When I was a Sophomore in high school, I was a pretty good diver. I grew up swimming and doing gymnastics, so joining the diving team was an easy transition. Now, I wasn’t going to earn a college scholarship or make it on the Olympic team, but I fared well at meets and even placed tenth in a big metro competition. Most of all it was fun and I enjoyed being part of the team.
The summer after my Sophomore year, I was working at the pool (best job ever). During a break, a few of us were messing around, throwing a few dives. I got up, like I’d done a hundred times before, to do a simple one and a half. On my approach, my footing slipped, I landed hard on my low back and fell into the water. (We later found out that the board was painted with house paint mixed with sand, not the best combination for a board.) It completely stunned me. When I was able to put it all together, my back was throbbing.
I was rushed to the hospital for an exam and x-rays. Thankfully, everything was physically fine, just a really bruised back. The only thing that was really injured was my psyche.
For the rest of the summer, I didn’t go off the board. The next diving season, I made excuses about being too busy and just not interested. In fact, I was petrified. This went on for years. For quite a while, I just avoided diving boards. About fifteen years later, I hesitantly went off again. I was shaky and nervous, completely uncomfortable. For the next ten years, that was about it.
So, it’s been 25 years and I decided it was time to get over it. Logically, on a safe board I should be okay. Logically, my body was physically capable. Logically, people go off all the time and are just fine.
So, I started visualizing. I would close my eyes and imagine riding the board, soaring and landing safely in the comfort of the pool. When I would visualize, I could feel my heart quicken and breath shorten. When I recognized this, I would relax into my deep breath and try again. After a couple of weeks of visualizing and really seeing it I was ready.
The first few times were a little shaky, but I relaxed into my breath and focused on the fun of it. I’m happy to say I can now really enjoy diving again.
In my personal yoga practice and with my students, I’ll use visualization. It helps me to see the path, the journey and my eventual arrival. When I spend time mentally on the path, it’s easier to find my way physically and emotionally. I’ve already been there in my mind, so there is comfort and familiarity already established.
I’m planning to spend the rest of the summer working on my bag of tricks. I’ve started to build my diving repertoire. I don’t have any intention of returning to my limited high school glory, but right now I’m visualizing that elusive one and a half. Oh, my heart just quickened, I need to go close my eyes, visualize and breathe.
(This blog was originally posted on yoginiinprogress.blogspot.com.)