It isn’t your typical yoga studio.
The cool, dark room filled with calming music may be familiar enough, but the posters of boxing greats on the walls, and the punching bags dividing the space, less so.
Box2Fit has now launched a yoga program that complements those classes.
Frankie La Sasso, who runs Box2Fit and the Punch Out program, said that the idea to create a “Yoga Out Parkinson’s” class came from his students. He heard from his clients with Parkinson’s that they wanted to do more stretching.
That’s when La Sasso reached out to yoga instructor Vanessa Low with the idea of having her lead a program for people with Parkinson’s.
“[We] brought her in and everybody loved her,” said La Sasso. “That’s why we decided to go ahead and just do a full-time class for Parkinson’s.”
Frankie La Sasso has been boxing since he was six years old, but he only recently began practicing yoga.
“Myself, I was always against yoga. I was always like, ‘I’m not going to do that,’” he admitted. “But I did a class and I couldn’t believe just how good it felt afterwards. So it’s definitely a part of my training routine as well now.”
He also began recommending adding yoga to the training routines of his other boxing clients. “And since we have the space available, we thought we’d just do yoga classes for everybody, for the community,” he said.
Box2Fit is currently working to transform its front room, currently used as a lounge for boxers between workouts, into a yoga studio. The studio is expected to be open in the fall.
Yoga, La Sasso explained, helps improve strength and balance, and reduce stiffness, which is especially beneficial to people with Parkinson’s.
“If all day long you have tremors in your muscles … to be able to stretch that out is just like when you work out all day and need to stretch afterwards,” he said.
“It’s really beneficial. Everyone should stretch — even you.”
Yoga Out instructor Vanessa Low has a background in health science and on top of her yoga practice, she is currently working on getting into a nursing program.
Although Box2Fit’s yoga program won’t officially launch until July 16, Low has been running classes at the gym since early June.
“It’s been excellent,” she said, noting that she has already seen an improvement in people’s balance and attitude.
When some of the students began the class, they had reservations about its effectiveness — not unlike La Sasso, before he tried yoga himself.
“I’ve noticed there has been improvements in attitude — they’re more willing to take a leap of faith,” she said.
As their confidence builds, so does their willingness to try new poses, and their faith that they can improve their flexibility and strength. As Low explained, she encourages a mindset of “I might not be able to this today, but I will try again tomorrow.”
Some of her clients have begun to sleep better at night — one of the potential symptoms of Parkinson’s is interrupted sleep. Another benefit to people with Parkinson’s, Low said, was that by including exercises that improve the strength of muscles in the throat and neck, some improvement can be made in breathing and swallowing, and it can help support the vocal chords.
“It’s good to see the progression. To see their growth and change is mind-blowing,” said Low.
La Sasso said the Punch Out and Yoga Out Parkinson’s classes are complementary to each other.
“Overall for Parkinson’s, exercise, just exercise, is proven to be a key benefit,” he said. “And that goes for everybody, you know, just not people with Parkinson’s. That’s why we’re starting up the other yoga classes.”
The Yoga Out Parkinson’s Disease classes run Monday to Friday, from 1 to 2 p.m.
Box2Fit also provides boot camps, classes focusing on technical aspects of boxing, cardio boxing, and classes for kids. For more information on the classes, or on volunteering to help out the Yoga Out or Punch Out programs, call Frankie La Sasso at 778-384-6284, or drop by the gym at 17750 65A Avenue in Cloverdale.