Here’s a video I made about practicing yoga for jiu-jitsu and martial arts. And following the video are 8 reasons why you should practice yoga or at least consider it if you train martial arts.
1. Increase flexibility and mobility
Increasing your flexibility is a perk in jiu-jitsu. There are a lot of factors that can make in difference in BJJ or judo and flexibility is one.
The others are strength, weight, speed, and skill.
But with flexibility…
Maybe you can do rubber guard, avoid painful stack passes or just sneak your legs into just about everywhere. Many people that I roll with tell me that I am pretty flexible. I think I am somewhat, but I am not extremely flexible.
I know people who are definitely more.
But the thing is you can always get more flexible if you focus on it and you are patient.
And remember if you don’t use it you’ll lose it.
I started to lose some flexibility in my knee. When I first started BJJ I realized I couldn’t kneel without pain. Closed guard escapes and just seiza hurt. I thought it was arthritis from injuries and old age, but I had stopped doing certain poses in yoga too.
So I started to do deep squats, some kneeling and then gradually I was able to kneel without much pain in my knee.
2. Reduce recovery time
If you are sore after practice then yoga is a great way to speed up your recovery time. But don’t over do it. Some yoga classes are too intense and with other people around you can overstretch trying to compete with others.
I do yoga every day and only for about 15 minutes. That’s enough. I don’t do yoga for exercise. For exercise, I do body weight exercises like push ups, pull ups, leg ups, squats, box jumps, etc.
And I suppose you could say the jiu-jitsu and judo I do is exercise too, but that’s not why I do it. I do it because it’s fun.
Yoga is something I do for maintenance. It’s like brushing my teeth.
If you want to reduce your recovery time and not feel sore and stiff the next day then do yoga, but take it easy. I don’t actually suggest a class for that. I mean you can take classes like I did in my first year to learn, but choose wisely as some are pretty intense.
I think more frequently and less intense is better. That may also be the case for martial arts training in general as Firas Zahabi said.
3. Get centered and calm down
For balance I think you need something soft to complement the martial arts. Jiu-jitsu, judo, MMA, etc. are all hard on the body. If you exclusively do hard training all the time you will burn out and your body will fail.
Don’t be too tough.
Take it easy and take care of your body.
4. Improve your breathing and cardiovascular system
Yoga isn’t just stretching and yoga isn’t yoga if you are not doing the breath work. In jiu-jitsu you can find yourself in a lot of tough positions where you can easily freak out or panic.
But that is not going to help. You need to focus on your breath, be patient and then maybe you can get out of that terrible position. But if you panic you will gas out and probably have no chance.
The practice of deep breathing will also improve your cardiovascular system.
5. Control your mind
Your breath controls your mindset.
Then pay attention to your breath the next time you are:
Take deep steady breaths for an extended period of time and notice how it helps control your mind and body.
6. Prepare for competition or anxiety
Light yoga and/or meditation with a focus on your breath can help ease the anxiety that fills your body before competition.
Here’s a simple technique to ease your nerves.
Deep belly breathing.
Place your hands on your stomach and then breath in for a 5 count and expand your belly. Pause for a 5 count. Exhale for a 5 count and contract your belly. Pause for a 5 count.
Repeat and continue.
Or do some yoga and focus on your breath.
Activating your body somewhat might be an even better way to calm down whether you are preparing for a competition or dealing with general anxiety.
7. Help heal injuries or prevent them
If you injure something your body can get out of whack. It might lose proper alignment or function. Yoga is a way to activate muscles that may be out of balance, tight or out of shape.
8. Cross train
I think a lot of benefits come from cross training. If you train exclusively in one domain you may become one dimensional and parts of your body may get out of shape or suffer from over use.
What do you think?
Any other reasons you should do yoga for martial arts or jiu-jitsu?