Yoga V Contortion V Gymnastics

I am writing this post as it is something i am lucky enough to be able to and i want to share my thoughts.

I have performed as a Professional Contortionist and as a handstand artist for 10+ years at many events and shows.
I was a Competitive Gymnast for most of my youth and teens (now been retired a good 15 years!)
I have had a daily yoga practice since 2009.

I now also teach all of these things – handstands, contortion, 3 different disciplines of gymnastics, yoga.

To me all of these things have crossovers but in my life are infact very different.  My yoga practice is not my contortion practice.  My gymnastics past is not my contortion practice.  And my contortion general practice is not my contortion performance practice.  My gymnastics classes are not my contortion classes, my contortion classes are far different to my yoga classes. Everything is similar, but nothing is the same or lumped into the same category.

My yoga practice is rarely about me being super bendy. My pictures on Instagram may tell differently, but my pictures on Instagram depict a fractional percentage of my yoga practice, and the bits that in this crazy world get me more likes which weirdly benefits my career (I hate that but sadly it is true).  Maybe not apparent via my social media but mostly I just enjoy arriving to my mat and just doing my practice without worrying about depth of what I am doing or anyone judging me.  99% of my yoga practice is my personal private practice which is gentle and undocumented photographically.  I enjoy the focus on my breathing.  I enjoy the focus on stilling my mind.  I enjoy the gentleness.  I enjoy the non-judgemental feeling.  I enjoy that it can be incredibly rejuvanating to both mind and body.  Sometimes yoga postures are inherently bendy, or yoga teachers get me to do some crazy bendy thing, some assist me into bendy postures.  If my body is feeling it then I comply, and i enjoy and respect it, it has helped me develop my flexibility and asanas further, but ultimately my yoga practice is not my contortion or handstand practice, and nor do i wish it to be.  I also participate in yoga asana competitions once or twice a year, they are totally separate from my daily yoga practice.  I use them as a tool for me to work on personal development of internal attributes.  Sometimes I fall or zero a posture, sometimes i do a good routine and win medals, but I do not class myself as any better or worse than any other participant or non-participant, no result defines me, we are all on our own journeys down our own paths in our own vehicles.

My handstand and contortion practice/performances are about me achieving two things, the first is a lot of depth, mainly in oversplits and backbends, the second is in being creative and movement skills in, in the entries/exits, and in-between skills.  My performances come from a creative place in my heart that extends to include costuming, choreography, creativity, as well as one heck of a lot of admin – the really boring bits no-one sees but me that enable me to work professionally.  My handbalance and contortion practice is often done alone, is often recorded so i give myself my own feedback.  My practice is still pretty personal, and i always have a long way to develop with it, but my actual performances I put myself centre stage for the world to see, and hopefully enjoy watching as much as i do doing it.

My gymnastics past while I respect it a lot, it did not teach me yoga, nor did it teach me to be hugely flexible (I was in artistic not rhythmic), nor did it teach me to do one arm handstands.  It taught me skills such as backhandsprings, how to do somersaults etc.  Very importantly are the transferrable and life skills it taught me – inner strength, the ability to practice a skill over and over, the respect for basics and foundations, that I can keep going well past when I think I can not, that flexibility is nothing without strength.  And it taught me to teach, I have now been teaching for 17 years (gymnastics, then handstands/flexibility, then yoga) and while the content and context differs then my gymnastics teaching skills and abilities cross over to most things that I teach.

More often than I would like then i hear people say about me that i can do this or that in yoga because i was a gymnast, or because i am a contortionist.  But to me I am just Sally and I have worked exceptionally hard for every little thing that I can do today.  I was not born in a handstand, I worked for it. We all start as beginners. Those transferable skills have often been originally learnt through hours and hours of practice.  The skills I can do are not inaccessible to many people, just means you also need to put those hours in, the route may differ but for example that one arm handstand is just as possible for you to achieve as it was for me, i also started from thousands of training sessions away from it.

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