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Yoga for Kickboxing

If your jabs and roundhouse kicks are missing the mark, yoga can bring flexibility and power to your kickboxing moves.

By Dimity McDowell

Lastly, both require an intensely focused mind. Who hasn't fallen out of Vrksasana (Tree Pose) because of a unfixed gaze? A scattered mind in kickboxing has similar—and more dangerous—effects: "The second your mind wanders is the second your opponent moves in," says Mezger. Practicing martial arts also allows Mezger, who competes in karate, judo, and freestyle fighting, to develop an inner calmness. And women may develop additional peace of mind, he adds, when they know how to confidently defend themselves.

Given these similarities, it follows that regular yoga practice would complement a kickboxer's regimen. Mezger has been attending yoga classes once a week for about a year. He has seen improvement in the stability of his joints, his flexibility, and the strength of certain tendons, and credits yoga with lessening the pain of his chronic shoulder tendonitis and strengthening his lower back. Mezger is so convinced of the benefits of yoga that he recommends it to all of his students, who range from amateurs to pros. "Climbing into the ring is really scary stuff, especially when it's the first time," he says. "Yoga teaches calmness and focus."

A sense of inner calm is just one of the many benefits yoga affords. Calling on the tranquility of Savasana (Corpse Pose) or learning how to use breath to stabilize a difficult asana are two skills that can translate to any sport, especially one where rapid reflexes are required. Despite its fierce appearance, to be successful in kickboxing, you must assume a narrow focus, similar to that of a chess player—a state achieved through practicing regular, deep breathing.

A Leg Up
Yoga also enhances the four major weapons in kickboxing: the left leg, the right leg, the left arm, and the right arm. The legs are used primarily for offensive kicks or knee strikes. Both moves require hip flexibility and leg strength, and the nonkicking leg must have excellent balance. While performing roundhouse kicks, for example, the hip moves through almost its entire range of motion, and the hip flexors, gluteus medius and minimus, quads, hamstrings, and calf muscles are engaged.

"The most natural asana to work on hip flexibility is Hanumanasana (the Splits)," says Michael Lechonczak, a senior yoga instructor at Equinox Health Clubs in New York City. "Also, Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana (Extended Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose) gives you strength in the standing leg while you're opening up the other leg in a very dynamic, functional way."

Although its name leads you to believe otherwise, kickboxing is only about 35 percent kicks. "Boxing skills are just as important as kicking," Mezger says, who adds that women, due to genetic strength distributions, tend to rely more on their legs than men.

The Arms Race
Agile arms are key to creating a defensive position to guard your face and upper body. And every muscle from your pecs to your triceps contributes to powerful punches and elbow strikes. The power actually starts in the feet, travels through the legs, and is amplified by hip rotation and transmitted through the core muscles to the chest and arms. Asanas like Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward Bow Pose) and Purvottanasana (Intense Front-Body Stretch) develop strength in your arms, abs, and back. These asanas also promote an open front body. "Both are powerful poses that generate big energy," Lechonczak says.

The fiery tempo of kickboxing can be practiced in yoga. Lechonczak recommends Sun Salutations at a steadily increasing speed. "The jumping back and forth will build fire in your body," he says.

Dimity McDowell is a Brooklyn, New York-based freelance writer.


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Reader Comments

Philip O'Brien

Yoga has many similarities with other martial arts as well. If kickboxing is not for you, what about aikido, judo, or karate? Karate, for example, focuses on hip motion, alignment of the body to avoid injury, and proper posture. Here's something that might be interesting.

http://dailykarate.wordpress.com/2009/07/23/yoga-for-karate/

Anonymous

If I have low back and knee injured, this yoga-kixing suitable for me to practice?

Because I very like this practice and my yoga instructer his tell me some practice I can't do this, which practice I can't do?

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