If you see a whole thing - it seems that it's always beautiful. Planets, lives... But up close a world's all dirt and rocks. And day to day, life's a hard job, you get tired, you lose the pattern. - Ursula K. LeGuin

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Martial Arts Vs. Yoga

Many many years ago we shared our dojo with a yoga class.  This meant that we also shared our dressing room when the classes overlapped.  At that time I had a very dismissive attitudes towards yoga, fueled in part through my interactions with my dressing room companions.  I didn't understand why anyone would want to spend that much time on an "unproductive art."  Yoga (and yogis) seemed very self-indulgent and quite frankly they weren't very good at sharing space.

Over the years I maintained a negative outlook towards yoga.  I tried a class or two in contexts that were not conducive to really experiencing yoga (a student gym and a hotel gym) and these experiences just reinforced my snobbery.  Martial arts was purposeful and we shared many of the same stretches, so why would I be interested in yoga?  Much later I found out we shared the same stretches because my Sensei incorporated poses from a book on yoga into our warm-up routine. Of course we didn't do the poses the way they are done in a true yoga class so when I did start studying yoga it was both familiar and new at the same time.

There are actually a lot of similarities between martial arts (very broadly defined) and yoga but there are also significant differences.  Martial arts is purposeful in that every movement has a practical application (actually every movement has multiple practical applications) and you are always imagining an opponent while performing these movements.  Studying martial arts means you are always assessing negative situations that need to be prevented or protected.  It is a paranoid art.  I've also found that there is a fair amount of guilt involved in the teaching of martial arts.  No matter how much you practice, it is never enough.  No matter how prepared you are for something bad to happen you always need to be on your guard.  Martial arts is filled with sayings such as "expect nothing but always expect the unexpected."  It is a bit crazy-making to actually try and live by these codes.

Both practices require and train a deep awareness of your body and how it is aligned.  Both require repetitive practice and are mentally and physically challenging.  The combination of skill development, self-awareness, and meditation appeals to me.  Lately I've realized that the self-indulgence of yoga is a good thing.  Like anything, including the paranoia of martial arts, in the extreme it is destructive.  However pursuing something simply because it makes you feel good is really ok. 

1 comment:

urban muser said...

i need to get back into doing yoga. and, thanks for visiting my blog and commenting about willow.