If you’re on this blog, it’s safe to assume you’ve looked for ways to improve your Brazilian Jiu Jitsu skills. Yoga is a great way to both boost your abilities and recover from difficult workouts.
The yoga generally practiced in the United States resembles most closely the physical aspects of Hatha yoga. This is the form of yoga concerned with body positions, called asanas, and the transitions between them. The transitions, and occasionally the positions themselves, are synchronized with breathing patterns. Like BJJ, yoga requires a lot of attention to detail, and proper technique is tantamount. If you decide to take up yoga, here are some ways you might expect it to improve your BJJ abilities:
Both yoga and BJJ require flexibility. While training in BJJ, you may have found that there are certain techniques you are unable to do, because you are simply not flexible enough. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to improve your flexibility simply by practicing BJJ. Yoga, on the other hand, is a great way to become more flexible, opening up lots of possibilities for new positions and submissions.
One reason yoga has become so popular is its ability to improve strength, especially core strength. The held positions, coupled with the deliberate transitions between them, strengthens your core, improves muscular endurance, and develops a stronger connection between your mind and your body. And yet, yoga doesn’t significantly increase your muscle mass–a real plus for students of BJJ, who want to remain light and agile.
The deliberate pace of yoga emphasizes mental control over your breath and your body. This increased awareness can have a positive impact on your whole life, including your BJJ abilities. Controlling your breathing is one of the most important aspects of BJJ, and yoga will directly impact your ability to breathe when you roll.
BJJ can put a lot of stress on your body. A lot of BJJ positions require a contracted posture, in which your back is rounded and your hip flexors and psoas muscles are tightened. This is especially true for defensive positions. Your body tends to respond to these unusual positions by changing itself to adapt to them. This leads to poor posture and skeleto-muscular imbalances, which in turn lead to back pain and other health issues. Ironically, these adaptations will also hamper your BJJ ability.
We’ve talked about how yoga is good for BJJ because of the ways that the two are similar, but in this case, yoga is great because it is different. While BJJ encourages a tense, tight posture, yoga encourages a long, relaxed one. Yoga opens and lengthens your body, preventing any issues that your BJJ posture might otherwise cause.
When should you do yoga?
If you’ve never done yoga, the idea of taking it up might seem daunting. Even with all its benefits, you’re already training at one type of physical activity–do you really need another one? But you can start simply. Use a few yoga poses to warm up before practice, or to recover afterwards. A few times a week, spend thirty minutes or so before bed doing a short, easy yoga routine. Adopt any yoga routine, even an unambitious one, and you’ll soon start seeing the rewards.