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Yoga and Base Jumping: The Yoga of Risk

May 22, 2012

It was much, much easier than I thought it would be to climb over the railing of this bridge.


This will be my first BASE jump. I had assumed I’d whinge and hesitate, leaning over and looking and flitting around for an excuse to wait just one more moment, just to review the process again and just one more equipment check and just until this last group of cars has roared behind me, traffic wind pressing my jacket collar firmly against my neck, trucks bleating deeply and hoarsely when they see my silhouetted figure leaning out over the void of the canyon.

It’s not going to be that luxurious. The African sun just tucked itself behind the Outeniquas and I’m losing the light. I know beyond a doubt that this is precisely the right place, time and moment to make this step. If I don’t move decisively, I’ll lose this chance.


I dash to the other side of the bridge, through the headlights of the evening traffic. I follow the last trickles of honeyed sunlight that pour along the narrow railing. I find the center of the bridge. I gauge the breath of wind that moves across the span. I throw my right leg over. I throw my left leg over. I feel the cold curve of the railing under each hand.

As I stand on the outside of the bridge railing, hanging in something like a reverse cobra with my belly over the void, I think about the Yoga of risk-taking.

Yoga sustains a world perched on the edge. Yoga sustains the explorer, the adventurer, the envelope-pusher in all of us, no matter what form that takes, with its power to help us move confidently in the strong currents of our lives. As Yogis, our lungs pull Yoga’s breath from a single, universal source and sends it through our fragile bodies and our trembling hearts; our Yoga gives us the balance of strength and acceptance to take the risks we find necessary to move forward along our unique paths. This particular risk , this leap, is madness for many; for me, it’s the next vital step in a long journey.

Steady ujjayi breaths push away the weakness that trickles up my legs.In this moment, myself and my parachute and this bridge and the fading sunlight and that night bird, calling in the forest below, we are one being, breathing a single breath.

A handful of construction workers has quietly lined up along the railing to my left, faces and hands disappearing into the advancing night, safety-orange jumpsuits craned over the edge, waiting.

I tip my chin up to the invisible horizon behind the hill in front of me and I see the last of the light slip away from it.

It’s time.

My hands slide smoothly over the metal. My knees bend then spring. I press my heart forward toward the disappearing sun and open the palms of both hands in acceptance.

For a moment, as I fall, there is perfect silence. Perfect peace.

Then, suddenly, the world is full of fabric sounds. My parachute snaps cleanly open and I’m suspended over the riverbank. I grab one orange toggle in each hand, alighting gently on my feet.

I turn my face up to the bridge and holler madly, my voice meeting the construction workers’ somewhere in the middle. I stand in Tadasana for a moment, my heart beating delightedly against my thumbs, grateful.

This is my unique Yoga.

What’s yours?


Annette O’Neil has a couple hundred skydives, many hours logged under a paragliding wing, a handful of rip-roaring speed flights and a brand-new wingsuit on the way — but her most important (non-helmet) safety equipment is a yoga mat. Find her at, or at

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