Until a couple months ago, I was living in the gymnastics dark, unaware I could participate in this–frankly, awesome–sport as an adult. (Thanks, Amelia!) And now that I know, I’m eager to make up for lost time.
I was competitive as a child, although my average skills never quite matched my intense love for the sport. I went to gymnastics camp and met Dominique Moceanu, though, and favored a burgundy crush velvet leotard and matching hair scrunchie–legitimizing qualifications if ever you heard them. And then I went away to school, and transitioned into flinging myself off of 1 and 3-meter diving boards instead. Later, in college, after a beverage or two, I liked to throw messy back walkovers on whatever surface was available to me: grass, or sometimes, hotel hallways. I am still a frequent handstand-and-cartwheeler in the sand, because life is short.
That brings us to the present. I have attended four classes now, and joy is the simplest way to describe it. Just walking into the gym–the primary colored mats and barrels, the expanse of trampolines, the foam pit–seems to dissipate stress.
My body is remembering front extension rolls (a series of which left me feeling terribly motion sick after my first class), back bends, kick overs, headstands, and almost back handsprings. Week to week, tangible improvements. I’m sore the next day (who knew the body contained so many distinct muscles?), but still I want to practice handstands against our apartment door: “You need to be looong,” instructs Rodrigo, pulling out the word to match his arms stretched high above his head. “Practice being looong.” So I do.
I’m not a naturally gifted athlete, and I would rather shop for tomatoes than go on a hike, but for some reason this gymnastics business has become a highlight of my week. It quiets all the overwhelmed, busy thoughts in my head.
Last week, we front flipped. With each turn, I stared down the alley of floor in front of me and in that suspended moment, nothing mattered except the anticipation alive in my fingertips. With each turn, I slid into a long-strided run, just before the mat pike-punching hard to launch my body upward with everything I had. It’s an act of faith, really. A hard tuck, willing mind and body to follow in a neat circle through the air, hoping that–this time–I’ll land on my feet.