From the time I first had a vision of selling my apartment, leaving New York for the winter, and living home-free, I knew that the hardest part about going away would be giving up my weekly trapeze and trampoline classes.
Since discovering flying trapeze in 2003 it had become a core part of my life and my routine; a source of fun, challenge, deep play, physical exercise, spiritual growth, and community.
In addition to missing all of these elements, I knew from previous experience how difficult it would be to return. Its inevitable that you will lose ground on your skills when you take time off.
Each time I extended my stay in California, I had a pang of anxiety about how difficult it would be to get back into the swing of things — literally.
I knew that in my time away my friends would make progress my skills would regress. And although it’s not a competition, it’s inevitable that we compare ourselves to others and to our previous capabilities.
When I returned earlier this year after six weeks in Panama, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that I lost little ground in my skills during that time away. My reintegration was fairly seamless.
I know that it was not realistic to expect the same after a six month absence. Six months is not six weeks. Even though I’ve been exercising regularly and building functional strength — in part to help me perform in my sports more sustainably — general strength is not the same as trapeze strength. And trampoline skills are a completely different nature.
All training is specific. The way to improve in something is to consistently practice that thing.
Knowing that I tend to be hard on myself and can easily fall into the trap of comparison, even with my past self, I have been mindful of approaching my reintegration with a mindset of self-compassion and self-acceptance.
My first classes back have been a mix of pleasant surprises and expected challenges as I work to find my rhythm again. “No judgements” has become my mantra throughout practice, as I struggle with skills that I previously did with relative ease
Accepting where we are on any given day is a big piece of the physical practice. This applies on the yoga mat, in the weight room, on flying trapeze, trampoline, in the pool, or whatever your choice of physical activity. Even without a break, our bodies are different every day. What came easily yesterday may be difficult today.
This extends beyond physical pursuits to our creative and intellectual work. It is a natural part of life.
The Gifts of Regression
In the space of self-acceptance and compassion, I’ve been able to see the gifts in regression.
And although it may be frustrating to struggle with something that once came with ease, the experience of rebuilding can be helpful.
(1) Perspective On What You’ve Done
We often forget that the things that we do with ease were not always so easy. The struggles to reclaim ground reminds me of how far I had come in developing the skill. I have renewed appreciation for my initial wins.
When I’m doing the next difficult thing because even in the struggle I’ll remind myself that I’ve successfully navigated the difficulty in the past.
(2) Opportunity to Rebuild Stronger
A central theme of life is the idea of destroying to create. Each time we take a step backward in our progress we have the opportunity to rebuild from a stronger foundation.
Indeed, this has been a theme of my work over the past six months: undoing dysfunctional movement patterns and rebuilding from the ground up. I now get the opportunity to apply my new physical awareness to this context and rebuild in a more sustainable way.
(3) Expanding Capacity for Empathy
Finally, it helps me expand my empathy for others. As a coach and yoga teacher I am called to hold space for my clients and students through their challenges. Going through my own struggles reminds me what it feels like and expands my capacity to hold space for others.
The more I remind myself that regression is a natural part of the path to progress, the easier it is to accept where I am, and the more I can receive these gifts.