An up­lift­ing love that be­gan with acro-yoga

The Washington Post Sunday - - ON LOVE - BY ME­GAN MCDONOUGH me­gan.mcdonough@wash­post.com

Some peo­ple be­lieve in love at first sight. For Lind­sey Fong, it was love at first flight. The en­vi­ron­men­tal sci­en­tist’s life turned up­side-down, lit­er­ally and fig­u­ra­tively, the day she met Robert Oden. Walk­ing home from a yoga class in August 2013, she stum­bled upon a group of peo­ple form­ing grav­ity-de­fy­ing shapes and struc­tures in Wash­ing­ton’s Merid­ian Hill Park.

Im­pressed and in­trigued, she asked the group what it was. The par­tic­i­pants ex­plained they were prac­tic­ing “acro-yoga” (a part­ner-based, ac­ro­batic form of yoga) and of­fered to show her some moves.

Within min­utes, she was be­ing lifted into the air, like Baby in “Dirty Danc­ing,” by her fu­ture hus­band.

Right away, she was hooked — on acro-yoga, that is. “It be­came my pas­sion,” she said.

She be­gan at­tend­ing the group’s bi­weekly prac­tices re­li­giously and bonded with Rob over their mu­tual in­ter­ests. A friend­ship be­gan to blos­som, and, by early fall, they were each other’s pri­mary part­ners, later per­form­ing un­der the name AcroCli­mac­tic.

De­spite their in­creas­ing in­ti­macy, for months each wrongly as­sumed the other was in­volved with some­one else. It wasn’t un­til De­cem­ber, when Lind­sey al­luded to the fact that she was sin­gle on Face­book, that Rob re­al­ized her re­la­tion­ship sta­tus.

In­ter­ested to learn more, he went to her page. But his ex­cite­ment quickly turned into em­bar­rass­ment af­ter he ac­ci­den­tally “liked” a years-old pic­ture of her while scrolling through her feed.

In­stead of ig­nor­ing or deny­ing his blun­der, he de­cided to make his in­ten­tions known by ask­ing her out on a date. She ac­cepted hes­i­tantly, as she was wor­ried a ro­mance would pos­si­bly hurt their progress as part­ners.

Din­ner went smoothly, but when Rob in­quired about a sec­ond date, Lind­sey po­litely de­clined. “We worked so well to­gether and I didn’t want to lose that,” she says.

Al­though stung by the re­jec­tion, Rob took it in stride. “I had to ac­knowl­edge that we were not des­tined to go down that path and ac­cept it,” says the cy­ber­se­cu­rity con­sul­tant.

Their shared com­mit­ment to acro-yoga helped them push past the ini­tial awk­ward­ness and fo­cus on their friend­ship. Still want­ing to be in­volved with Lind­sey’s life out­side of yoga, Rob asked to join her teams for the char­i­ta­ble Cu­pid’s Undie Run on Capi­tol Hill and the D.C. Dragon Boat Fes­ti­val.

As their con­nec­tion grew, in and out of acro-yoga, Lind­sey no­ticed her feel­ings start to change. In March 2014, dur­ing an acro-yoga per­for­mance to Over the Rhine’s song “Trou­ble,” au­di­ence mem­bers com­mented on the pair’s no­tice­able con­nec­tion — and pal­pa­ble chem­istry.

They were right. A few weeks later, at a Great Gatsby-themed bash, they shared their first kiss.

From there, things pro­gressed steadily. Wary of another re­jec­tion, in June 2014 Rob asked Lind­sey to be ex­clu­sive. She sur­prised him by blurt­ing out “I love you.”

Five months later, they em­barked on a 10-day trip to Chile and Ar­gentina. The trip ce­mented their re­la­tion­ship and brought them even closer to­gether. “Peo­ple as­sumed we were mar­ried and called me ‘Mrs. Oden,’ ” says Lind­sey. “It didn’t sound strange. It ac­tu­ally felt nat­u­ral.”

Three months af­ter they re­turned home, Lind­sey learned she was preg­nant. The preg­nancy was un­planned, but they were com­mit­ted to each other and to rais­ing a fam­ily to­gether.

Rob moved in with Lind­sey, and they be­gan build­ing a home to­gether. They se­lec­tively be­gan telling friends and fam­ily mem­bers the good news.

“It was, ‘This is all hap­pen­ing right now. Can we do it?’ and we said, ‘Yes, yes we can!’ ” Lind­sey says.

How­ever, three months later, Lind­sey mis­car­ried. “It was in­cred­i­bly hard and very painful,” says Lind­sey. But it “so­lid­i­fied our com­mit­ment to each other.”

The pair took it as a sign that they should plan ad­ven­tures and em­brace life. They trav­eled to Africa (vis­it­ing Kenya, Zanz­ibar, Tan­za­nia and South Africa) and en­rolled in acro-yoga teacher train­ing in Hawaii, where Rob se­cretly planned to pro­pose.

In De­cem­ber 2015, Lind­sey be­came preg­nant again. Flights to Hawaii were can­celed and Rob be­gan plot­ting a new pro­posal closer to home. Six months later, dur­ing an acro-yoga con­fer­ence in Philadel­phia, he sur­prised her with a the­atri­cal pro­posal to “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” by Frankie Valli and the Four Sea­sons. Don­ning a black tux, he dropped to a knee and asked her to be his wife in front of 200 of their acro-yoga friends and fam­ily.

“Our love is not con­di­tional,” Lind­sey says. “There’s no ‘I love you but’ or ‘I love you ex­cept.’ ”

“I’d rather be in a sit­u­a­tion when I am mad with her than happy with some­body else,” says Rob. “Even at our most mad, we are still madly in love with each other.”

Their daugh­ter, Kaia, was born in August 2016. “See­ing her with Rob is ex­actly what I en­vi­sioned and how I hoped it would be,” Lind­sey says.

The wed­ding plans were ex­pe­dited in Novem­ber when Rob’s fa­ther’s health took a turn for the worse. His fa­ther was di­ag­nosed with ad­vanced-stage can­cer. The cou­ple de­cided to have a small, in­ti­mate court­house cer­e­mony in New Or­leans. Four months later, his fa­ther died.

“Life goes its own di­rec­tion and you em­brace the chal­lenges,” Rob said. “It didn’t fol­low the tra­jec­tory we thought it would — the pro­posal, mar­riage and ba­bies — but some­times the best things in life are the things you don’t plan for.”

“And I wouldn’t change any life event,” he added, “be­cause they all led me to her.”

On July 8, 2017, Lind­sey, 34, and Rob, 31, were all smiles as they ex­changed heart­felt, hand­writ­ten vows at the D.C. War Me­mo­rial on the Mall. While the lead-up to the fes­tiv­i­ties was a com­edy of er­rors — mem­bers of the wed­ding party were miss­ing, fa­vors were for­got­ten, dresses were ac­ci­den­tally stained and more — ev­ery­thing came to­gether once the cer­e­mony be­gan. “It’s our na­ture,” Lind­sey quipped.

Rob’s 13-year-old daugh­ter from his first mar­riage, Kayla, was a brides­maid. Kaia, now 11 months old, cruised down the wed­ding aisle in a bright red, re­mote-con­trolled con­vert­ible and parked next to the bridal party.

At the close of their vows, the of­fi­ciant, Robert Roy, a friend and fel­low acro-yoga per­former, sur­prised guests with a per­son­al­ized take on the vows.

Rather than “You may now kiss the bride,” Roy an­nounced, “you may now lift the bride,” and Rob raised his new bride ef­fort­lessly above his head. Their 125 guests erupted in ex­cited cheers and ap­plause, pro­vid­ing the per­fect segue to their re­cep­tion at Dance Loft, which fea­tured belly danc­ing, hula hoop­ing, hula and, of course, acro-yoga.

“Our love is not con­di­tional. There’s no ‘I love you but’ or ‘I love you ex­cept.’ ” — Lind­sey Fong

PHO­TOS BY JULIE PAPIKOVA

On July 8, Lind­sey Fong, 34, and Robert Oden, 31, ex­changed vows in front of the D.C. War Me­mo­rial and cel­e­brated with a re­cep­tion at Dance Loft. They met in 2013 dur­ing an open acro-yoga prac­tice in Merid­ian Hill Park.

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