Yoga for Kickboxing
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
"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
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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