With over 5,000 years of history, yoga is one of the favorite forms of exercise for active people today. A mix of movement, breathing and meditation, this ancient set of techniques can and will help you with your conditioning for a better performance on the mats. We went after yoga instructor Angela Kent and black-belt Flavio Almeida and they shared the following eight ways yoga can help your BJJ training.
1 – FLEX ACTION — Yoga poses require flexibility. During your first yoga class, you probably won’t be able to touch your toes, but if you stick with it, you’ll notice a gradual loosening, and eventually difficult poses will become possible. Open your hips, lengthen your muscles and get a bigger range of motion in every Jiu-Jitsu position.
2 – STRONG STANCE — Maintaining good posture and creating balance within you helps in many different aspects of Jiu-Jitsu. Yoga will give you good balance when you are trying to take someone down, or while passing the guard if you need to hold a position for a long time, without getting swept.
3 – RELAXED MIND — Keeping a cool and focused mind is so important for fighters. Become present within your body and mind because you are listening to the cues of your breath and staying present with each movement that you make. Holding poses for a long time challenges not only your body, but also mostly your mind. Yoga teaches you to maintain calmness in a stressful situation, which can help you reverse any bad position in Jiu-Jitsu.
4 – OXYGEN FLOW — Learn to manage the flow of oxygen that comes into your body and use breathing to manage stress and recover. Yoga stretches your muscles, moves your organs, and drains your lymph. Cutting circulation off within the body and bringing fresh circulation and oxygen into certain areas helps to heal any kind of damage or scar tissue that’s been developed over time.
5 – STRENGTH FIX — Jiu-Jitsu athletes need to be explosive but also need to be able to hold a given position for a long time. Most strength programs deliver the first but not the second. Also, when you build strength through yoga, you balance it with flexibility. If you just went to the gym and lifted weights, you might build strength at the expense of flexibility. Yoga enables you to hold a certain position and endure the pain without losing concentration – and that can help any fighter.
6 – JOINT HEALTH — Each time you practice yoga, you work on your joints taking them through their full range of motion. This keeps your joints calibrated and can help prevent injuries that are so often common in Jiu-Jitsu athletes. Without proper sustenance, neglected areas of cartilage can eventually deteriorate, exposing the underlying bone like worn-out brake pads.
7- SPINAL SUPPLY — Most yoga poses are controlled from the core, therefore delivering great relief for the back. Strengthening your core and abdominal area is essential if you want to keep your back safe during training.
8 – DIET BOOSTER — Yoga lowers cortisol levels. Because it is a stress-relieving activity and a mind and body relaxer, it can help you worry less (especially before competitions), which will control your cortisol levels. High cortisol levels have been linked to what researchers call “food-seeking behavior” (the kind that drives you to eat when you’re upset, angry or stressed). The body takes those extra calories and distributes them as fat in the abdomen, contributing to weight gain.