Photo credit: Adam Zyto

How a shadowboxing/yoga fusion class re-ignited my passion for intentional fitness

It all began with a rumor about a new instructor teaching a kickboxing class at the Life Time Fitness location where I also teach.  The rumor turned into a raving testimonial from my best friend who happened to take the class and she was convinced that I would also love it.  Normally on Wednesdays her and I would meet at the gym by noon, work out and then go to lunch.  In all honesty, I wasn’t too happy with this new class interfering in our routine; until I tried it.

My first experience with Box and Flow was in the heated yoga studio.  I thought “this dude must be crazy” but I had taken hot yoga classes before and I’m in awesome shape, so surely I could handle teaching my own class and then taking this one just for fun!  Well, I was about to have a humbling experience.

Martesse is what many have called a beautiful specimen of a man.  Not me. I’m married.  I’m just telling you what I’ve heard!  I later learned that he is a former police officer, trained martial artist and 1,000 hour certified yoga instructor.  I’m not sure about the 1,000 hour certification but he sure makes it seem like he has centuries of training.

Now, if you will, please quiet your mind and picture this.  You walk into a dimly lit yoga studio, after waiting patiently in line and hear some dope hip hop beats playing in the background.  If you’re lucky enough to see an open spot, you grab a yoga mat and set it down –quickly– before someone else sees it and takes it.  You don’t know whether to stand or sit because it’s your first time.  You look around and see people talking to each other. Some are taking pre-class selfies and others are buzzing with excitement because maybe Martesse took his shirt off.  Focus now because he’s about to speak.

“Hi, thank you for being here, my name is Martesse.  Welcome to Box and Flow.  The class IS heated so if this is your first time, please pace yourself.  Take a break, but don’t leave.  Make sure you have plenty of water.  Now let’s go over our punches.”

He then proceeds to demonstrate how to stand in guard position and breaks down the jabs, cross punch, hook, upper cuts, kicks and evasive moves.  He has us repeat the moves a few times to get that muscle memory going.  And now it’s time for the warm up.  The music starts and we hit the floor for burpees.  Yeah, that’s right.  I’m thinking (ok, burpees and I get along very well) then we move on to push ups and then mountain climbers and then maybe you hear someone crying in the back row but you can’t look because you’re also a fitness professional and you have to represent!

Are you out of breath yet?  Because at this point in the class, I was already sweating profusely and my shoulders were on fire!  Yeah, they were cooking!  Now it’s time to get up and get ready for the first round.  I’m pretty sure my form was off and I didn’t get the combos but I tried my best.  The song is over and now it’s time for “how many push ups can do you?”  He then counts down from 10 and has us hold the plank as he walks around.  He comes over to me and corrects me.  ME!  I immediately thought “wow, thank you for making me better.” I want you to put this in the back burner because we will come back to it.

After roughly 30-35 minutes of punching and kicking to some great music we stop to regulate our breath and to get ready for 30 minutes of yoga flow.  The first half of the class is all about letting out our aggression, pushing our limits and making our brains work hard to nurture that mind-body connection.  To put it another way, it’s quite chaotic but exhilarating at the same time.

We begin our yoga flow in a seated position followed by table top and then downward dog.  So far so good?  Great!  We proceed to a one-legged downward dog with the right leg up then we bring that knee to the nose, opposite elbow, opposite wrist, right wrist, right elbow.  Repeat 3 more times.  Finally it’s time for our first warrior one.  My goodness!  Somehow, I was able to get through it.  As we continue with our flow I realize how badly I need yoga back in my life and how important it is to have good upper body strength and flexibility.

Before you know it, it’s time for savasana, which is the practice of laying in corpse pose at the end of yoga class.  This time is usually meant for quiet relaxation to rejuvenate the body and feel a deep sense of appreciation for what it does for you.  Martesse uses this time to infuse positive affirmations.  Phrases such as “I am strong”, “I am healthy” “What I think I become”, “I am on my path”, etc.

The class is now over and I’m not quite sure of what I feel.  I introduce myself and thank him.  This was several months ago.

Thinking back to that first experience I believe that I didn’t know what to think because this class became a pattern interruption in my life.  I am not the only one who feels a deep connection to this class and I may not be the only one writing about it.  But I know that we have experienced different sensations in our own, unique way.

Martesse is not just an instructor who leads a kick boxing class.  He’s not just an instructor who leads a yoga class.  The reason this class has become so popular in such a short amount of time is because he brings us from chaos to serenity in one hour.  We let go of our aggression and whatever may be holding us back in order to reconnect with our deep self and that comes from first focusing on our prana, our breath; our life source.  Our breath will either tell us if we are calm or if we are in distress.  Once we’ve connected with our breath we reconnect with our body through the practice of yoga.  That unity between the mind, breath and body is calming, rejuvenating, cleansing and beautiful.  Being able to stretch and hold certain shapes trains our minds to focus and our bodies to let go.

As a fitness professional and life coach, I feel my soul was searching to be challenged.  I teach fitness classes and I train and coach people.  I love what I do and I expend so much of my energy focusing on others and I needed something to help me focus on myself.  Finding that mindset component that I so often share in my own classes be a part of someone else’s class offers me to opportunity to also be nurtured and allows my soul to refuel.

This class has made me better in so many ways.  My focus has improved.  The words I speak to myself have improved. My flexibility has improved.  My strength has improved and my body has once again changed for the better.  I have so much gratitude for Martesse and how he shares his passion for deeper connection through a fitness class.  I tell the instructors that I mentor that when you nurture an emotional connection with class participants, they are yours forever.

It’s not about leading a class because quite frankly, anyone can teach this class.  But it takes someone with undeniable passion, heart, humility and a quiet confidence to deliver an experience worth standing in line and coming back for over and over again.


Follow Martesse on Social Media and be sure to take a live class with him soon as I’m sure he’ll be touring the world!