Boxing and Yoga. They seem like absolute polar opposites. Yoga is gentle, loving, nurturing, and subtle, even as it challenges me and pushes my limits. Yoga teaches non-harming, to oneself, to others, and to the planet. Lovely! Boxing, on the other hand, is just plain aggressive. You punch stuff. If you throw in a little kickboxing, you kick stuff, too. If one is so inclined (which I am not) you can even punch people, and get in a ring with them while they try to punch you. Ugh! Why do I like this so much?
I have been trying to put this together for myself, the strange dichotomy of loving yoga (and I mean, I really love yoga) with the gleeful delight that takes over when I am boxing. I get really into punching stuff! Throw in a little bit of loud, aggressive music, a bunch of sweaty, stinky, posturing men, and a few other gleeful women, and I am hooked. It is great! But, what gives? Am I secretly still really angry, deep down? Possibly, but I don't think that's it. I think that there is something balancing for me in having both yoga and boxing in my life.
Boxing and yoga are symbolic ways that I am working out balance in all areas of my life. The more I engage with both boxing and yoga, the more I notice the dance of opposites in the rest of my life, coming into and out of balance: work and rest, control and surrender, acceptance and willingness to change. In a concrete way, I am enacting these polarities through movement, and working them out in a very body-centered way.
Just like any other polarities in my life, both yoga and boxing offer necessary benefits when done mindfully, and yet can become unhealthy if taken to the extreme or thrown out of balance. If I get too riled up in boxing, I throw out my neck, and get all cranky and sore, and just want to lay down. Likewise, if I aggressively muscle my way into a difficult yoga pose, or fail to listen to my body in some way, I not only hurt myself, but I lose the subtle engagement with the sublime that is most important to me in my yoga practice. So, I can't over-do either boxing or yoga. On the other hand, I can't "under-do" them, either. If I don't do enough boxing, I feel sluggish and my body starts begging for movement. I miss the excitement of it! If I don't do enough yoga, I feel all discombobulated, and disconnected from myself. I start to feel rigid, ungrounded, and lost. Like Goldilocks and the Three Bears, I have to find the place of balance for myself - not too hard, not too soft, but just right.
Boxing has become a form of yoga for me. It is a piece of my practice. The word, Yoga, actually comes from the root verb, "Yuj," meaning, "to yoke." To yoke is to harness, or unite. When I "yoke" seeming opposites, and engage with the polarities in my life, there is a tension between them, but ultimately there is also the possibility of finding balance in holding both of them. I can't do one without the other. Both are necessary - the yin and the yang.
At the end of a yoga class, the teacher and students typically bow to one another, and say, "Namaste," which means, "The divine in me bows to the divine in you." I wonder what would happen if I bowed at the end of a boxing class. Maybe smacking gloves with somebody has a similar ritual form to it, "Good work, Man!" being a very westernized version of bowing to the divine in each other. Call me crazy, but I think boxing allows me to tap in to divine joy, and exuberance, and play in ways that balance, and are balanced by, the divine awareness and compassion that yoga brings. I am taking the best of both worlds, and calling it good. Namaste, Man!