Yoga for Sports Series: Yoga for Improvement in Strength and Movement in Boxing
If you’re looking for ways to improve your boxing, then yoga may be a good placed to start. Yoga can be beneficial to athletes in general, just go read our blog called, "Yoga for Sports Series: Some of the Benefits That Yoga Has on Athletes and Their Training". If you need even further evidence that yoga for boxing is "a thing", head over to Boxingyoga.com. This is an entire yoga based training, for fighters.
Why do we feel yoga pairs so well with the sport of boxing?
We'll get into more detail below, but one thing that boxing does maybe more then most sports, is that it requires the individual to have complete and utter control of every movement they make. It requires a mind-body connection of the utmost. Whether on the offensive (throwing punches), defensive-side, or simply breathing in a way to preserve endurance, picking your time to strike, it takes a concentration that only those of which have ever boxed competitively, can understand.
In the following article we'll discuss why yoga can be beneficial to those who participate in the sport of boxing, and some of the more popular asanas to try, that may help better your overall boxing skill.
1. Balance & Coordination
When you think boxing, of course you think punching, but you also probably visualize someone systematically moving around the ring with extreme balance and coordination. Whether the athlete is circling the ring, dodging punches, hitting a combo, even backed-up into the ropes, it takes balance, and yoga can help.
Yoga is a great supplement to any athletes already established training routine, to make for a more well-rounded approach. Besides numerous studies on how yoga can improve balance and coordination in younger children. yoga has shown progress even on college athletes balance.
As we've discussed in previous posts, research suggests that regular yoga practice may increase not just balance, but also flexibility, and whole body measures. This was suggested from a study comprised of male college athletes of whom which completed weeks of regular yoga routines.
Another balance and coordination type study on yoga can be found here, discussing an 8-week long yoga program helping to strengthen the musculoskeletal system, improving both balance and gait.
2. Improves Flexibility
We all have some level of flexibility, right? The ability to move our bodies/joints through certain planes and in different positions. However as an athlete, having enhanced or improving your flexibility can not only help you grow in your sport, but potentially avoid injury.
Improvements in flexibility in practices like Hatha Yoga, is one of the most obvious and quickly achieved effects, according to one pilot study. Another study of Hatha yoga proved it to be more effective in improving flexibility, then calisthenics.
Specific poses can help to target both flexibility and balance, better then others. Another study demonstrated mobility related benefits of yoga, specifically with lyengar Yoga.
3. It Induces a Sense of Relaxation and Recovery/Injury Prevention/May Decrease Inflammation
Yoga, for boxers may also provide a fantastic gateway or outlet post-fight, as it has been known to improve your sleep, and aid in recovery times. The potential benefits of yoga for boxers may just take your game to the level you had been hoping for.
On top of that, it can also help repair boxing-related stiffness and pain. If
you have shoulder pain, wrist and hand soreness or torso problems, yoga
may slowly help you recover and feel better quicker. Yoga has even shown promise at easing discomfort of tender, swollen joints in people with arthritis, according to John Hopkins Medicine.
The ability of yoga asanas and stretching to help elongate muscle fibers may also lessen potential risks of injury. Boxers often times spend time bulking-up or increasing muscle strength, increasing muscle mass, but also causing muscles to stiffen, making them more prone to injury.
If you're an athlete, you surely have battled some sort of pain or inflammation related to an injury, overuse of muscles, etc. Yoga just may be able to aide in decreasing inflammation and pain. At the completion of one study, individuals who practiced yoga regularly had lower levels of an inflammatory marker. Another similar study that looked at inflammatory markers, showed a reduction after 12-weeks of yoga in breast cancer survivors.
4. It Helps you Increase the Flow-State Time During Fights/Attention Span (Concentration)/Understanding of your Surroundings
A lot of boxers (and athletes in general) perform at their best when they are “in the zone”. Yoga, for boxers may have the potential to help you do just that. Yoga helps in general to calm your mind and helps you remain focused, as many of the asanas required in a yoga routine require a focused mind-body connection.
In fact, according to one literature review, there is early evidence that yoga even positively impacts brain health.
Yoga has even been identified, along with walking meditation, body scan meditation and sitting meditation as a potential "Mindful Sport Performance Enhancement" that could impact flow state and athletic performance.
Some Of The Best Yoga Poses for Boxers?
This can certainly be variable based upon an individual boxers needs. For this instance we're going to keep things more general. The poses we discuss can be used by anyone looking to improve certain aspects of their boxing game. Due to the fact boxers need to be powerful, quick, agile, and focused, there are many yoga asanas that can be beneficial to your "game"!
One of the most worked and important parts for a boxer is their core. Yoga postures and positions like the boat pose, side and forearm plank, all can be used to increase abdominal strength and stamina. Asanas like the dolphin plank pose, and dolphin pose are also used to build a strong core.
If you're looking to improve flexibility, you may turn to asanas like thread the needle, standing forward bend, and the warrior I /II pose(s) may just be your ticket.
Try a few of these out and then expand your routines to more difficult postures and flows/sequences.
1. Boat Pose (Paripurna Navasana)
Boat Pose is an intermediate yoga asana, done starting in the seated position. This is considered a forward-bend type pose, focused on both strength and balance. Paripurna Navasana benefits the core muscles, pelvic regions (hip flexor), and quadriceps.
1. Take a seated position.
2. Place your hands behind your hips, palms down. Feet flat on the floor, bent at the knees.
3. Begin to lift your feet off the ground. Finding balance as you continue to straighten out the legs. Hold your legs with your hands if needed at first.
4. Extend your arms parallel to the ground, chest out and shoulder blades back. Engage your core muscles.
5. Control your breathing for 4-6 cycles, then release your legs back down to the yoga mat.
2. Forearm Plank (Phalakasana II)
What we would consider an intermediate pose, Forearm Plank pose helps strengthen the core and is relatively easy to get into.
1. Lye prone, with your forearms slightly more then shoulder width, similar to a position as if your were doing a pushup.
2. Simply push down into the mat with your forearms, lifting your body off the mat.
3. Tuck your toes under.
4. Hold the pose to failure, engaging your core muscles.
3. Camel Pose (Ustrasana)
A more beginner friendly pose focused on stretch.
1. Begin Camel Pose on your knees about hip width apart.
2. Your thighs can be slightly rotated inward, shins on the mat.
3. Reach with your hands to your heels (one hand at a time), or begin by placing them on your sacrum with your fingers pointing downward, if more comfortable. Push your chest out, hips forward, shoulders back and down.
4. Engage your thighs and glutes.
5. Do not over extend your neck to an uncomfortable position. Breath for 4-6 cycles.
4. Warrior II Pose (Virabhadrasana II)
With emphasis on stretch, strength and balance, Virabhadrasana II is a beginner friendly pose, done in the standing position.
1. Start with your feet hip-width apart.
2. Spread your legs to a position where your right toes are facing the right wall and your left toes are facing the wall in front.
3. Your hips and shoulder should be turned toward the front.
4. Bend your front (left) leg, while keeping the right left straight. Lift your arms up to shoulder level, parallel to the floor, palms down.
5. Your arms should be extended in opposite directions of one another, but in the direction as each of your legs.
6. Sink the hips slightly, keeping the legs engaged. Chest forward.
7. Hold this pose for 30 seconds - 1 minute.
If you want to prevent injuries and improve your focus during boxing fights, then doing yoga maneuvers specific for boxing may be a very good option. It might take a bit of getting used to, but the truth is that yoga provides you with some amazing potential in any aspect of your life.
Thanks for coming by, please be sure to share any of your experiences with yoga for athletes on our blog!