If you’ve never had your butt kicked by poetic movement…you’re in for a treat.
A bead of sweat rolled down into my eyes. It stung. I wanted to wipe it, but my palms were fused to the floor. And we had moved on. Focus. With arms trembling, I struggled to keep my twisted torso off the floor, toes pointed under me and to the left. The ball of my other foot fought to support my body weight and stay rooted to my mat. From here I unscrewed my body and reversed up to a single leg lift, rotating my right side to open my hips. Then back down slowly to hover in high plank and bend my elbows as I once again spiraled my spine, extended one leg under me and to the side, and…hold. Rinse. Repeat. For a total of four repetitions. Per side. I was in my basement rec room, a place where the vibe is normally one of leisure and comfort.
A very different conversation, sometimes profane, was taking place between me and my body. (Sorry. Did I just destroy your image of what a yoga practitioner was? You may as well hear it from me. Some of us cuss like sailors when we hit our edge.) My arms were on fire. I felt like a human Jenga tower whose last block of wavering support was being pulled out ever so slowly.
How can I be sweating so much, moving this damn slow? No stranger to hot yoga, I couldn’t believe I was drenched in the one room of the house so cold that we had to close off the A/C vents in the summer to prevent arctic freeze.
“Now bend your knees, and take a well-deserved child’s pose,” Kajza said, from my iPad screen.
Thank God. I collapsed on my belly like a frog on the freeway. The release was exquisite.
So began Day 1 of my 30-Day Challenge with Boxing Yoga. I was a hot mess, which didn’t surprise me. I’d neglected my own yoga practice lately, and figured the discipline of a daily yoga challenge might be just the thing to get me back on my mat with a consistency usually reserved only for chocolate.
But let’s back things up a bit. It was two years ago and I was still in the five stages of grief over my sidelined boxing training due to shoulder and wrist fails (whom I had begun to refer to as Judas 1 and Judas 2). By total chance I’d gotten wind of UK-based Boxing Yoga, whose pilot program I would eventually write a blog post about.
At the time I couldn’t believe my good fortune. My old flame (boxing) had married my new crush (yoga) and their love child was now gazing at me from YouTube with all the promise of a new beginning. I couldn’t click on the preview demo fast enough.
It was good, and I enjoyed it. But it was only an appetizer. I wanted the 4-course meal.
Time passed. Me, Judas 1 and Judas 2 hobbled off to explore kinder, gentler fitness alternatives, and to heal. I fell in love with Baptiste-form Power Vinyasa Yoga, and would ultimately pursue teacher training. But I never forgot about Boxing Yoga. When I learned recently that they’d finally released the full-length workout on video, I bought it immediately, sight unseen. My plan was simply to use it to blow the cobwebs out of my existing yoga practice, but then resume my regular vinyasa flow as soon as the 30 days was up, refreshed and ready to recommit.
Yeah, well. About that. The Boxing Yoga challenge officially ended three weeks ago. But I can’t stop.
I came for the affair, and woke up in a relationship.
You: That’s a lot of drama over some yoga. Sounds a bit medieval, though. Why would I want to subject myself to that?
Me: Because. The last 15 minutes.
You: What about it?
Me: It’s glorious.
That’s not an exaggeration. Taken on their own, the stretches in the cool down sequence are nothing special. Nor are they new. What makes it delicious: pace, depth and timing. The pace is unhurried. Once you realize you will not be rushed through it like a Chipotle lunch hour line, you are able to relax fully into each stretch, which gives the entire experience a deeply meditative quality. It’s the perfect yin to the butt-kicking yang that came before, arriving at the exact moment when your body is completely spent.
Just as in a professional boxing bout, the Boxing Yoga DVD workout has 12 rounds. Those rounds stretch across four phases: the Warm-up (8 min), the Strength Stage (14 min), the Mobility Stage (18 min) and the Cool-down (11 min).
1. Salutation Round
2. Centering Round
3. Squat Round
4. Plank Round
5. Abdominal Round
6. Lunge Round
7. Back Round
8. Downward Dog Round
9. BoxingYoga™ Flow Round
10. Balancing Round
11. Seated Round
12. Supine Round
By my count, the routine includes no less than 28 yoga poses (or variations thereof). This is in addition to the signature Boxing Yoga moves. Together with the dedicated stretching sequence, it adds up to a total body workout in a relatively compact amount of time (around 52 minutes). This is significant because it allows me to do away with standalone “recovery” or sport-specific stretching routines which I would otherwise have to squeeze into my weekly workout roster, or sacrifice a yoga session for. Boxing Yoga also lets me tap into the “work a muscle, stretch a muscle” training philosophy, which seems to leave me with noticeably less joint pain and soreness between workouts. And what feels like a brand new back and spine.
Not a bad value for a one-time $16 investment, more or less, depending on the day’s currency exchange rate (GBP > USD). The deal is sweetened by WellChick’s limited-time-only Boxing Yoga coupon code for 15% off: use wellchick15 when you order here (Paypal accepted.) U.S. Customers: as of this writing, the physical DVD currently for sale is not formatted for U.S. Region 1, so be sure to only order the download version, which you can then sync to any device and play on a TV monitor using an adapter.
Before you do, however…
…I must warn you of two things:
1. There will be drama on Day 1. Expect it. Embrace it. And work through it the best you can. (In yoga there’s no destination, there’s only the journey. And the journey IS the practice.) No matter what your fitness or experience level, this is a whole different deal. Take modifications as needed. Keep water and a towel nearby. You will be faced with new physical demands, new interpretations of familiar poses, new sequences and transitions, new hold times, new combinations drawing from two disciplines. New, new, new.
And – once you get the hang of it – fun, fun, fun. Unless you get tripped up by #2.
2. Boxing Yoga may not be your thing IF: (a) Your mind is closed to new things. (b) You are a yoga purist. (c) You discourage easily at the first sign of difficulty, or lose interest in things you aren’t immediately able to excel at.
No judgements, just observations. Know thyself.
Assuming you clear these hurdles, and have no prohibitive injuries or other physical constraints, you’ll likely find this to be a great overall strengthening and conditioning training system. To get the most benefit and enjoyment from Boxing Yoga, consider doing it as many days in a row as you can. I can’t recommend the 30-Day-Challenge approach enough. The most rewarding aspect of this practice is reaching the point where you are no longer distracted and uncertain about “what comes next,” can rely solely on audio versus visual cues (and thus focus more intently on breath and deepening the pose), and find yourself carried away by seamless flow and movement.
What’s in my Boxing Yoga Toolkit? Water. (To stay hydrated before and after. No time to sip during.) Towel. (Especially handy during Back Round.) Wrist wraps. (I’ve got a touch of carpal tunnel from years of keyboard use). AbMat (I had one laying around for years for ab exercises, but I use it here under my knees for added cushioning and support during the quad stretch. Don’t have one? Substitute a rolled-up towel.) Avantree Jogger Pro Wireless Headset w/Bluetooth (For when I need to practice bedside without waking my husband up. Kajza’s voice and the music combined sounds stellar through this headset.) Quality yoga mat. (Please, please, please…invest in the highest-quality yoga mat you can afford, with ample padding and solid grip. Your wrists, knees, joints and back will thank you. I’ve had my trusty Manduka Pro for years, but can also recommend the less costly Tomuno, which you can get for the reduced price of $40 on Amazon.)
As I mentioned earlier, my spine feels like a million bucks. And my upper-body strength – especially the ability to do push-ups with greater ease – has soared thanks to the many poses in Boxing Yoga which require me to support my body weight on my hands. Also, my core is stronger and my muscle control is much improved, which I’m sure is helped by all those super slow, one-vertebrae-at-a-time decline and incline sit-ups. It’s been an excellent complement to my other cardio and kettlebell kickboxing workouts.
So yes, after 45+ days of consistent use, I highly recommend Boxing Yoga. That’s not to say there aren’t opportunities for improvement, or things I’d change if I could. But none of those are deal-breakers, or take away from the overall quality and effectiveness of the program.
In one or two spots, the cueing might confuse some where the terms “triangular position” or “triangle pose” are dropped in and used interchangeably with downward dog. The first time I did Boxing Yoga, I was halfway down into triangle pose when I happened to glance up at the screen and see Kajza and crew chilling in downward facing dog. Wait…what? Did I miss something? My brain quickly sorted it out, and I continued the flow with no problem. (I’m not familiar with every style of yoga and so can’t say for sure whether triangle pose has lesser-known variations and meanings across the different forms. My guess? Kajza simply chose to cue from a place of describing the shape that the body resembles while in downward dog.) With regular use, you won’t even notice this blip, but those brand new to yoga should be aware that Triangle Pose and Downward Dog are not one and the same. For purposes of this workout, default to downward facing dog every time.
I also agree with other reviewers below who noted that additional modifications on offer for some of the harder poses would have been lovely. That said, I acknowledge two things: (1) the workout is obviously intended to be very challenging and make users “stretch themselves” beyond what they think they may be capable of; and (2) it would be impossible for the DVD version to touch on all possible modifications that the same instructor might cover during in-person classes. (Which is why it’s always a good idea for those new to yoga to also take studio classes under the trained eye of an instructor, who can not only coach you on safe and proper form but also show you which specific modifications to use, and when.)
If it were easy, where would the growth be in that?
Still, there was one particular sequence – the plank round – that I thought deserved focus as it might give particular trouble to some in the beginning, especially if they were newcomers, deconditioned or lacking in upper-body strength and control. I shared my concerns with Boxing Yoga co-founder Kajza, and she was kind enough to provide the following for those who need to play around with a “bridge” adaptation as they work their way towards the full pose:
From a Side Plank, bend the raised elbow and the knee to make physical contact. Keeping balance, slowly rotate on the toes of the supporting foot until the body is parallel to the ground. While rotating, curl the back and crunch the abdominals. Still keeping balance, lower the raised hand to the ground directly under the shoulder and lengthen the leg. Exhale and bend the elbows and slowly lower the body to the ground, while maintaining an active core. Inhale and lift the crown of the head up to a Cobra pose. Tuck the toes under, exhale and lift the torso off the floor to return to a plank position. Repeat on the other side.
General and Boxing-specific Benefits:
An extremely challenging set of poses, the Side Plank Sequence develops shoulder and core strength and stability, balance and control.
Cautions and Modified Versions:
Participants with wrist problems should practice with modification and support the body on the elbow.
Aaaaannnnddddd….that’s usually when Deniz’ interview breaks in. Oh, well. You can’t have everything. I can only hope that one day they go back in the studio and do a video remix, or decide to release the background music as a standalone .mp3. (It’s that good.) The wrong music can kill a workout vibe, and Boxing Yoga scored a 10 with this original score. It never competes with Kajza’s voice or cueing (also excellent, by the way), ebbs and flows in all the right places, and really does a great job of moving you through the flow in a mind-like-water state. Very well-produced.
Live in the UK, or planning a trip there? I’m so jealous. Take a bus (41), rail (Hornsey) or the tube (Turnpike Lane station) for an in-person class at Boxing Yoga’s London gym, located at 46 Tottenham Lane.
Anyway. I could go on and on about Boxing Yoga, but who the hell wants that? Let’s hear what others have to say. I asked a few friends to try it with me, and share their thoughts. They come from a variety of backgrounds: three are trained yoga instructors (one has taught yoga for 20 years), one is a third-degree black belt holder AND martial arts instructor AND 6-time All American in track and field, two are avid runners…and that doesn’t even cover their day jobs! Journalist. Writer. Published Author. Educator. Administrator. Federal Contractor. School District Wellness Professional. Mentor. Wife. Mother.
In other words, awesome women just like you and me who have their s#*@ together. Cue the well chicks!
I consider myself a pretty consistent yoga practitioner– I try and practice a heated vinyasa five times a week. I also used to do martial arts growing up, so I really thought that BoxingYoga would be something I would be familiar with. Not the case. Although the movements are grounded in martial arts and yoga, the way they are presented makes this is a very challenging workout. I thought most of the challenge came in the long holds in very strengthening poses (for example locust pose, with the arms held out in front and to the side). I could feel my muscles starting to fatigue and realized I am not used to holding poses for more than a couple of breaths. This is a good reminder for me to slow down and feel each pose in my own practice.
I think athletes will love this– I appreciated the constant movement– a good sequence with a strong flow meant that even when I was resting, it was active rest. I’m definitely sore in different muscles and I can see myself integrating this sequence into my practice once a week.
Areas of improvement: I think that if there were more modifications to make some poses easier (knee on the ground in a lunge of side plank), all levels would be able to gradually build themselves up to the full expression of the pose in this sequence.
Mala first began her yoga journey in 2007 on campus at the University of Maryland (Go Terps!) as a way to maintain a semblance of fitness and sanity. Like many people, she found that practicing yoga gifted her with several mental and physical benefits. She completed her YogaWorks teacher training in January of 2014 and teaches an energetic and playful heated vinyasa flow at Peace, Love, and Yoga Studio in Carlsbad, CA. When she’s not practicing, Mala works as a federal contractor, creating health and wellness programs for the U.S. Navy and Marines and their beneficiaries. Mala and her husband are currently stationed in Southern California with their dog Bowser, a Belgian Malinois mix. (On a personal note, the founder of this blog and her daughter – Mala’s friend through middle school, high school and college – miss her terribly and hold elaborate prayer rituals for her eventual return to the DC area. We’re not kidding, Mala. Please come home soon!)
Boxing Yoga has provided me, a teacher of 20 years, a new way to incorporate some unique transitions from one pose to the next. As a seasoned yoga instructor, I have found the video to be challenging and well instructed. Most of the 55-minute workout was easy to follow. The exercises seem simple, but not too easy to do. I did work up a sweat as well as a stretch. It kept to the traditional movement of each yoga class, which should move the spine in all six directions. There are two poses that – for those brand new to yoga – might need a little more explanation, or an alternative.
First, moving into the crow pose (or bakasana) can be a challenge and I found that the setup did not really provide a view into the dangers in this posture. It is made to look very easy while it in fact is hard to do, especially if you have just gone through the rigorous set up beforehand. A practiced yogi with strong wrists and balance will love this at this time, but in the video, a safer alternative would be lovely to see.
Second pose, lunge or modified pigeon, where one lifts the back leg stretching the quads intensely, is shown to be an easy and simple gesture, but if the person is not on the correct padded mat and/or has quad issues, there is the potential for a muscle or knee to be injured.
Last, in warrior three, I would like the instructor to encourage me to exhale as I align the hips with the floor, not just manage the core.
Overall, I enjoyed the workout for the peace and rigor it creates through stretch, strength and breath. It was nicely measured, the instructor Kajza’s voice is excellent, and her visuals amazing. I found myself a peaceful warrior using the boxing guard as a prayer position of sorts. The video seems like a great dance. Folks from both disciplines (boxing and yoga) should like it, though some who are of the Ahimsa “To DO NO Harm” nature may not take to the “fighting element.” (As an aside, I can see this being great for military guys or others who want to try yoga, but need a different entry point.) I recommend it as a good training video, and am looking forward to adding it to my yoga routine and sequencing. I like it!
Debut author and 20-year yoga instructor Saeeda Hafiz is currently promoting her recently published memoir The Healing at select bookstores and readings across the country. The memoir explores the intersection between yoga, food and the author’s own explosive experience growing up in a family plagued by domestic violence and substance abuse. Today she splits her time between teaching yoga, working as a wellness professional for San Francisco Unified School District (SFSUD), and promoting her book, a review of which was previously published on this site. The Healing is available for $9.99 as a (5-star) Kindle e-book download on Amazon.com, or in paperback on the author’s website.
I’m always up for a physical challenge, so when “Boxing Yoga” came my way, I was pretty excited about giving it a try. I’ve been training in martial arts for almost 12 years (instructing for five) and incorporated a bit of yoga into my personal workout routine mix about two years ago. For me, yoga and karate have always been separate, so the idea of mixing the two seemed kind of brilliant, actually.
A word of warning: If you are used to the constant movement and aerobic intensity that is kickboxing or the warm-up of any martial arts class, be warned that you won’t find that here. Your heart rate will elevate, but not because of the front snap kicks thrown or the blur of rapid movement hand combinations. It’s not a total aerobic workout because it isn’t designed to be – but it will most definitely challenge your balance and work your core, shoulders, hips and quads without the huffing and puffing.
Before trying to keep up with the 51-minute workout, I strongly suggest you watch the entire video first. It will still be difficult to complete – especially if you are unfamiliar with yoga poses and instruction (because you will need to be able to see the screen for guidance while you are working out) – but a watch-through before you jump onto the yoga mat might be helpful.
Also, some knowledge of yoga is helpful to do this workout. If you’ve never heard of a child’s pose, table top, cobra, bridge, or downward-facing dog/triangle pose, you will find yourself looking to your screen a whole lot to see what the heck you’re supposed to do, but they are totally doable and will definitely get better/easier to do the more you do them.
Although I consider myself pretty flexible and relatively strong, there were movements (poses into other poses) that I had a bit of difficulty with. Part of it might have been that I was a bit sore from lifting weights, but much of it may have been because they were simply unfamiliar. With time and practice, I’m sure they will get easier, but don’t beat yourself up if you cannot make it through the entire 51 minutes on your first try – especially since the first real rest is about 35 minutes in – and it only lasts for about 35 seconds.
With that being said, this workout also isn’t really designed for beginners. It requires lots of core (abdominal) strength and it really taxes your shoulders and lower extremities. Weekend warriors might wish to do the workout in blocks – meaning try to get through 20 minutes, then work up to 30, 40 and so on.
Although “guard” (a boxing/mixed-martial arts term) is a staple during the early part of the workout, the boxing part of “Boxing Yoga” isn’t really as emphasized as much as the yoga part is. The punches thrown are not done for power or speed, but more as an emphasis on alignment, posture and spinal rotation. If your primary activity is boxing or marital arts, you will get your “OK – NOW I know what I’m doing” fix when the jab-cross (or reverse)-hook combo with a slip is mentioned, so hang in there.
Because alternatives for some of the positions, poses and movements were not really offered (i.e. knuckle pushups can be tough if the instruction to stay only on the two big knuckles isn’t given; the “boxer-warrior” pose can be downright painful for people have knee issues), modification will have to be done on your own. I do wish that some hint of that would have been included though, as getting to a pose that hurts could potentially turn someone off from even seeing what the rest of the workout has to offer. If it hurts, by all means, stop, but do keep watching so that when the difficult movement passes, you can continue with the rest of the workout.
Done on a regular, though, I can see how “Boxing Yoga” could enhance martial arts or boxing training. The trick, I think, is to not get too discouraged when/if you cannot do or complete a movement or pose. Remember to go slowly (as balance is really important on many of the positions/poses/transitions), and breathe. I think I’ll give it another go in a few days myself.
Felicia Hodges is a third-degree black belt in USA Goju Karate who has also trained in Krav Maga, Aikido and Okinawan Goju-Ryu. A 6-time All-American in track and field, she has been teaching karate to children and adults as well as self-defense for women since 2010. Her karate musings can be found at www.BushidoRoad.blogspot.com.
Overall, I liked Boxing Yoga as it was a different change of pace. There were many strengths.
The visuals were very good. One thing I found helpful was that each set repeats twice, giving you ample time to reinforce learning and practice the poses, which I notice went faster the second time around.
The presentation was easy to understand, with solid directions and good cueing. It was a very fluid routine, and flowed really well. The stretching was great, and a real nice addition to the end of the workout. Speaking of stretching, I agreed with the boxer interviewed at the end of the video: it is an asset to any type of aerobic activity such as running, cycling, kickboxing, etc. and can spell the difference between being injury-free and injury-prone.
I would have liked to have seen more modifications for some of the more challenging moves. A few were mentioned here or there, but not all were shown with a modifier performing them. Also, the instructor referred to down dog as triangle pose once or twice, which could be confusing to someone new to yoga.
Most important: I did break out into a sweat so I knew I was working!
Deb is a lifelong educator with 37 years of experience leading school communities and programs as a teacher, principal and central office administrator. She’s an avid runner who, along with the founder of this blog, became a boxing and kickboxing enthusiast. Soon after she discovered the benefits of yoga and juggled her daytime job with nights and weekends to pursue certification as a yoga teacher, not only to grow her own practice, but to help others understand the often misunderstood world of yoga and how it can be a part of their everyday lives. Today she continues to learn more about yoga for children, people with disabilities, and older members of the community and is eagerly preparing to teach a yoga class for her colleagues at work. She continues her deep commitment to daily, physical activity and intends to retire one of these days teaching and practicing yoga every day!
Boxing Yoga Home Workout Preview (YouTube):