When fast-paced kickboxing fuses with meditative yoga, you get Koga - a full-body, hybrid workout that stretches every muscle in the body and is drawing participants ages 8 to 80.
"It's fun, exciting and simple," says creator Jon Koga, 43, who grew up in Lake Grove and now lives in Manhattan. Using his background in physical therapy, he designed the workout in 2001 after spending 10 minutes doing yoga poses after kickboxing class and realizing the combination made sense. He changed his last name from Galimulla to Koga to reflect his commitment to the endeavor.
The workout has received widespread attention, including a spot on "The Dr. Oz Show" in November. Now, more than 10 fitness centers in Long Island offer Koga classes and it's being taught in phys-ed classes at more than 50 school districts in the tri-state area. Nationwide, about 500 instructors have been certified through a five-hour course, according to Koga.
HOW IT WORKS
Koga is based on four-count movements, and during a one-hour class, participants kick, throw punches, assume fighting stances and bend into yoga positions.
"At the end of each set, we do a yoga pose that coincides with the muscle group we just trained," Koga says. "You're working your core, your arms, the triceps, the inner and outer thighs and the glutes."
Koga suggests beginners take at least two classes a week; more advanced participants often take five. Expect to burn between 800 and 1,200 calories per class, he says.
Typically, about 75 percent of class participants are women, Koga says, but the workouts are attracting a diverse crowd on Long Island.
"We'll have a 70 year old next to a 17 year old, and they'll both get a safe, effective, fun workout," says Pam Ruderman, fitness director at Sky Athletic Club in Rockville Centre. "The moves are easy to follow, and just when you think you can't kick your leg one more time, the yoga music comes on and it's time for a stretch."
Dennis DiTucci, 51, of East Meadow, a retired firefighter who developed lung problems after the World Trade Center collapse, has transitioned from Koga student to certified teacher.
"It's been very beneficial," he says. "My breathing improved, and I was able to wean myself off all the medications and inhalers."
WHERE TO GO
When: 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. Mondays, 12 p.m. Tuesdays, 7 p.m. Wednesdays, 6 p.m. Thursdays, 10 a.m. Fridays, 9 a.m. Saturdays
Cost: $12 per class for nonmembers
In addition to standard classes, those 65 and older can take "Koga for the More Mature," which allows participants to perform movements while seated in a chair.
When: 6 p.m. Tuesdays and 10:15 a.m. Thursdays
Cost: $19 per class for nonmembers. Members must pay a $5 fee for the Tuesday class.
"Each time I teach, the class gets bigger and bigger," says DiTucci. "People like it because it touches all the bases. Your heart rate spikes and it's a full-body workout."
When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays
Cost: $10 per class for nonmembers
Powerhouse Gym began offering Koga classes in November due to client demand, says desk manager Liz Garvey. "It's very popular," she says. "I've taken the class and I love it. Usually when you end a class, you're huffing and puffing, but at the end of this one, you feel good."
INFINITY FITNESS: 360 Smith St., Farmingdale, 631-390-9044
When: 6 p.m. Mondays
Cost: $5 per class for nonmembers
Infinity Fitness has offered Koga for only a few weeks, and so far, it's a success, says operations manager Greg Julian. "It's getting very popular," he says.
SWEAT NEW YORK: 51 Frost St., Westbury, 516-478-5800
When: 8:45 a.m. Wednesdays and 6 p.m. Thursdays
Cost: $14 per class for nonmembers. Members must pay a $5 fee for the Thursday class.
"No two classes are the same," says DiTucci. "If I see a couple overweight or older people, I'll scale down my routine. I'm constantly watching the participants in the mirror, and I'll either turn it up a notch or tone it down."
When: 10:30 a.m. Fridays
Cost: $15 nonmembers, includes access to the gym and fitness classes
"At first it raised a lot of eyebrows," says fitness director Pam Ruderman. "It's an unlikely combination, but it works surprisingly well. It's gaining in popularity, and we'll continue to add classes on an as-needed basis. We've had several special Koga events such as a 'Turkey Burn Off' after Thanksgiving that was packed to capacity."
When: 9:45 a.m. Mondays, 8:25 p.m. Tuesdays, 8:25 p.m. Wednesdays, 9:45 a.m. and 7:25 p.m. Thursdays, 9:45 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. Fridays, 8 a.m. Saturdays,
Cost: $14 per class
Owner Sil Crino says about 18 participants have begun taking Koga since December, bringing the average total to 18. "The classes are fun," he says. "I've gotten a great reaction, because we have a good time."