I can run for hours, but when it comes to holding still I have the ability of a child waiting on a long bathroom line.
I fidget, I squirm, I shake and sometimes, though I don’t like to admit it, I just let go.
Luckily though, I’m still talking about sitting still and not peeing my pants 🙂
As you can probably imagine from my restless leg syndrome (and my incessant ranting about running throughout every other post), yoga is not my favorite activity.
However, despite the fact that I struggle with it, I think yoga is something that all runners and athletes should do once in awhile to stretch out, increase flexibility, and just relax in general. During a typical day, I never actually stop and thank myself or my body for the abilities I have, or the work I’m putting in — it’s just go, go, go, go, go. But during every single yoga class, my instructor will remind the entire class to take a minute, take a deep breath and appreciate ourselves. Which is pretty awesome, even without all of the bending, planking and muscle toning going on.
So when I was invited to join a Yoga Fight Club class at the OmFactory’s Union Square location last Monday, I jumped at the offer. The class is a fusion of yoga and kickboxing, and all that “om”-ing with an extra punch sounded like just my style–an opportunity to break the “just hold it” yoga routine!
When I arrived at the “Barefoot Facility” — yep, that’s just what it sounds like! — I wasn’t sure what I was in for. Sometimes I get intimidated when I’m trying a new workout in a new facility with new people… the same way I’m sure non-runners get before a 5k, or going on a group run. But the great thing about all fitness communities I’ve encountered is how welcoming everybody is. So even though I was a little nervous, I introduced myself at the front desk and was immediately greeted with a smile, an introduction and a reminder to please take my boots OFF (in said barefoot facility.. oops!).
Once I secured my things in a locker, borrowed a mat and joined the rest of the class, we quickly got to work. After some quick but thorough stretching, we started with simple yoga poses, progressing to harder, more advanced ones. We didn’t use any equipment for this portion except for a band, which I had never used before but followed the lead of our instructor, Kristina. After about thirty to forty minutes of just yoga, we broke into the kickboxing portion of the class by running around the room and then doing lunges and shuffles. It was kind of funny to break out of the super serious vinyasa concentration and circle around the room, but definitely got us ready for what was to come.
After doing wall sits (yikes!) and some squat work, we were armed with partners and boxing gloves and did sequences of jabs, cuts, hooks and upper cut punches. Even though my partner was small, I found it to be almost as much work to guard her punches as it was to punch myself! We switched on and off with who got to lead the hits, and broke up exercises with partner pushups (high five-ing your partner while doing pushups) and partner squats (holding your partners shoulders while squatting simultaneously).
Next, we went into actual kicking, which was even MORE difficult when holding the kick pad for your partner. We learned the “right” way to kick (keeping your foot flexed and flat, using the top of your foot rather than your heel to make a big “whack” noise on the pad) and then went into roundhouse kick sequences. I was much better at kicking than punching (I need a little more punch in my punches, and I have trouble remembering the various combinations), but I definitely enjoyed both.
After we (literally) kicked and punched the crap out of each other, we put the gloves away, resumed our positions on our mats, stretched, saluted and thanked our bodies, and went on our way.
The entire experience was definitely a change up from any other yoga class I’ve taken, but it’s also the most fun and best workout experience at a yoga class I’ve ever had! It was exactly the right blend of physical power, focus and conditioning, and I loved that we got to partner up and interact with the rest of the class rather than just follow an instructor like zombies. Even though I had a long commute home to New Jersey, I was completely relaxed and satisfied that I stayed to experience my very first fight club. If you have the opportunity, I suggest you do the same!