To excel in the ring, boxers need to be able to keep up with the high-intensity nature of the sport. Modern boxing requires sportspeople to be strong, flexible, and in-control – both mentally and physically. While an obvious way to achieve this is through regular training, boxers can improve their skills with separate activities, too. Many boxers now implement yoga into their exercise routine. The low-intensity exercise helps the body to wind down after a fast-paced training session whilst also increasing flexibility, strength, and energy levels. But that isn’t all yoga can do. In this article, we explore the benefits of yoga for boxing in more detail. If you’re interested in getting involved, all you need to begin is some lightweight yoga clothes and a comfortable mat.
Although weight-training is a popular way to increase strength, it tends to focus on specific areas and miss out others. Yoga, on the other hand, targets all of the key muscle groups to increase your strength all over the body. Instead of using free-weights, practitioners use their own bodyweight as resistance against gravity. Through a series of simple poses, boxers can improve their muscle tone, core strength, and stamina ready for their next match. Additionally, building muscle strength will improve your posture. Correct posture is useful both in and out of the ring.
While many people assume strength is the most important quality in boxing, flexibility is just as vital. During a boxing match, great flexibility is needed to dodge your opponent and be agile in the ring. Yoga stretches out the muscles to release any built-up tension. Additionally, flexible muscles are important when it comes to preventing injury. If you do become injured, supple muscles will recover much quicker than tight ones. Holding yoga poses for an extended duration stretches the soft tissue as well as the muscles. This gives your muscles the extra flexibility needed during an intense match.
Energy is also important when it comes to boxing. Sometimes, a boxing match can drag on for longer than normal. When this happens, it’s important to have enough energy left to beat your opponent. While a high-sugar sports drink can be helpful short-term, increasing your natural energy levels is a better long-term solution. Regular yoga practice is a great way to achieve this. Over time, yoga improves the blood flow to your body. This means that fresh, oxygenated blood is delivered to the brain and you feel revitalised.
Yoga teaches you how to control your breathing. Correct breathing is essential for boxers to keep the muscles oxygenated. Additionally, learning how to control their breathing will help boxers to channel their strength when punching.
Yoga benefits the emotional body as well as the physical. Ideal for calming the mind, regular yoga practice can help boxers to control their anxiety about an upcoming match. When used correctly, yoga can decrease cortisol levels in the body; often referred to as the ‘stress hormone’, high cortisol levels can leave us feeling stressed, anxious, and on-edge.
Yoga is also a great way to improve your balance and coordination. During an intense fight, balance and coordination are vital. Yoga teaches boxers how to use certain muscle groups that are ignored by other exercises. This means that boxers that use yoga will have an advantage over those that don’t.
The best yoga poses for boxers are those that strengthen and stretch the muscles. Below, we discuss how to practice some of the poses.
Plank Pose is popular amongst boxers and other athletes. Over time, this pose can strengthen the core, arms, legs, shoulders, and wrists – the most important areas when it comes to boxing! To practice Plank Pose, stand tall on your mat before hinging at the waist. Gently lower your upper body toward to ground until you can touch your hands on the mat. Next, walk your hands forward and shift your weight onto the balls of your feet. Slowly lower your hips until they are aligned with your head and shoulders. You are in Plank Pose. Engage your core muscles to hold the pose for as long as possible.
Thread the Needle Pose is ideal for increasing flexibility in the upper body. This allows boxers to dodge their opponent and remain agile in the ring. To practice the asana, begin on all fours with your hips directly above your knees. When you’re ready, walk your right hand forward until you can thread your left arm underneath it. When you have threaded your left arm as far as possible, you should be able to rest your left cheek on the mat. You are in Thread the Needle Pose. Hold the asana for around 30 seconds before switching sides.
Warrior II is great for building strength in the lower body. Additionally, the pose strengthens the core to improve balance whilst in the ring. To practice Warrior II, stand tall on your mat with your arms by your sides. As you exhale, move your feet wide apart. Next, turn your left foot slightly to the left and your right foot out 90 degrees. Raise your arms out to the sides until they are in line with your shoulders. Your palms should remain facing down. On your next exhale, bend your right knee until it is directly above your right ankle. Lower your hips until your right thigh is as parallel to the floor. If you can’t get your thigh parallel to the floor, just move it as far as you can whilst keeping the bend at 90 degrees. You are in Warrior II. Hold the asana for around 1 minute before switching sides.
Whether you’re a professional boxer or you enjoy the sport as a hobby, practising yoga regularly can be beneficial. Before using yoga, it’s important to have the right gear. During the summer months, a light-weight vest top and some shorts will help keep the body cool.