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Learning to balance

U.S. Air Force Capt. Rachel Schaefer, 27th Special Operations Wing assistant to the Director of Staff, implements trust, concentration and constant communication during a self-taught acro-yoga pose June 14, 2015 at Hillcrest Park in Clovis, N.M. Schaefer and her husband have focused on physically challenging themselves by learning something new to do together. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Chip Slack)

U.S. Air Force Capt. Rachel Schaefer, 27th Special Operations Wing assistant to the Director of Staff, implements trust, concentration and constant communication during a self-taught acro-yoga pose June 14, 2015 at Hillcrest Park in Clovis, N.M. Schaefer and her husband have focused on physically challenging themselves by learning something new to do together. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Chip Slack)

U.S. Air Force Capt. Rachel Schaefer, 27th Special Operations Wing assistant to the Director of Staff, balances solely on her husband’s feet during a self-taught acro-yoga pose June 14, 2015 at Hillcrest Park in Clovis, N.M. The pair has developed a newfound sense of trust as they have learned to test their physical limits. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Chip Slack)

U.S. Air Force Capt. Rachel Schaefer, 27th Special Operations Wing assistant to the Director of Staff, balances solely on her husband’s feet during a self-taught acro-yoga pose June 14, 2015 at Hillcrest Park in Clovis, N.M. The pair has developed a newfound sense of trust as they have learned to test their physical limits. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Chip Slack)

CANNON AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. -- One’s journey to self-discovery and personal advancement is a testament to the ever evolving strength of the human spirit.

As Air Commandos, the trials and tribulations of finding balance within military life can be all consuming, or motivation to step outside one’s comfort zone to thrive.

For Capt. Rachel Schaefer, 27th Special Operations Wing assistant to the Director of Staff, balance has taken a whole new meaning, as she has trained her body to learn a new way of balance in the form of acro-yoga.

Combining yoga and acrobatics, acro-yoga provides both physical and mental health benefits to its participants. Schaefer, and her husband, 1st Lt. Jeff Schaefer, 27th Special Operations Civil Engineer Squadron installation management officer in charge, became attracted to the liveliness and animation that acro-yoga offered, compared to the required patience and stillness that was essential for traditional yoga.

As adventurous physical fitness enthusiasts, the husband and wife duo dove headfirst into the world of acro-yoga and began testing their limits of trust, pushing their physical boundaries and learning something new every day.

“Acro-yoga has helped us find balance both physically and mentally,” said Rachel Schaefer. “It is a fun activity and great exercise, as each pose requires concentration, trust and subtle communication. After an hour-long session, this focus helps reset our minds, clearing it of the daily challenges of Air Force life.”

“Physically, there are two parts to acro-yoga,” she continued. “There is the flier and the base, which both require different strengths. The base needs strong arms and legs to hold the flier and provide stability. A good base however, can hold a flier much heavier than him or her through a technique called bone stacking, where the base uses the strength of their bones versus their muscles. This technique enables the base to fly their partner much longer without tiring. Both the base and the flier must implement balance, as their partners movements are dependent on it.”

Without formal training, Rachel Schaefer and her husband have had a trial-and-error approach to their new hobby, forcing an unmatched level of trust and intimacy for the couple.

“Having Jeff as my yoga partner has immensely helped our relationship,” Rachel Schaefer said. “Practicing together and learning something new has definitely built a new foundation of trust. I know he will always be there to catch and protect me during our training.”

“This feeling translates to increased trust in other aspects of our relationship,” she continued. “When we practice, we work as a team. If I misplace a foot or he positions me incorrectly, the whole pose fails. We have to move in sync; our roles are interdependent. I think this support and reliance on one another has also helped us work better together elsewhere.”

By focusing on bettering their bodies and minds during their time at Cannon, rather than on the negative perceptions sometimes associated with the surrounding area, Rachel Schaefer and her husband have grown where they were planted, allowing them the opportunity to thrive in their environment.

“Acro-yoga has provided us with an escape,” said Rachel Schaefer. “Many of the poses and transitions do a great job of physically stretching and testing our physical limitations. Paired with the strength demands, it has become a huge relaxer and stress reliever.”

“When we practice together and implement our newfound knowledge and trust, we can forget where we are and put what we did at work that day aside,” she continued. “We can be present and live fully in the moment together.”