Zeke Greenwood is barely 18 months old, but he's already had his first viral moment: A recent Instagram video of him doing a full acroyoga flow with his mom, Millissa Greenwood, a certified acroyoga instructor received more than 1 million views:
While Millissa, 35, has worked with countless acroyoga students since she began teaching about six years ago, her all-time favorite student isn't necessarily her son, but her husband Peter, 33. "I've learned so much from him as a teacher," she says.
Diagnosed with bone cancer in 2003 at age 18, Peter had his left leg amputated above the knee at age 20 to stop the cancer from spreading. Despite a 25 percent chance of survival, he's been in remission ever since. "It was traumatic and a challenge to go through. But it happened, I'm a father now, life is good," he says.
Peter and Melissa first crossed paths at First Descents, a nonprofit whitewater rafting camp for children with cancer where they both worked. When they reconnected on Facebook in late 2012, and spent their first weekend together shortly after, Peter hadn't ever tried acroyoga, even though he describes himself as "up for anything," and relished active pursuits like soccer and long distance running before his amputation. When Millissa suggested they try acroyoga, Peter automatically agreed - despite self doubt about his post-amputation capabilities, he trusted her, he says.
"It took me a long time to get past mental blocks and realize I could do whatever I want, it might just be a little different," he says, adding that he's actually become more active since losing his leg: He's hand-cycled marathons, taken up surfing, and practices yoga several times a week in addition to weekly acroyoga sessions with Millissa. "Acroyoga is slightly more intimidating with prosthetics since you don't have as much control over the limb."
For sure doing Acro helps us work on our communication and keeps us playful!Love celebrating the progress. #husboacro #onelegdontcare #longsandsbeachPosted by Acro Millissa on Saturday, July 23, 2016
Peter can't rotate the ankle, flex the foot, or extend the knee of the prosthetic leg he locks straight for acroyoga. (He has three prosthetic legs: One primary one he wears every day for walking and yoga, one running leg, and one leg for surfing.) Thus, he has to modify his flows accordingly.
"We figure out transitions by trial and error," Millissa says, describing the way she transfers her weight to Peter's right leg to transition between poses. "It helps that I have experience, so I'm able to absorb poses, hold my shape, and take the time to figure things out."
Practice, Practice and some more Practice with a lot of communicationI am so freakin' proud of us! Go Husbo!AcroYoga Montreal AcroYoga One Yoga SaskatoonPosted by Acro Millissa on Thursday, June 11, 2015
When Millissa and Peter do acroyoga together, Peter typically acts as the base, the person who lifts their partner (the "flier") - at 6-feet 2-inches, he's taller than Millissa (and also faces a slight fear of flying). But even basing is a feat: "He was teary-eyed to see that it was absolutely possible for him to practice acroyoga," Millissa says. "Realizing you are stronger than you think you are, and strong enough to hold another person can have this effect on you."
Acroyoga has improved the way Peter feels about himself. "It helps him see that doing things differently doesn't have to be a bad thing," Millissa says. It's also brought the couple closer together, because the practice forces them to focus on each other and their movement.
"In acroyoga, success relies on clear communication and listening. If you blame each other, it's no fun and you don't get anywhere," Peter says.
Baby Zeke only stands to benefit from his parents' practice, and Millissa says Zeke is a natural acroyogi with an innate natural desire to fly. "He'll take my feet and put them on his belly," she says.
Because Millissa is a certified acroyoga instructor, she has no qualms about Zeke's safety when they practice. "I don't throw him through scary stuff. He shifts his weight to decide where we go, and I can feel where he is shifting," she says.
When Millissa flies Zeke, Peter typically spots them, and when Peter practices with Zeke, it's Millissa who sees to their safety. "I only give tips to Peter because Zeke doesn't need any," she says.
With a gene pool like Zeke's, it's no wonder. Can you imagine a stronger, more talented family?!
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