Brothers @marquesvalle @dominicvalle @LightsOutWesleyChapel Boxing Gym FL with their laser focus.
The first day I walked into Lights Out Boxing Gym in Wesley Chapel, Fl., I thought I was going to brawl, laugh, and learn some new moves. Boy was I in for a shock! Though I did brawl, laugh, and learn some new moves the first day they told me to take off my gloves and run around the building! What?!!! Cardio, yuck. But guess what, I needed it. Next was working out at their HIIT stations (High-Intensity Interval Training). Afterwards, we finally got to hitting the bag and even more surprise HIIT along the way. After the hour was completed, I felt like I threw a million punches and ran a marathon, but I was proud. Every trainer needs a trainer and at Lights Out all of their trainers have been knowledgeable and amazing to push me to my limit (even if I throw up one or two times LOL) but that’s where yoga comes in to play. No matter how elite you think you are, when you have someone else take over your “workout prescription” they look at it from a different viewpoint. Challenging you where you need to be challenged, pushing you where you need to be pushed.
So what is yoga and how does yoga factor in here? After about a week at the boxing gym, I noticed instant results, my arms were more toned, I felt more power in my punch but the one thing I did notice was that the ability to stretch my hamstrings were greatly reduced. I was boxing more than I was practicing yoga. I felt the strength and power all over my body and I am super grateful for Lights Out for pushing me to the next level. But this is when I knew I needed to write this blog to help open the window for YOGA to boxers because not only will it benefit the body and allow me to continue to kiss my shins below my knee but also provide me with mental clarity and focus so when I finally do get in the ring with someone I can be light like a feather and sting like a bee.
Cool down Yoga with guest instructor Dr. Lauren Leiva @LightsOutWesleyChapel Boxing Gym
Maybe because I am a yogi at heart and a figure skater from a young age, stretching, warming up and cooling down are so important, IF NOT VITAL. For me, it has always been equally or even more essential to recover and restore my body and not just focus on agility and strengthening. Not even just the physical benefits of warming up and cooling down but taking the time to focus on your breath. Yoga also enables one to scan the mind, the overall emotional state, the ability to withdrawal your focus and at the same time hone in on one objective for deep concentration, respecting your body and the life around you all at once, this is yoga.
The physical poses are just one slice of the pizza pie, there are 7 more slices. I have trained many athletes that say some of these objectives overlap ideologies in their own training, just different words and different methods. Yoga IS NOT A RELIGION. Yoga IS AN INTENSE MENTAL AND PHYSICAL PRACTICE THAT CAN BRING YOU TO A STATE OF PURE BLISS if you are lucky enough but you can read more about how Yoga changed my life here. Here are the 7 other slices to yoga and please refer to the image above: YAMA’s: how to treat others (community ethics), NIYAMAS: personal observances such as cleanliness, PRANAYAMA: breath control, PRATYAHARA: Inner awareness, DHARANA: intense concentration , DYANA: meditation, SAMADHI: enlightened living (the journey to bliss.)
So now let us break down the benefits of yoga for boxers limb by limb (*out of order):
Asana: the posture can help maintain and improve range of motion and flexibility which any boxer can tell you is critical in the ring. The core and twisting posters can improve the distribution AND RECRUITMENT of force from your lower body and core to throw stronger punches and dodge your opponent. Balance postures can help a boxer fight in any position at any moment. With stability comes mobility so the more stable a boxer feels the more mobile he can throw his punches and dance around the boxing ring, it’s such a beauty. An off balanced boxer has to use mental focus and recruits other muscles just to stabilize the body and therefore will end up in a weaker punch. Who wants that??? Are we still on the same limb because I CAN GO ON AND ON FOREVER, but for the sake of this blog I will move on to the next.
Pranayama: breath control can improve stamina and endurance for any individual but especially beneficial for a combat athlete due to them mostly being in a sympathetic state of being. If you don’t know what that means, it’s the fight or flight response. The feeling you get if a bear chases you or you are being pulled over by the police, the feeling when your heart sinks a bit and speeds up in rhythm, your eyes constrict for improved focus and the blood rushes to your limbs so you can get the hell out of there or fight if needed, It’s the autonomic nervous system god gave us to survive. It’s such a beautiful and fascinating system in the body. Recent studies show that most elite athletes remain in a parasympathetic dominant state keeping their calm and collect while in the ring, football field, or battlefield. Controlling your breath in the ring is not only vital for stamina but to prevent any cardiovascular incidents lowering your heart rate, relaxing your body, your mind becomes more clear and able to make quick judgments.
Pratyahara, Dharana, and Dyana: Inner awareness, concentration, and meditation helps athletes learn to focus on the breath, movement, how it feels on your body, where your body is in space, and being completely present in each moment. Learning to be mindful in the ring heightens your overall awareness of yourself and your surroundings and helps you to control the overall mental and emotional state. Regular practice can help boxers to control their anxiety about an upcoming fight and overtime can be proven on your blood results if you’re a see it to believe it type of person, as steady training can decrease cortisol levels in the body; often referred to as the ‘stress hormone’ which is why some athletes feel on edge. These three practices also help increase your attention span and ability to increase mental energy to improve reaction time and improve the autopilot in a fighter. Have you ever heard someone say they are in the zone? It’s because they let go of the thought process on how to move their feet and the 1,2,3,4,5,6 combinations but to be a fighting machine with no thought, just reaction, and action. That’s a beast. That’s the fighter that gets the TKO.
For the next three, I could go on forever, but you can think of the Yama’s and Niyama’s like the 10 commandments on how to live towards others and for yourself. I’m sure this will help as boxing requires self-discipline and respect for not only yourself but for your coaches and opponents. Samadhi is the ultimate achievement of enlightenment that we could only be so blessed to achieve in this life.
In summary, boxing and yoga together can create the most powerful fighting machine with the ability to turn on and off at the switch, to control their movements and react at any moment because their balance enables that to perform during any stage of their footwork whether on one or two feet, controlling the breath and having the fine tune-ability to see things clearly in a parasympathetic state of being. WOW, I will definitely be combining yoga with boxing in the years to come and I will keep you updated on my process. If you are curious about boxing and live in Tampa, FL you should check out Lights Out and of course, you know where to find me at TheExerscienceCenter.com