What was there in my life before yoga? There was seated meditation. And there was boxing. Both these activities were attempts to solve the same problem, though I didn't realize it then. It's taken yoga to give me a clearer perspective.
Boxing came first. It made me feel strong and able to do anything. I used to have a personal trainer who would push me until I was almost at the point of throwing up as I worked the heavy bag with relentless jab-cross combos. By the time we were finished working with the hook and jab pads, I could barely muster the energy to shuffle toward my trainer, let alone throw a convincing right hook! Brushing my hair for two days following was an impossibility. My muscles were so sore I could barely raise my arms. And the split knuckles were not exactly a cool look either.
I thought maybe through interval training on the heavy bag, I could beat my body into being the strong vehicle I so wanted it to be.
Looking back on it, it seems terribly brutal, but I confess I'm still just a bit wistful about those days. That was my first experience in using my energy to work out, rather than merely survive each working day. I totally loved all the new physical and emotional feelings this vigorous activity brought up in me. Cleaning out a cupboard recently, I found my hand wraps and gloves, and I sat holding them a while, remembering all that. I smiled, because on one level it felt good, wild, and adventurous. But my smile became a bit rueful as I also remembered the anger and frustration I felt then. In truth, it actually was masochistic. I wanted to punish my body for not being good enough or healthy enough for so many years. I thought maybe through interval training on the heavy bag I could beat my body into being the strong vehicle I so wanted it to be.
I was still beating myself up when I was introduced to my meditation teacher. I felt like an unlikely disciple as we first sat together. She asked me what I was seeking in the practice. She was so gentle and calm, I was completely unnerved. In the end, I surprised us both by telling her that I was looking for my inner warrior. A peaceful warrior that would grant me strength derived from confidence and quiet faith in myself, rather than aggression and anger—a steadiness rather than an unconscious lashing out. I recall us sitting in silence for some moments (you can't hurry a meditation teacher!) before she thanked me for my beautiful words. I looked at her to see if she was joking. I don't think anyone had ever thanked me for what I’d said or told me my words were beautiful! I was quite struck by this gentleness, intimidated even. Where was the opposition, the counter-question…the rejection?
Meditation brought many benefits and soon led me to yoga asana as a form of moving meditation, where breath and flowing shapes encouraged a similar inner stillness. Although I still have my gloves, I haven't used them since I started yoga. Now two years into my yoga journey, my hook and uppercuts would probably land weakly, but I'm just starting to find my peace in warrior II. Sometimes—just sometimes—I can feel a quiet strength that comes from the heart of me and radiates out through my fingertips and down through my legs. My stance is proud, but my shoulders relax and my breath deepens. And I am a yoga warrior.