Opposing Forces: Yoga Meets Boxing?

Yoga and boxing hybrid classes help to balance the yin and yang.

Last year, worlds collided when a convergence of boxing gyms and boutique fitness became a hot new way to sweat, broadening an interest a sport that has been around since ancient Olympic times. Some supermodels like Gisele Bündchen and Christy Turlington have turned to boxing to advocate for stronger, healthier body types, and the rise of trendsetting boxing studios like Shadowbox NYC meant that the cult following of SoulCycle may have finally met its match.

Now boxing and yoga have joined forces, proving once again that yoga really can be for everyone. BoxingYoga, a practice created in a boxing club in London in 2011, helps fighters to cross-condition by improving strength, flexibility, and concentration. It is also becoming yet another way to do yoga. The focus is to improve sporting performance, with innovative postures and sequencing to stretch and strengthen, and ultimately shorten recovery time. And a rising number of professional athletes who supplement their training by practicing yoga, like like LeBron James or the entire Philadelphia Eagles team.

The popularity of BoxingYoga spread quickly throughout boxing gyms around Europe and even Asia, eventually making its way to a studio in Northern California. Yoga Garden in San Francisco offers BoxingYoga classes as a fun—and intense—alternative to traditional yoga, giving their students an opportunity to explore other challenging avenues. “We recognize that boxing is a popular, growing fitness activity, and we’re always looking for new synergies between fitness and yoga,” said David Nelson, an owner of the studio.

A BoxingYoga class at Yoga Garden in San Francisco.
A BoxingYoga group class in London practicing Side Plank.

With its roots in Ashtanga, BoxingYoga uses avant-garde postures that mimic a fighter’s defensive stance, and incorporates exercises similar to a boxer’s training program while developing some serious stamina. The arc of the class spans 12 rounds—much like in the ring—and is modified to suit the practitioner’s needs—much like in a yoga class. Yoga Garden is also offering an official BoxingYoga teacher training, so it won’t be long before boxing might pop up at a yoga studio near you.

At Brooklyn Boulders, you can already try B-Yoga, another boxing-yoga hybrid class to test your strength and condition your regular practice, or there’s eight rounds of a high-intensity bootcamp variation called Boyo, at JABS Gym in Birmingham, MI.

While the juxtaposition of yoga and boxing might seem unusual, champion fighters like Floyd Mayweather and Chris Algieri and have long used yoga and meditation practices to improve their performance in the ring and help to avoid injury. Algieri attests that being relaxed actually helps make him faster, which is crucial to a sport that requires being quick on your feet.

Finn Cohen, who doesn’t fight professionally, but trains in Manhattan’s Church Street Boxing Gym to build muscular and cardiovascular strength, practices yoga to improve his performance when he spars. “Boxing requires a lot from the hips and knees, so you need to be flexible in order to twist and squat, which are fundamental offensive and defensive moments,” he said.

If we think in terms of balancing yin and yang, the peacefulness of yoga and combative nature of boxing compliment each other well. For yogis looking to amp up their practice and sweat a little (or a lot!) more, or fighters in search of a little more zen, it makes sense that these opposite ends of the spectrum managed to meet each other halfway.

Photos courtesy of Yoga Garden

AndreaRiceNewHeadshotAndrea Rice is the Practice and Community Editor for Wanderlust Media. She is also a writer and yoga teacher. Her work has also appeared in The New York Times, Yoga Journal, SONIMA, mindbodygreen, and a variety of online magazines. Her teaching style is a blend of her love for music and intuitive movement, with emphasis on core strength. You can find her regular classes at shambhala yoga & dance center in Brooklyn, and often as a guest teacher for Deep House Yoga. Connect with Andrea on Instagram and Twitter