.
Warrior III is a perfect pose for developing better core stability, cultivating your balance, and working on your mind-body awareness. Side planks are also a move that will help build core strength and give you more stability in the air. Freeflyers will especially benefit from practicing balance poses.
These types of poses specifically promote flexibility in the lower body. Forward bends will help with safe landings and relieving tension from wind tunnel flying and the back extension associated with belly flying and freeflying.
Inversions are moves where your feet are above your head. This upside down way position improves circulation and helps skydivers get comfortable with the sensation of falling headfirst. A half shoulder stand or supported headstand can get your muscles trained so that it is easier to keep your body vertical when you are flying head down.
Belly flying is a lot of fun, but also a lot of work when you do it often. The back, especially the lower back, can end up very tight and sore from the extended position it is in during a belly jump. Twisting poses like Half Lord of the Fishes help to decompress the spine and open up the muscles along the ribcage that can tense up from skydiving and wind tunnel flying. Just remember to gently ease into any twist and allow your body to relax into it.
It’s funny that we can get something as natural as breathing so wrong, but the truth is that most people don’t practice good breathing. Yoga teaches you to take complete breaths, which basically just means breathing deeply enough to completely fill your lungs. This type of breathing is very effective for relaxation and focus. If you can practice deep breathing in yoga, you can become more aware of your breath when you are flying and as you initiate your jumps.
Breathing correctly will send a message to your brain to calm down and relax, lowering the stress on your body and mind. Next time you’re relaxed, pay attention to how you breath and try to reproduce it inside the plane and during the jumps. Mixing breathing with a good smile is the perfect way to relax prior to or during a skydive.
No matter which way you look at it, there are huge benefits to be gained from yoga, both in the sky and on the ground. The stronger and calmer you are, the better your jumps and landing will be and the better your recovery will be when you’re training hard. Even if you’re already in good shape, the added mind-body awareness that comes with a yoga practice will enhance your skydiving skills. Yoga and skydiving are a great match.
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