Chances are that you’ve already heard about the supposedly amazing positive impact that yoga is meant to have on your body and jiu jitsu. It is also likely that you’ve started reading an article about how it improves your breathing and got bored straight away. I’ve ignored yoga for a very long time, but once you start seeing the effects you’ll keep coming back to it. This post is about the more salient benefits of yoga and how to get started.
1. Yoga prevents injuries
Stretching in general prevents injuries, not only by increasing mobility, but also because it releases tension from the muscles. This is important because tense muscles pull on ligaments and may cause pain in different areas of the body. Tight hips are very common among jiu jitsu athletes, and avoiding stretching can lead to lower back pain. Another BJJ example are tight thigh muscles, which often cause knee pain especially on the side of the knee.
If your muscles are constantly tense, the risk of injury increases. This can be compared to a piece of rope that you’re trying to cut in half. If it’s loose the pressure of the blade of the knife will only make it move around, but if it’s tense the pressure will damage it. Additionally, releasing muscular tension facilitates recovery from injuries, especially if you do it like this.
How does this relate to yoga?
Yoga stretches most muscle groups at once, which doesn’t happen if you opt for standard static stretches aimed at specific body parts. It’s your all in one!
2. Yoga increases static body strength
When I talk about practising yoga alongside BJJ I don’t mean the slow, feel the sunshine in your butthole type that doesn’t feel like you’ve done anything. When I talk about yoga I mean that type that makes you sweat and leaves you feeling like you’ve exercised, while it stretches your body and delivers all the goodness.
If you practice the more intense kind, ALL your muscles will be put to work as you’ll be flowing between the various positions and postures. This is also why, it is often said that yoga fixes muscle imbalances. Being able to benchpress a lot of weight of course has its benefits, but it trains particular muscles in your body to perform one type of movement in a specific direction. Yoga tweaks potential imbalances as it forces you to use all of the muscles in your body and helps increase your static strength. Being comfortable in ‘terrible’ yoga positions also helps you stay strong in crazy positions during sparring :D
3. Yoga helps heal your injuries
Yoga gently promotes blood flow to the joints and muscles in your body, which speeds up healing. It is particularly great as a way to stay in shape while nursing an injury (of course when it’s healed to the point that you can do it).
3 ways to get started
#1 Sign up to yoga classes at a studio
Make sure to choose a difficulty level that will keep you engaged. To limit the cost, you can look for classes taught by individual instructors in your area. If you don’t mind the cost, join a studio instead as they’ll often provide the equipment, will likely have nicer facilities and more timetable options.
Upsides: you’ll have access to a qualified instructor to help you out. Downsides: if you’re a guy you may feel lonely being the only male in the class and there’s a risk of overly spiritual yoga talks from the teacher.
#2 Sign up to online yoga classes
This option is about half or even more than half the cost of signing up with a studio. There are many websites with professionally pre-recorded classes. They don’t need to be jiu jitsu specific (here’s a cool guide to which type to choose for BJJ). You’ll know exactly how long each programme is and its difficulty level.
Upsides: you can do it anytime, anywhere. You won’t even need equipment if you’re using the mat in your academy. Downsides: you’ll need to motivate yourself to do it and push through tough moments. There’s also no one to correct you, so it may sometimes be difficult to get things right.
#3 Try free videos
This is probably the best way to try yoga before committing to anything. There are better and worse videos out there, but this is a good way to see if you enjoy yoga at all (or at least if you enjoy it by seeing the purpose of it).
Upsides: it’s free and some of the content is great. Downside: you’ll need to devote some time to finding quality programmes suited your needs. These two are a good place to start: Yoga for BJJ on YouTube, Breathe and Flow
Anyway, do you love or loathe yoga?