THE BASICS: BoxingYoga™. Yoga. For boxers. The peaceful nature of yoga and the fact that boxing is a way of fighting didn’t make sense to me at first. However, I know and trust these guys, and having recently spent some more time with instructor and co-founder of BoxingYoga™- Kajza Ekberg- the more I heard and the more I wanted to try it. A practice built around boxing moves, and working them into a flowing, strong yoga class- definitely a unique sounding experience! BoxingYoga™ is taught around London and its home lies at the Total Boxer gym in Hornsey.
THE CLASS: I invited Kajza down to Lululemon Athletica Islington to run a free class for some Hot B*tches, as part of the “be local. be Islington” initiative, and was delighted to open up the little Lulu studio to host the class on a Saturday afternoon. I was incredibly grateful to be able to host a class I’d been eager to try, in a place I love, and to give something back to loyal HBs and the greater Islington community!
Before the class, we shared some teas and a gossip (the space downstairs from the Lulu Islington studio takes cute to another level- it’s like a little flat with kitchen and area dedicated to chattering). With teas in our bellies, we settled down on our mats and were ready to begin- Kajza took the first few minutes to explain the theory behind the practice we were about to try, as the two words “boxing” and “yoga” don’t necessarily sit together naturally on first glance.
She explained that BoxingYoga™ is designed to bring additional flexibility to boxers, as well as improve their strength, speed and control. She went on to discuss the sheer focus needed by a boxer who is about to fight, and how that need for a clear mind could actually draw a lot from the peace and clarity that lies behind a good yoga practice. What had once seemed a bit of an alien concept to me actually started to make complete sense.
The space downstairs at the Lululemon Islington showroom is cosy, and I have attended yoga classes there previously when we’re spilling into both rooms (testament to how many of us want to attend the community classes hosted there!) Nine of us filled the room and my only advice to the girls before we started was not to punch anyone in the face by mistake, heh!
Kajza popped on the soundtrack (Massive Attack’s Heligo Land- ADORE!) and she adapted her instructions well to make sure the class she gave fitted the studio space. The warm up of a flowing vinyasa salutation began, with boxing stances and movements infused from the warm-up. For example, as we came into warrior style poses, we also threw graceful, slow punches. Another example- we kept our bodies in the classic fighting stance whilst floating through a knees-bent left to right flowing squat movement, into a lunge, then plank and up to down dog. The two lend themselves to each other surprisingly well!
We repeated each sequence twice, and after learning the movements first time round, the words “float like a butterfly stings like a bee” were going round in my head whilst I got In The Zone (don’t laugh! I felt very calm and focused and basically resembled Mohammed Ali in yoga pants at that moment). My practice felt strong and serene, it was a great feeling! Let’s not focus on the fact I may possibly have also been grunting and not able to hold the poses whilst my weedy little arms gave out underneath me. Let’s just channel Ali a little longer.
Kajza gave some really good advice for beginners as she taught- such as the fact that, when doing a plank-to-press-up, it was more important to hold a full plank and just do a shallow press-up, rather than do a full press up whilst on your knees… or even worse go all the way down and collapse when our arms didn’t have enough strength to push back up (I may or may not have been guilty of this). It was good advice and a great practical platform to progressively build a stronger practice on.
The class was HARD; completely different to any yoga class I’d ever attended, and not the cardio hit that a boxing class offers. This offered more of a long slow sustained sweat than the forehead-drenching you experience after attacking a punchbag for three minute intervals. Core work, isolating stomach, legs, arms, shoulders and backs, synchronised movement and breathing, core pulses and holding poses which left most of us whimpering. This class meant business. I had been toying with the idea of a kettlebell class before BoxingYoga™, and as I died a little inside at the effort needed to keep up with this class, I also congratulated myself heartily for deciding against early morning kettlebells!
The class was a shortened version of a normal one (45 mins) but my muscles were shaking by the end so I think this was adequate for a Saturday afternoon! As the class came to an end, we had the chance to hear a little about what’s next for BoxingYoga™- which is well deserved world domination by the sounds of things! With a spike in demand for classes, and foundation courses and teacher training now on offer, watch out for this baby- I’ve a feeling 2014 is the year it becomes a beast.
THE VERDICT: As more of a yogi rather than a boxer, it felt like a really good, controlled core workout, and an incredibly strong vinyasa flow class. It sounds mad but it totally works- boxing and yoga sit in harmony with one another and each offers a unique aspect to the other that I really enjoyed. (So much so I am now toying with the idea of a foundation course!)
THE EXTRAS: Something I really loved about this class aside from the practice was the fact that it was a class full of girls who were on board with the Project HB ethos- so we were laughing, joking and spurring each other on when it got difficult- and the atmosphere was truly great. I was so happy to be hosting a class that offered exactly what Project HB is all about; a place that was welcoming, pressure-off, positive and full of like-minded women. I’m going to be hosting more free classes throughout 2014- join the Project now to be in the know!