“It is through your body that you realise you are a spark of divinity.”
It’s good to mix things up, do something different, learn something new.
Whilst repetition within your yoga practice is of paramount importance,
“Yoga is 99% practice and 1% theory” Sri Krishna Pattabhi Jois
it is equally beneficial to make sure that the body is getting a fully comprehensive approach to health and fitness (such as CV fitness, strength, stability, flexibility) and it is great for the mind to keep adding skills and going beyond the comfort of that which you (think you) know……and let’s not forget how great it is for the soul to try new things and experiment with new ways of using the body to really inspire and enthuse yourself about the myriad of different ways you can move, feel alive and tap into a deeper level of awareness.
Acquiring a new skill, more knowledge and exploring awareness from different “ways in” is something that I personally have to be disciplined to not do too much of…balancing my magic porridge pot of infinite enthusiasm for just about everything with the rest of the demands and obligations of life has always been the biggest challenge, but that’s another story…..
My love of all things sporting is well documented, or maybe a better way of putting it is that I do bang on about it often enough. I have tried many different activities, most I love, and very occasionally, some just don’t ignite me in the same way. One such example is aerobics (not that this is a “sport”) it always feels so contrived and often, downright bad for you, and I have never truly enjoyed it, just endured it for cross training/fitting in with my schedule purposes. I used to get annoyed with the lack of detail of “form” in the movement too, but maybe that’s just me….
Then, a few years ago, I found body combat classes. For those of you who don’t know what these are, think of an aerobics structured class that is based upon a variety of different combat/martial arts instead of prance/weight loss, where you get to punch and kick thin air to great music. A wonderfully superficial dynamic class to lose yourself in – ahhhhhh happy memories! I was very lucky as my first instructor, Deborah, was a truly fantastic teacher. I did this for a while and loved it, but was also aware that I could probably have done with some 1:1 tuition as I knew I was getting some details wrong and you can’t expect a teacher of a big (30+) fast moving and dynamic class to give you that level of individual attention and instruction.
Then I signed up for the 1st Rat Race “Dirty Weekend” (a 20 MILE run over the world’s largest assault course….another blog to follow on this baby…) and realised that I needed something additional to my training of running and yoga mat time to ensure that I got round in one piece, so…… I took the step up (and in) and made the transition from combat classes to Muay Thai boxing.
Even just writing that last sentence made me grin in a massive wide screen toothy grin kind of way.
I kicked myself for not having made that transition sooner (so I could have kicked myself with more power and better technical proficiency obviously…)
Most people will book into having 1:1 tuition so that they don’t make an arse of themselves in front of a full class of (incorrectly) perceived judgmental experts. Anyone who knows me will realise that that isn’t a fear I have as some of the best fun I have ever had could be perceived as me making an arse of myself; you only need to see me dance to realise this in an instant, but the fear of getting injured and not being able to train (or compete in the afore mentioned assault course) sent me in to book a private lesson.
On entering the chosen gym, just loitering by reception revealed something unusual.
The utter lack of ego in the whole gym area.
I CANNOT STRESS THIS ENOUGH AS A RARE AND WONDERFUL THING…. I knew I had come to the right place. Nothing turns me off gyms more than lots of mirrors, strutting posers (of either gender) where everyone’s motivation is the competitive aesthetic, a flirt fest and/or cliquey elitism. This gym had not even a hint of any of that and I instantly felt that I could be on to something that was a good fit for me, before I even put my gloves on. Personally, I really don’t care if the lighting is muted or what the quality of the (invariably hired/rented) vast quantity and rarity of plants in reception is….. – I turn up to train, not buy into a brand and so long as the equipment is plentiful and safe, the place is clean, hygienic and has a good energy and the instructors are friendly AND competent, the rest is just wall paper….
I started and soon realised that I was rubbish at skipping, my foot work was flatfoot work, my punching and kicking was technically so poor that, er, technically it almost wasn’t punching and kicking, that shifting up several gears of movement meant my left and right started to get a little blurred, that being too keen can be a VAST barrier to performing ANY movement, that being a yoga teacher and sports massage therapist meant that any movement I couldn’t do instantly got analysed to within an inch of it’s very existence – and that apparently my shins bruise very easily. Oh and that I LOVED THIS!
That sweet connection between glove/foot and pad allows the energy to flow so powerfully that it feels like you ought to be lit up like a neon light – shining bright somewhere between total focus and sheer delight! (I hate using smiley icons in blog posts but I feel there ought to be about 20 at the end of that line!)
Very quickly I became aware of huge amounts of overlap between Thai boxing and Yoga and especially within the felt energetic experience. I am still very much at the novice end of the spectrum of learning, where I am starting to form sequences of punches and kicks without a great deal coming back at me, but the energetic flow within and around you and the breath being the absolute foundation is a thread that runs seamlessly from my yoga mat and into the ring.
It is not about violence or aggression or the desire to inflict pain on others or red mist “winning” in the classic sense of being better than everyone else, it is about sculpting your energy with the breath to manifest into controlled movements with precision and awareness to the absolute best of your potential ability whilst another source of energy seeks to disrupt yours. Aggression would merely create static in your own energy, interfering with your own flow from the inside before anyone else tried to. I feel that red mist would be represented as a spiky frequency unlike the symphonic harmonies of vibration in your body when it all flows so beautifully that you feel like you’ve just stepped through into another dimension…..energetic slipstreaming….
Well, that’s my interpretation of it at this stage, but I have only had a few lessons so far so I won’t claim to know anything about Muay Thai in any other way than my own simplistic and limited experience.
The fitness and sport side of this is already secondary to me as it’s the art and energy to it that is the biggest draw.
If you have difficulty practicing mindfulness, accessing it trying to land a kick when someone is trying to land a kick on you should help!
A nice easy representation of flow…..Fry after 100 cups of coffee – not the same but you get the idea…
My Muay Thai has also improved my meditation.
This I did not expect but now seems blindingly obvious.
The stillness on the mat seems amplified by the preceding dynamic movement in the ring – and with my yoga practice as well, it feels like the most perfect combination for me…at this time, as everything changes, is in flux and evolves (and because I can’t run at the moment….The Rat Race blog post to follow will cover that one nicely….)
From both the yoga and the massage side of my work, I often have clients ask me to recommend gyms where the instruction is based strongly on form and function rather than mindless reps into the oblivion of inevitable injury and also where they won’t feel self conscious/inadequate. Being taught properly to do a movement with technical precision and proficiency AND mindfulness is fundamental yet not always evident in some places I have trained. Many times I have had the dilemma of watching someone perform a movement, waiting for an instructor to intervene to improve efficiency and prevent injury, only to see them ignored as they plough on regardless. Rowing machines seem to be particularly adept at bringing out the worst in questionable instruction…..
Plus you want to do a movement/training that is a pleasure rather than a tortuous obligation for whatever has driven you there. Good instructors transmit that joy, and it was loud and clear in every lesson I had.
My absolute love of yoga runs so deep it has made it to my DNA (as my friends and family would verify – as some are frankly fed up with me jabbering on about it with irritating enthusiasm), but for those of you who want to try something different, I know a great place that might just ignite that spark in you.
You don’t have to compete, (I said I wouldn’t, but now I am not so sure….?) you don’t even have to get into the ring, but I defy you not to get all shiny eyed with wonder at how even a little bit of Muay Thai training makes you feel ! And it’s a powerful cocktail for the mind, body and soul when combined with regular yoga asana practice and meditation, and this post is for all you who have asked why I love Muay Thai, where to go to get some and how it fits with my asana practice. I could go into more detail (always…..) but I suggest you go try it, feel it and know it!