Jeff Provenzano first fell in love with sky diving when he was 18. He didn't know much about the sport at the time, just that it looked like fun. Then, he jumped out of a plane for the first time. "As soon as I jumped out, all the fear I'd had about my first jump melted away," he remembers. "Even while I was still in free-fall, I kept thinking, 'This is it, there's no going back.' I was too young to really think that I should be absolutely terrified at that moment. I just thought it was amazing."
Fast-forward 23 years, and Provenzano is still just as obsessed with sky diving as he was the first time he jumped out of the plane—but he's dealt with his fair share of injuries and self-doubt along the way. Here's how he copes.
Accidents and intuition.
In addition to sky diving, Provenzano base jumps—and his worst accident ever was a result of base jumping. "I was out in Arizona doing a low cliff jump, and my parachute opened when I deployed. It opened completely 180 degrees in the wrong direction. I smashed into a wall pretty good, and that’s where I got injured—my initial impact with the cliff. But at that point I’d have to be unconscious to not keep fighting. All those instincts just come into play."
Speaking of instincts, Provenzano once broke his wrist into 11 pieces. Much to his own amazement, he was able to do some damage control in that moment. "It was the weirdest reaction—I wanted to make it look straight again. The doctor ended up telling me that I saved him a lot of work by putting so many of those pieces back together again."
Yoga as a mental and physical crutch.
For Provenzano, there's nothing more important than a regular yoga practice. "Yoga has helped me heal from my injuries, and it’s keeping me in the game right now. I’m 41, and I’m fighting to stay in a sport that gets younger and younger, especially with indoor sky diving. Now I’m flying against 14-year-olds, so I have to make my 41-year-old body do things. Yoga helps with that."
And the mental impact of yoga is even more important to Provenzano than the physical. "It just helps me focus," he explains. "I was in a couple of competitions last month, and I didn’t schedule any training. I was doing yoga every day because it made me feel so much more relaxed. I would start to get nervous, and then that yogic mindset would kick in and I'd think, 'You’ve done this a thousand times. You can do it again.' It helps my mind, it helps my body, and it helps with healing."
Inspired by Provenzano's story? Read up on how this Olympic bobsledder eats, exercises, and stands up to sexism.
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