While I’m no BJJ World Champion like some of my training partners, I have done enough jiu jitsu throughout the years to know the strong connection and benefits that BJJ and yoga have.
Before we jump into the benefits that yoga has in practicing jiu jistu, it’s important to understand that there are many different forms of yoga that you can practice and for the sake of this article, I will be referring mainly to Hatha Yoga. Hatha Yoga is one of the most popular forms of yoga practiced in the western world and focuses on asanas and vinyasas.
Why BJJ and Yoga?
BJJ and yoga are like PB&J - you don’t need them together, but it is so much better when they are together. Besides the fact that yoga has been found to help with mental and physical health, it can actually up your BJJ game to the next level.
It Helps Fix Muscle Imbalances
Jiu Jitsu is notorious for throwing your body out of whack. It often leads to poor posture in athletes as well as skeletomuscular imbalances. Many positions - if not all positions - you find yourself in on the mat put your body in a contracted state.
Practice of asanas and vinyasas can help BJJ practitioners lengthen and open their body. This will increase your effectiveness and body control during rolling.This is because when you fix body imbalances through yoga, you can generate more power during practice. Not to mention, if you have been practicing BJJ for any length of time, you know if comes with a certain degree of back pain and yoga practice can alleviate the tightness. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by how much better you perform when your body is working how it is supposed to.
Before practicing yoga, I was consistently one of the least flexible people on my competition team in any Martial Art I was practicing, especially jui jitsu. You can definitely get by with being inflexible in jiu jitsu but it won’t take your game to the next level and it just won’t be as beneficial in the long run.
Yoga allows you to have more range of motion in your joints and this allows you to have more options in each position you find yourself in during BJJ practice or competition. In fact, some aspects and games in jiu jitsu will be impossible if you don’t have the flexibility to actually do them (i.e rubber guard…)
Body Awareness and Breathing
In jiu-jitsu, your body is the tool in which you carry out everything. The more awareness and control you have over it, the better off your game will be. Breathing is one of the biggest things you can gain from yoga. Yoga not only teaches timing with breathing, it also teaches you breathing control.
This allows you to have more stamina during rolling or competition and helps you control your breath so you don’t hyperventilate, freak out, and get out of breath if you are in a tough situation or position during rolling.
Increase Strength and Balance
Yoga has a way of training the central nervous system to fire muscles in the right order and to use muscles efficiently in order to move your body around the mat and your opponent. Also, asanas develop muscular endurance which is a beneficial form of isometric training that can be directly applied to BJJ (applying chokes are isometric.)
Yoga is also amazing for developing balance. Having better balance will increase your BJJ game due to the fact that it will help your top game. You will be harder to sweep and can help to improve your throws and take downs.
Take the time to try out different types of yoga that best suit your needs.Sadly, just like sketchy BJJ instructors, be wary of sketchy yoga instructors. Not all instructors are created equally so make sure to take the time to do you research.
Also, many Martial Artists and BJJ practitioners have an ingrained desire to really push themselves during training but take the time to learn the techniques and enjoy the journey that yoga has to offer.