This Colorado yogi talks about her emergence as one of the young female stars of slackline—and what it feels like to balance with grace far above the void.
Michelle Griffith is the woman you want to grow up to be. She started to play on the slackline (and climbing and practicing yoga) while she was studying for her degree in physics at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden. By the time she graduated, she decided that a life high above the world and grounded on the mat was calling to her. She spent the next 14 months traveling in Europe and Hawaii, but most of all, living in the back of her Toyota Tacoma (she named it Kai, and it has a bed in the back as well as all of Griffith’s worldly possessions) and touring across the United States. She perfected her craft, pulling off walks on lovely and dangerous highlines and teaching yoga and AcroYoga with the YogaSlackers across the country (and making some extra cash as a math tutor). She also stars in the beautiful Wanderlust and Greenheart.TV film Slackline Sisters (youtube.com/watch?v=l9k2IIrC8a4), which follows her and three other women slackliners on harrowing highlines while showing how they support each other in their sport and passion for life. Griffith took the time to talk to us before she was off for a spring and summer full of teaching at Wanderlust 108 Festivals in California and Oregon, continuing her yoga and AcroYoga teacher training in Bali and Hawaii and heading out on a teaching tour across country from Whistler, British Columbia to Miami Florida with her teaching partner Dani Whitehead. You can catch up with her at michellegyogini.com.
Tell us about some of your favorite slackline and highline projects.
One time, I made the right friends while I was in Spain and ended up highlining in a massive cave. There was a huge hole in the ground above us and it was pouring rain, but we were underneath a lip in the cave, so we stayed perfectly dry. That’s probably tied with highlining in Yosemite at Taft Point. We rigged out hammocks on the line and relaxed with El Cap towering in the background.
How do you find the inner balance that it takes to be able to walk across the void on a slackline?
It took a long time for me to find the focus and calmness to walk a highline. Every mental, emotional and physical response in your body tells you to go back. Breathing has made the biggest difference. Consciously slowing down your breathing shuts off your body’s fight or flight response and allows you to focus and find the peace and inner balance that is intrinsic in all of us.
What Keeps you coming back to the wanderlust festivals?
The YogaSlackers have developed a great relationship with the Wanderlust festivals. So much so, that we’re the only entity teaching both Slacklining and AcroYoga at all of their smaller 108 festivals. Really what keeps us coming back is the level of “happy human sounds” we run into on a daily basis—everyone comes there to get out of their everyday lives and learn new things and have new experiences, and they do so with joy and curiosity.
What can you tell us about the slackline community and how it is growing?
Sometimes, I joke around and say that the slacklining community is the only reason I really stuck with slacklining. In some ways, this is true. The community is large enough that there are slackliners in pretty much every state and most developed countries, but it’s small enough that there’s usually only one or two degrees of separation between you and every slackliner out there. I traveled Europe and the U.S. alone sleeping on the couches of slackliners, and I’ve never once had a bad experience. The inclusiveness and the passion for life and exploration magnetically draws more people into our community and our sport.
How do you share your passion with other women in the sport?
Most female slackliners will tell you that, especially when starting out, for whatever reason, we spend our time mostly around dudes. So when I first met a female slackliner who was just absolutely crushing it, I felt way more inspired than meeting a hundred more dudes who were also absolutely crushing it. It’s a different and deeper feeling of motivation, because I fundamentally relate with women more because, well, I am one. So, I still have many role models out there, and I hope that by living my life as unfiltered and unbridled as I can, I can be that example, that inspiration, for other women who might relate to me as well.