Is Yoga Good For Martial Arts?

The western version of yoga is based on the Hatha school that uses yoga as an exercise. It is the one that shares the most similarities with martial arts. But, is yoga good for martial artists?

Yoga is good for martial arts like MMA and BJJ because it strengthens your spine and joints, increases the strength of your core, improves endurance, and links breathing to movement. However, it is not recommended if you suffer from pre-existing injuries because it could aggravate the problem.

In this guide, we discuss the various forms of yoga and how they benefit different martial arts. We also discuss specific poses and potential disadvantages of practicing yoga for martial arts. So, let’s get started.

What Is Yoga?

Yoga is a common practice to enrich your mental and physical energy. It means to bind together or to unify the body with the mind. The western style of yoga is a group of exercises. These exercises include different postures that help with a specific set of mental or physical needs.

Yoga is a common practice to enrich your mental and physical energy

Today, yoga is one of the most popular practices in fitness and lifestyle. Many people all over the world practice the sport to help with stress and other modern lifestyle-related problems.

There are many styles of yoga, but some of the most well-known include:

  • Iyengar yoga
  • Ashtanga yoga
  • Mysore yoga
  • Vinyasa yoga
  • Bikram yoga

Each one is designed to achieve a different set of goals.

What Are Martial Arts?

Martial arts are the traditions of combat that people use for self-defense, military life, competition, and more. Although it originated in East Asia, the term comes from Europe. It means the arts of Mars, who is the Roman god of war.

The Bruce Lee statue in Hong Kong, he was a very famous martial artist, martial arts instructor, and actor.

The most popular martial arts are the following:

  • Judo
  • Boxing
  • Jiu-Jitsu/Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
  • Karate
  • Taekwondo
  • Mixed Martial arts or MMA
  • Muay Thai
  • Aikido
  • Capoeira

Each martial art has a different set of rules and principles. However, they share the basic elements of self-defense and competition.

What Are the Similarities Between Yoga and Martial Arts?

Yoga and martial arts share a lot of similarities. They are both ancient disciplines that date back centuries ago. They also both work on the physical and mental aspects of the individual.

Here are some of the similarities between yoga and martial arts:

  • They both connect the body and mind to create balance.
  • They can both improve flexibility and strength.
  • Both date back centuries ago and are connected to the legends and myths of different cultures.
  • They can be a part-time hobby or lifestyle.
  • Both have evolved through history to become what they are now and have spawned multiple disciplines around the world.

But not everything is the same.

Yoga is all about control and balance. However, martial arts are about control and balance while someone else (your opponent) engages you in combat. It’s this aspect that separates both disciplines. It makes yoga a more passive approach and martial arts a more active one.

How Is Yoga Good for Martial Arts?

Yoga is the discipline of mind and body. It allows you to let go of stress from your muscles and thoughts. Martial arts are not that different, and in fact, they use many of the same techniques and principles.

Yoga brings balance to the body and mind outside the ring or mat. Balance in life is balance in martial arts.

With that in mind, here are the ways yoga can benefit you if you do martial arts.

Breathing Is Crucial

One of the keys to sports and martial arts is breathing. By fluidly allowing more oxygen into your body, you can endure more time inside the ring or on the mat.

Yoga helps you to control your breath because you must focus on deepening your inhalations and exhalations. It also teaches you how to use your breath to funnel strength into your movements.

Endurance is a basic need of any martial artist. Therefore, by mixing yoga into your exercise routine, you can increase your deep breathing and hence your endurance.

It Increases Flexibility

Many martial arts disciplines require you to have flexibility. Because a flexible joint is less likely to break, it decreases the chances of getting badly injured after a match or a sparring session.

Many martial arts disciplines require you to have flexibility. Many yoga poses and routines focus on the flexibility of different body parts.

Knowing that flexibility is a big ally in the martial arts world means that it should be something to focus on during your training routine. Many yoga poses and routines focus on the flexibility of different body parts.

It Makes Your Core Stronger

Yoga functions under the principles of balance and connection to the earth. It achieves this by the use of stance and postures that require a strong core to apply. Many yoga poses strengthen your core over time.

A strong core is also needed for martial arts because it is the fundamental of stance. A stronger stance means you will be able to endure more hits than others. By bringing yoga into your daily routine, you will be able to feel the difference in your core.

It Is a Healthy and Safe Practice

Joints are a weak spot when it comes to martial arts. They are exposed, and many techniques consist of manipulating the opponent’s joints to make them surrender and defeat them.

Yoga is a great exercise to increase the resistance of your joints and spine. A healthier spine and stronger joints mean a healthier life outside the mat or ring. If you care about your body and how martial arts can affect it, then yoga can be a great solution.

What Is Martial Yoga?

This new discipline has its origins in one of the most ancient martial arts called kalaripayattu. Martial yoga or warrior yoga is a new trend that combines the martial aspect of yoga and the yoga aspect of martial arts.

The discipline trains the body and the mind with the yoga principles of movement and flow and applies those principles to martial training. That means that it combines the benefits of both in one set of exercises that take advantage of the best aspects of each discipline.

Martial yoga is mostly used by those who practice Muay Thai, aikido, capoeira, and tai chi.

Are There Disadvantages of Practicing Yoga for Martial Arts?

The number one concern from martial artists is the relationship between flexibility and strength. Flexibility is great, but without strength, there is no reason to be able to raise your leg to your head. This means that you can raise your leg as much as you want, but if the release of the leg does not carry strength, it won’t help you in a match.

The other problem of practicing yoga if you are a martial artist is your health. This means that sometimes yoga can exacerbate existing injuries. This can make an already serious problem worse.

It is easy to overextend your joints if you push yourself too hard with yoga. Especially if you are a beginner, you need to pay attention to your body’s messages. If you start to feel pain, you should reduce the pose and work up to higher levels of flexibility.

These two problems can be avoided if you start doing the poses that you feel comfortable with. Do not get into the passive styles of yoga, but maximize the benefits by doing active poses.

If you want to practice some yoga for martial arts, you can watch this video:

Yoga and Mixed Martial Arts (MMA)

What Are Mixed Martial Arts?

MMA is a discipline that combines the techniques and skills of different martial arts. It mixes judo, boxing, BJJ, wrestling, karate, and tai chi. Although it is a new discipline, MMA is now one of the most known martial arts in the world.

MMA has been a controversial sport since it was brought into the mainstream media. It was infamous for its violence and was even almost banned from the United States by Senator John McCain. However, by the year 2006, MMA had become one of the most profitable sports of the Ultimate Fighting Championship or UFC.

How Is Yoga Good for MMA?

Two yoga styles dominate the western hemisphere: vinyasa and ashtanga. They are both similar, but many MMA experts agree that vinyasa yoga is more beneficial.

This is because vinyasa shares more similarities with the active nature of martial arts than ashtanga. Vinyasa is also known as power yoga, and it focuses on linking every move with breathing.

For all those that know about sports and martial arts, breathing is an important element of endurance and resistance. By practicing the vinyasa style of yoga, you learn how to link your movements with breathing. Therefore this maximizes your oxygen flow and increases your endurance.

One of the most important benefits of practicing yoga with MMA is recovery time. After each competition, training, or sparring session, the body needs to recover. The body needs to recover minerals and recover from all the tension that the muscles have received.

By practicing yoga daily after every session, you will improve the healing of your recovery time. It releases the tension from your body. Therefore, it shortens the time you need to get back on the mat.

As with other martial arts, yoga also increases your endurance and helps you link breathing to movement.

Yoga and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ)

What Is Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu?

Jiu-Jitsu refers to the term gentle art, and the Brazilian style dates back to the early 1900s. Its goal is to submit the opponent through the use of locks, joint manipulation, close-contact holds(known as grappling), and choking.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ)

BJJ focuses on principals that differ from many others used in martial arts. While most martial arts are about violent contact, the objective of BJJ is to achieve submission through non-violent methods.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu requires the knowledge and use of timing, angles, pressure, leverage, and human anatomy. Thanks to this aspect, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu exercises the body and the mind. This makes it one of the most complete martial arts.

How Does Yoga Help in BJJ?

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu requires a different physical and mental state than boxing or judo, or even wrestling. It needs a strategy, strength, flexibility, and a calm mind, like other martial arts. However, it differs when it comes to the principles involved.

That is the reason why practicing yoga is much more useful for someone that does BJJ than it is for a boxer or a master of Muay Thai.

Here’s why:

  • A more flexible body: Performing the different locks and techniques of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu requires a flexible body. It is a core aspect of BJJ, and it shares it with yoga in ways no other martial art does. By practicing yoga postures constantly, you will be able to take your flexibility to another level.
  • A calm mind: Like many martial arts, BJJ needs strategy and focus. These are two elements that require a calm mind to be able to function. Yoga’s main mental mantra is to acquire a calm state of mind. By practicing yoga constantly, you will be able to achieve the mental state needed to outperform yourself in Brazilian jiu-jitsu.
  • All about the stance: Yoga postures will help you maximize the strength of your stance. This is an important feature because stance in BJJ is the basic defense and offense. By training your body and mind to keep a stronger stance, you’ll be able to see the difference on the mat.
  • Breathing is key: The oxygen levels that you need to perform any sport are high, and BJJ is not an exception. Whether you are sparring or in competition, breathing is the key to endurance. Therefore, if you find yourself needing a better oxygen flow, it is time to draw on yoga, as yoga exercises are focused on breathing and allowing oxygen to reach every part of your body.
  • Strengthening your joints and spine: Yoga postures can help you strengthen your joints and spine. This is something that can be beneficial for any martial artist, especially those that practice Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. If you practice yoga constantly, you will feel the difference not only on the mat but outside of it too. A healthier spine means also avoiding the common hunch-like look that many BJJ artists have.

Best Yoga Poses to Improve Your Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

There are more than 100 poses you can do in yoga. Each one is designed for a specific purpose, such as increasing your flexibility or maximizing your oxygen flow. But some poses can be directly beneficial for those who practice Brazilian jiu-jitsu.

Here are the poses you should try and practice if you do BJJ:

  • The cobra pose: It is a pose that will help you obtain a healthier spine. It is essential for yoga, and it should be essential for everyone that practices BJJ.
  • Child’s pose: Practise this pose daily and after each sparring session, and you will see the difference. It will release your lower back from all tension and stress.
  • Leg pulls (using the belt): This is a yoga pose that requires the use of your BJJ belt. Using the belt, you will pull your leg on each side at a time. This is a perfect way to stretch the hips and ankles.
  • Pigeon pose: This is a good pose for those that want to improve the flexibility of their hips. By practicing this pose regularly, you’ll be able to stretch the hips flexors and improve the external rotation of your hip.
  • Plow pose: This is the ideal pose to train your guard. It will allow your spine and back to access the flexibility you’ll need to endure being stacked. This pose will also help you increase the flexibility of your upper back.
  • Knees to chest pose: This is a great pose to do after sparring. It will release some stress from your spine and will help you with the after-sparring recovery.
  • Two knee spinal twist: By doing this pose, you will be able to extend your hips and increase strength in your abdomen.
  • Camel pose: This pose opens the chest and spine. It’s a great option to help you obtain a healthier spine.
  • Downward-facing dog pose: This pose helps you increase flexibility in your shoulders, upper back, and calves.

If you are unable to commit to a yoga class each day or after each sparring session, we recommend focusing your efforts on the aforementioned poses. When you try a pose for the first time, focus more on your technique and your breathing than trying to perfect the pose.

Conclusion

Yoga is a great practice that can help any martial artist increase their endurance, maximize their oxygen flow, and bring balance to their lives. Yoga focuses on connecting your body and mind by connecting each movement to your breathing.

Here are the key benefits of the discipline:

  • It will increase your flexibility.
  • It will improve your recovery time.
  • It will give you healthier joints and a healthier spine.
  • It will help you increase endurance and link your movements to your breathing.
  • Yoga will help you strengthen your core.
  • Yoga can help you bring balance to your mind and body.

Sources

Sita

Mother of three and Yogi of 20+ years and 200 Hour Certified Yoga Teacher. I am also a Certified Thai massage therapist and I have taught Gymnastics for more than 10 years. In the last couple of years, I've been a big promotor of intermittent fasting.

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