Thomas Taubman founder of YoBox

Yo-Box Combines Endurance and Mindfulness in Each Session

Hey, have you ever thought of combining workouts like boxing, dancing, and yoga? Well, I have! Yo-Box® is the result of 20 years of my personal practice as well as my work as an instructor in a variety of mind-body modalities. At its physical roots, Yo-Box® is a non-contact workout that fuses the speed, punching combinations, cardiovascular endurance, and footwork of shadow boxing with the stretching, breathing, grounding, strength, and stress-reducing elements of yoga. This is the perfect yin, yang full body experience.

From the Boxing Ring to the Yo-Box® Class

When I was developing what is now known as Yo-Box®, I wanted to create a class that combined three of my favorite movement disciplines: boxing, dancing and yoga. My intention was to help students experience a well-balanced movement workout that gave them the feeling of empowerment in the mind, body and spirit.

My Story

The origin story of Yo-Box® is related to my personal story and how I used sports and mind-body disciplines to channel my own energy and address challenges. From the moment I was born, I had an abundance of energy. Energy that I had trouble channeling except when I was playing sports. When I turned 19, this became even more apparent after I had gone through some challenges. At times, I started becoming a bit more aggressive and agitated. There was never any physical lashing out, but my mind and spirit were definitely not in a good place—and I was doing things that were not healthy or sometimes not even legal. I also had a tendency to break things when something didn’t go my way and found myself constantly yelling or screaming. Controlling my thoughts and emotions was very challenging.

My best friend’s brother, who was a professional boxer, approached me and asked if I would like to go to the boxing gym. Russel could see that I was going down the wrong path. Upon reflection, I think he was my guardian angel. I took his advice and made the hour-and-a-half trek to Gramercy Gym in Manhattan from Staten Island five days a week.

Thomas Taubman Sharing Yo-Box with Dog

Skills Training through Sparring

By day, I attended college classes. By night, I worked out at the gym. Being at that gym taught me that I could control how I react to everything around me more skillfully—in ways that were more positive and proactive. But even more importantly, it exposed me to so many other guys who were using the art of boxing, not to be violent and aggressive, but as a beautiful, disciplined, respectful and supportive way of being.

I thought being tough was walking around with pent-up aggression and not feeling your feelings. But, I was completely wrong. Because almost everyone I met at the gym treated me really well. Nobody had anything to prove. You trained and then you got in the ring. There was no trying to act “tough.” Everyone seemed comfortable in their skin, which was a completely eye-opening experience for me.

Nine months of training taught me humility. This included moments like getting knocked down seven times while sparring. I signed up for the Golden Gloves: a major tournament for amateur boxers in New York. I wound up winning my first fight but, I was definitely getting hit way too much. That’s when my trainer told me to take some dance classes. I was like, “What?!” But I believed in him and began dancing.

I continued boxing and dancing for another year. Yet after few more matches, I turned in my boxing shoes for my jazz and ballet shoes and moved exclusively to ballet, tap, and jazz for the next five years at Broadway Dance Center.

The Discipline of Dance

Dancing was really hard for me, because it was more of a feeling discipline. I started loving using my body more gracefully That is in no way a slight to boxing! (They are just different.) But, I loved the discipline of ballet, like boxing. The lines, steps, and breathing.

Discovering Yoga in LA

After five years of dancing, I moved to LA where I started practicing yoga at the famous Center for Yoga with Steven Freeman. I liked the physical movements, but yoga demanded even more mindfulness than dance. At times I found the practice to be excruciatingly difficult. I didn’t always like to feel and that’s putting it mildly. Now, I recognize the importance of the benefits we can gain from the feeling aspects of yoga!

At YogaWorks, I was so fortunate to study with two amazing teacher training mentors: Maty Ezraty (rest in peace) and Lisa Walford. The teacher training training was amazing and life-changing. I then completed my advanced training with one of the most talented and passionate teachers around, Annie Carpenter, who influenced me tremendously me in all areas of my yoga teaching.

The Need to Release Pent-Up Energy

However, the real lightning bolt that ignited Yo-Box® was when a very good friend of mine and then my wife were both diagnosed with cancer. I started sharing yoga and some slow movements and breathing to help both them cope. But, these practices weren’t really enough to help them. I noticed how much they were caught up in a negative spiral of fear, anger, and negativity as a result of their diagnoses.

The more we tried to relax and think, the worse they were feeling. What they needed was to be engrossed with an activity that was electrifying, energizing, challenging, and empowering, so that they could transform all the negative feelings that they had and immediately shift from feeling like a victim to being a warrior.

After we punched it all out, they were able to release their pent up energy. Then we were able to breathe and relax a bit more. Yo-Box® was born.

Thomas Taubman posing in a sparring shape at a bridge

What to Expect in a Yo-Box Class

A Yo-Box® class consists of fifteen minutes of targeted yoga movements and breathing patterns to get us warmed up for boxing. Then we have ten three-minute shadow-boxing rounds that invigorate the whole body. In between each round, we have thirty seconds of a stable yoga pose (such as tree pose, eagle pose), to get us grounded and focused for the next round. Just like we do in a boxing match, these 30 seconds serve as our “returning to your corner.”

Once the ten rounds of high intensity movements are completed, we then complete a specific cool-down with some slow flow and static yoga poses with deep breaths to help us create flexibility in the areas of the body that we just used during the boxing segment. The cooling down is a crucial part of the class for the overall well-being of the body.

Ahimsa in Proper Boxing Form

A big part of the class is teaching proper boxing form. Any movement should be done correctly, so that we can experience health and longevity through sustainable movement. I take the time to explain that each punch, whether it is an upper-cut, cross, hook or jab, needs to originate from the hips.

We “bob and weave” like you would see a boxer in the ring do in order to avoid their opponent. Boxing may be known as a violent sport, but by marrying it with yoga, we have created a new perception. There is a Sanskrit word called “ahimsa” which means non-violence. It is very important to me to include this nonviolent approach in class. Our motto is that we “punch for peace, breathe for brilliance, and move to motivate.” What good is a class, if the result is pain?

Beginning and Ending with Yoga

An important benefit to Yo-Box® is that we begin and end the practice with yoga. The yoga portions helps us to stay strong, flexible, and focused. Since we punch from the hips, we make sure our yoga warms up our hips at the beginning with poses like crescent and chair. We cool down by doing poses such as lizard and thread the needle all to release the hips. I love practicing reverse table after all of our punching. Overall, I want the class to work the mind, body and spirit. We workout to work in. This is the reflective and mindful aspect of Yo-Box®.

Who Can Practice Yo-Box®?

There is no experience needed at all to take this class. We slowly build the class in small progressive increments and I teach the mechanics of boxing to avoid injuries. New students are able to jump right in and pick up the punches. In addition, you don’t need any special equipment. The only equipment you need is weights, mats and an attitude of gratitude!!!! Sneakers are optional as well. Students use weights to increase the cardio aspect by adding a bit of resistance to the punches. The class is about moving, being safe and having fun!

Students can benefit in so many different ways from the class because it includes so many elements. You can experience a cardio workout, increase flexibility, build bone density, and improve brain function. The most noticeable benefit that I see is the elevated mood that every student feels after class. It’s a special hour of power! I think my students would say the class is about having fun, letting go, and creating an absolutely joyous and fun experience.

Where You Can Practice

Prior to the pandemic, in person classes were regularly taught at several YogaWorks studios and Shanti Yoga (Culver City). We have now spent over a year teaching the class on Zoom and it has worked surprisingly well. Zoom has definitely created some challenges along the way. After teaching over 300 classes in the past year and investing in lighting and sound, I’m proud of where the class is on Zoom. Another benefit of doing the class via Zoom is being able to bring the class to students all around the country as well as to Angelenos who didn’t otherwise know about the class. I am looking forward to returning to in-person classes. But I hope to keep the online element for my out-of-town students. We have created a real community over this past year.

I have also had the opportunity to continue to fine-tune the class since I first created it. While the foundation and principles have remained the same, there has been a refinement of the punching combinations, jumps, and movements patterns of Yo-Box®. I’m always open to the feedback and needs of the students, so the class will continue to evolve and develop creatively. The class also includes fun playlists that I switch up each week.. And just like in a boxing match (or many meditation sessions), a “bell” begins and ends each round, bringing us back to back to center.

Learn More and Box and Plank with Us

I am pleased to announce the opening of my new studio in Culver City, Soul Play Yoga – https://www.soulplay.yoga on August 1.  Yo-Box® classes and many other amazing movement, breathing and empowering  classes will now be available at my new studio.
Check the website for pricing as well as visit Yo-Box® — Thomas Taubman Yoga for additional info.

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