NYC Parkour Community Profile: A Yoga-Parkour Practitioner

Our next featured community member is the always-smiling, always-willing-to-work-her-butt-off Shannon Spieler, who discovered parkour thanks to a book...

AGE: 32
PASSIONS: writing ridiculous novels, reading illicit books, ribs, cheeseburgers, pickles, video games, foreign languages, yoga – parkour

Catch Shannon's interview at 4:10 in this mini-documentary about parkour in NYC.

WHEN AND WHY DID YOU FIRST DECIDE TO TRY PARKOUR? 

I read Chris McDougall’s book Natural Born Heroes. I was inspired by the evolution of natural movement philosophy from Georges Hebert. In the early 20th century, Hebert believed that athletic competition inhibited people from the real goal of physical fitness: to be useful. His philosophy is both feminist and fun, and it was his book that indirectly led me to parkour and other natural movement disciplines. 

WHAT ARE YOUR TRAINING MOTIVATIONS, BARRIERS AND GOALS? 

The main thing is to have fun. If you don’t notice that you’re running around like a crazy person for two-plus hours, that’s the absolute best for heath and exercise. Scientific research supports this. :)

As far as barriers, parkour is the best for teaching you that your greatest obstacle is yourself. You think you can’t get your butt up over that bar but that’s just your EVIL BRAIN heckling you. So give it a try. Bruised shins are a badge of courage.

I have lots of little goals. Jumping better. Balance. Turning my hip flexors into rubber bands instead of sisal. Doing a hand stand off the wall for more than one single, teetering second…

HOW HAS PARKOUR INFLUENCED OTHER ASPECTS OF YOUR LIFE? 

"...parkour is the best for teaching you that your greatest obstacle is yourself. You think you can’t get your butt up over that bar but that’s just your EVIL BRAIN heckling you. So give it a try."

Unexpectedly, parkour has had an impressive effect on my yoga practice. I went from being very far away from doing the more advanced inversions (headstand, handstand, crow) to being able to pop right into them with relative ease – after only a two-three month period. 

Our Tuesday sessions – always in a different part of the city – have given me a pretty great tour of so many of New York City’s parks that I would otherwise never have gone to. Also, I’ve found loads of great new food places. Otto’s Tacos comes to mind. And dumplings. Just dumplings. Anywhere.

AS A WOMAN, DID YOU EVER FEEL UNCOMFORTABLE IN THE MALE-DOMINATED PARKOUR COMMUNITY? WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO OTHER WOMEN WHO ARE THINKING ABOUT TRYING PARKOUR BUT ARE HESITANT? 

I am very very nervous about trying any new activity, so simply showing up and meeting new people was my greatest hesitation. The fact that parkour had more dude than ladies wasn’t really a big deal.  Also, the guys in the Movement Creative are GREAT. Everyone is great and encouraging. 

To women who are considering parkour, don’t worry if jumping shows off your jiggles or your upper body strength tops off at imagining a push-up. Show up ready to laugh at yourself, maybe spit off a few good curses, and unleash your inner-play ground She-Rah, Princess of Power. As the saying goes… you don’t need to be strong to do parkour. Parkour makes you strong. 

WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR FAVORITE THINGS ABOUT THE MOVEMENT CREATIVE PARKOUR COMMUNITY?

"My absolute favorite activities that we do are the games. Playing zombie tag is hilarious. Half the reason I get caught is because I’m laughing so hard." 

There is endless creativity. Parkour is fearless about finding inspiration in all walks of life. Every session is different, especially with so many great teachers who bring in their own interests – dancing, boot camp, American Ninja warrior, martial arts. My absolute favorite activities that we do are the games. Playing zombie tag is hilarious. Half the reason I get caught is because I’m laughing so hard. 

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