World Champion Halfpipe Skier Jen Hudak Uses Yoga to Find Balance in Her Life

Tyler
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Jen Hudak is a World Champion freestyle skier specializing in Halfpipe and Slopestyle. She is 28 years old yet has seen more of the world than most do in their entire lives. She has sustained more injuries than most professional football players, yet just last month mountain biked 75 miles in one day to raise money for The Sarah Burke Foundation.  Jen has sacrificed a lot in her pursuits to be the best in the world, but recently she works to live a more balanced life and has found that, through this balance, she is able to accomplish more than she ever thought possible.  Could her new found balance be because of yoga? Let’s find out.

From Jen Hudak:

Life is all about balance. In the sport of Halfpipe skiing, quite literally, balance is the key to success. Finding center on my skis not only makes what I intend to do possible, it allows me to carry my speed and momentum through crushing G-forces allowing me to explode out of the top of the halfpipe with efficiency, going as big as possible. Balance is the only way to stay upright regardless of what we are pursuing.

jen hudak metals

Early on in my career, my sport demanded that I prioritize: ski competitions over family events, US Ski Association meetings over prom, and training over socializing. But as the years went on, I began to realize that constant hard work left unbalanced didn’t always yield progressive, successful results. I had let skiing become my everything. It was no longer just something that I did for fun, but what I did for my job; it provided my income, my recreation, my value as a human being—it became not only what I did but also who I was. This was unsustainable.

I found myself burnt out, not loving skiing as I once did, and sought an alternative. Yoga has provided me with just that. Instead of always going to the gym to lift weights and focus on traditional, western strength training, I began to supplement with yoga. For me, the benefits not only came physically, also but mentally. Like skiing, yoga offers a meditative experience. An entire hour and a half class would go by without thought of “should-haves”, “should-bes,” or “what-ifs.” My mind remained still, focused on my breath, my movement (or stillness) in the moment, and the energy that my body possessed.

jen hudak halfpipe

Balance is central to yoga. Sure, in the obvious sense, standing in half moon pose, staying in a headstand, or extending in dancer, all require balance. But there is a more complex phenomenon here that helped me see my life and where I was placing my efforts in a new light. In dancer pose for example, we only reach our potential by kicking our leg strongly into our hand and reaching forward with the opposite hand as we let our chest open. There is a “give” and an equal, but opposite “take” that makes extending into this pose possible. I realized that this was the same for my life, and the same for my skiing.

Finding an even distribution of hard effort matched with an area of relaxation was the key: balance. I used to be an all or nothing kind of person, but over the last few years my exploration of balance after discovering yoga has given me a new perspective. For a long time I was afraid to do yoga because I felt like I wasn’t a true “yogi” if I could attend only one class every other week. Often, I wouldn’t go because of this feeling. But in reality, if I were to only do yoga, my life would be out of balance in another direction. I haven’t let yoga replace my former workouts and activities. My yoga practice supports my efforts on snow and in the gym, while my gym workouts and on-snow ski training provide a base for my explorations in yoga.

jen yoga

The newfound balance that I began to apply to my ski training led me to seek balance in other areas of my life. Skiing had always taken priority over relationships, school and other hobbies, so over the last year and a half I have begun to make a change. I’m back in school studying Psychology at the University of Utah. I have an incredible boyfriend, and get to spend more time mountain biking, doing yoga and spending time in the gym if I’m up for it. Striking such a balance allows us to pour 100% of ourselves into an activity while we’re doing it instead of showing up half-heartedly. And like yoga, there will be a period of time where we teeter-totter between the right amount of each activity, falling on our faces and our bums, until we find the ideal middle ground.

Follow Jen on Facebook and Twitter and be sure to check out her website JenHudak.com

 

Did yoga help you find a balance in your life? Tell us your story in the comments below. 

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Tyler

Tyler is the Editorial Director of YogiApproved.com. He is a vegetarian but often dreams of buffalo chicken sandwiches. His dog is smarter than your honor student.

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