An Intro to Yoga for Boxers

Without a cross-training routine, the daily grind on the track and in the boxing gym can leave you drained and uninspired. Aside from being repetitive and exhausting, intense training also tends to leave you sore. You’ll need something else to invigorate your mind and body — and yoga is the perfect solution. Yoga breaks the monotony of your training, reduces soreness, and increases overall strength and flexibility. This guide gives a brief introduction to yoga, and it identifies how the discipline can benefit boxers.

A Brief Intro

Although yoga has experienced recent popularity in the Western world, the origins of the practice date back nearly 5,000 years. Yoga was born in India and originally involved numerous mental and physical practices. Modern yoga emphasizes the physical practice of yoga, known as hatha yoga.

Balancing the mind and body is the ultimate goal of hatha yoga. Poses, breathing, and meditation all play important roles in achieving this objective. A few of the branches of Hatha yoga that appeal to boxers include:

  • Iyengar: Focuses on structural alignment and stability through the use of props — belts and blocks, for example.
  • Ashtanga: Links postures together through synchronized breathing and continuous movement.
  • Bikram: Loosens the muscles and detoxifies the body through a series of 26 postures and two breathing exercises performed in a heated room — ideally 105 degrees (F) with 40 percent humidity.
  • YogaFit: Adds exercises such as push-ups, sit-ups, and squats to traditional yoga practices in order to improve stability and power.

“I felt like after 2004, I had to do something different because the status quo of lifting weights wasn’t doing anything for me. The best way to rejuvenate the body is to get back your flexibility. If I hadn’t done yoga, I’d be out of the league by now.”

Amani Toomer (2009), NFL Wide Receiver

Among the Benefits

Yoga offers an array of benefits for athletes, some of which are highlighted below:

  • Improved flexibility and strength: As muscles and soft tissues are stretched, lactic acid is released. Lactic acid is responsible for common pain and stiffness. Muscle tone, core strength, and posture also improve as you engage your body with each posture.
  • Increased energy: Oxygen levels to the brain increase. In addition, stress hormones — known as catecholamines — decrease, resulting in increased calmness.
  • Balance: Stability and coordination improve as you use new muscle groups and strengthen your core.
  • Improved overall health: Yoga can improve cardiovascular, respiratory, and immune system health. Many yogis lower their blood pressure and slow their resting heart rate. Breathing techniques practiced in yoga also improve lung efficiency, and the relaxation achieved through yoga has been found to help immune system functionality.

Decrease Monotony, Increase Performance

While some people might label yoga as “unmanly” and “undemanding,” this is simply not the case. Yoga is physically exhausting, and more and more athletes are incorporating yoga exercises into their daily routines. In fact, numerous professional sports teams have implemented yoga into their standard strength and conditioning regiments. Yoga can decrease stress levels and improve overall health for any age group, gender, or skill level.

The start-up costs for yoga are minimal, since all you need is a mat. Some people choose to do yoga in the comfort of their own home while using a DVD for assistance. Most people, however, prefer attending classes where they can interact face to face with an expert.

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