Yoga breathing techniques, movements, and meditation can go hand in hand with practicing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and improving one’s overall well-being and health. Many of the benefits that yoga provides make practicing yoga quite beneficial for BJJ athletes.
Yoga helps with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu because it can aid in recovery from BJJ training, increase mobility and flexibility, and boost focus. Yoga can be an excellent warm-up or cool-down for BJJ and can also promote healing as rehabilitation after injuries.
There are a wide variety of benefits from training yoga that has positive carryover into Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Let’s go over some of the more notable benefits cross-training in yoga can provide for a BJJ athlete.
1. Relieves Back Pain
If you suffer from back pain, yoga can help reduce it. Yoga is a discipline that focuses on mind-body therapy to encourage body healing. Certain yoga poses are essential for relaxing and strengthening the body, such as:
- Downward-facing dog: This pose can help relieve back pain through gentle stretching in a range of motion that can loosen the back.
- Cat-cow: This pose uses gentle backbend stretches that stretch the spine, shoulders, and neck.
- Sphinx pose: This pose is excellent for strengthening back muscles and relieving tight areas in the back.
Of course, many other yoga poses can help with back pain. By practicing yoga every day, not only do you relieve back pain, but you can also strengthen parts of your body in a way that reduces soreness and proneness to injury.
2. Improves Your Breathing
Breathing correctly during exercise is highly important, and yoga has proper breathing through exercise as a central focus. All BJJ athletes must learn proper breath control since controlled breathing helps with maintaining stamina in a match as well as maintaining calmness both during training and competitions.
For example, consider Kron Gracie, who spends much of his time improving his respiratory capacity although he is 23 years old. He believes that his breathing techniques can oxygenate his entire body better. The three breathing exercises he focuses on are:
- Lying down
- Sitting down
In yoga, breathing is known as Pranayama, which is the foundation of any practice.
Pranayama and Asana go together, and they are considered yoga’s highest purification form and self-discipline. When combined, the two can positively affect your BJJ training and performance.
Breath control is crucial in BJJ. By mastering breathing techniques and enhancing your respiratory capacity, you can train or fight longer and lower your heart attack risk. A study has shown that yoga may help us reduce the risk of getting heart disease.
3. Enhances Your Flexibility and Mobility
Flexibility and mobility are essential in jiu-jitsu. During training, you will find yourself in constant motion changing between jiu-jitsu positions. Having a high level of mobility and control through ranges of motion is essential in order to excel in jiu-jitsu at the highest levels.
Flexibility also plays a major role in reducing the chances of injury and allowing your body to absorb pressure in a variety of compromised positions. Having a lot of flexibility also helps to give you more comfort when absorbing pressure and ultimately to escape or attack from more positions.
World-class BJJ athletes like Rickson Gracie and BJ Penn often use yoga as a part of conditioning their bodies.
With most forms of yoga, you transition through many positions while taking pauses and holding certain positions for prolonged periods. This does two important things for an athlete. It allows mobility and strength through a range of motion as well as building strong isometric strength when holding positions. This can lead to better core strength and better mobility which are vital traits for jiu-jitsu and combat sports in general.
A technique in yoga with strong carryover into grappling and jiu-jitsu is bridging, which builds up strength and mobility through a major component of pin-escapes as well as shrimping, which are both foundational movements in grappling.
Ultimately flexibility and mobility work are very useful traits to build for both performance and longevity in the sport of jiu-jitsu.
4. Yoga Stretches Can Help Prevent Injuries
Yoga involves a lot of breathing, exercising, and stretching, all good for the body. Stretching after exercise is useful in preventing injuries during high-intensity sports. BJJ is an intense activity with high flexibility and mobility requirements to reduce the chances of injury.
While you can’t avoid all injuries, training yoga and conditioning your body to be more flexible and mobile will lead you to have fewer injuries.
The Cobra Pose
The cobra pose, also known as Bhujangasana, strengthens your back and arms and opens your chest. Jiu-jitsu athletes have a tendency to be crunched up and forward muscle dominant, and the cobra pose addresses the imbalances that happen from training jiu-jitsu.
Other benefits of the cobra pose are soothing sciatica (which is somewhat common in jiu-jitsu athletes) and alleviating stress and fatigue from training.
Here are the steps for doing the pose:
- Lie down with your chest on the floor, your palms next to your chest, and your elbows tucked in so they touch your ribs.
- Inhale slowly and straighten your arms to lift your chest away from the floor.
- Hold your breath for a couple of seconds.
- Return to lying on the floor while exhaling.
The Wide-Angle Seated Bend
Another stretching technique often used in BJJ training is the wide-angle seated bend or seated wide-legged straddle, also known as Upaviṣṭa Koṇāsana. It involves sitting upright with one’s legs open as wide apart as possible while leaning forward and reaching the toes.
The benefits of the pose are:
- Stronger muscles around the spine
- Sciatica relief
- Arthritis relief
- More relaxed and calm brain
5. Boosts Your Focus
When practicing yoga, you train yourself to be fully present in your body which can help you to be more efficient and improve your focus. Becoming fully present in your body boosts your kinesthetic awareness and can improve your performance and training overall.
In jiu-jitsu, it is common for athletes to experience discomfort and challenges in both training and competition. Being fully present and aware of your body can help you to remain calm and find creative solutions to difficult situations in a grappling match.
6. Corrects Physical Imbalances
Physical imbalances naturally happen in our bodies, and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu can cause a lot of imbalances due to the nature of the sport. Most athletes tend to play jiu-jitsu on their dominant side and not train their weak side, which leads to imbalances. Additionally, all athletes have to do some basic actions like being compact in both the passing and guard positions, which leads to imbalances as well.
If we let these imbalances get too out of control, we become more vulnerable to accumulating stress in parts of our body and ultimately end up with more injuries and higher recovery times.
Luckily, if we practice yoga it can help your body recover more quickly from injuries and will also address some of these imbalances that lead to increased injury risk, which helps to make BJJ athletes more resilient in their training overall.
7. Helps You Warm Up and Cool Down
While some BJJ schools still use simple calisthenics for warm-ups, many schools are incorporating yoga into their warm-ups or cooldowns. Doing yoga poses at the beginning of training jiu-jitsu can bring you into a headspace that can help get you more present in your body and primed for movement and learning.
Between breath control training and movements through different yoga positions, jiu-jitsu athletes can prevent their bodies from getting too out of balance in terms of muscular stresses and muscular development as well.
You can also do yoga when you’re cooling down after training. Passive stretching and mobility work through using yoga techniques can be very helpful to help in recovery after hard training sessions.
8. Reduce Your Stress Hormones
Anybody who does high-intensity exercise will be flooded with stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. BJJ athletes can end up with a lot of these hormones through their rigorous training routines. If these stresses accumulate you can end up with a variety of poor health outcomes. Performing yoga can help to reduce these stress levels.
When rolling during BJJ training, your cortisol and adrenaline levels will spike and gradually reduce when the rolling is over. This is a perfectly normal response to high-stress situations like a fight, but typically this would be a rare event for our bodies, not something that is engaged in so regularly.
Since we are entering into these situations so regularly, bringing our cortisol levels back down as soon as we can is helpful for the body since it really does not do well with having cortisol and adrenaline levels elevated for long on a frequent basis.
Use yoga to help you cool down and relax after training and bring your stress hormones down. You’ll also get some mobility and flexibility gains, which are helpful for the sport.
9. Accelerates Body Recovery
Since BJJ is usually a high-intensity activity, your body will require quite a bit of recovery time. Yoga is capable of helping reduce this recovery time by providing a way to do active recovery.
BJJ athletes often sustain micro-injuries and muscle imbalances during training. Performing yoga routines can help to get blood flow to minor injury sites and help with muscle imbalances and soreness from training jiu-jitsu.
Yoga can help you heal more quickly because it can bring your body into balance. Specific yoga stretches can speed up your recovery process, such as:
- Chair pose or the utkatasana. The chair pose is excellent for people with limited mobility as it helps them improve flexibility in a useful range of motion.
- Mountain pose. The mountain pose, also known as tadasana, can help correct posture and strengthen and balance muscles in your legs.
- Boat pose. The boat pose, also known as navasana, strengthens your core which can be helpful to keep your body healthy through many movements.
- Tree pose. The tree pose, or vrksasana, involves stretching your groin and inner thighs which are common injury sites for BJJ athletes.
- Extended triangle pose. The extended triangle pose, or utthita trikonasana can help keep your intercostal muscles flexible and healthy by opening your rib cage and restoring your range of motion after rib injuries.
By practicing these yoga techniques, you will increase the blood flow to your sore or injured areas and strengthen your weak points and provide extra stability overall. However, when injured you need to be mindful not to overdo these poses or you may be slowing down instead of speeding up your recovery process.
10. Increasing Body Control
Yoga when practiced properly can ultimately result in way better body control through a combination of bringing it through many ranges of motion as well as being more present in your body. When you have better control of your body, you can learn techniques more quickly and perform them better in practice.
Being more present in your body will also allow you to think more clearly and ultimately find more solutions in different situations in jiu-jitsu matches. Finding a flow state in grappling can be a huge advantage in learning and executing techniques in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
Yoga and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu seem like they are made for each other. Yoga can naturally correct many physical imbalances and helps to alleviate some of the issues BJJ athletes have with injuries and normal recovery time.
Additionally, yoga can improve mobility, flexibility, learning, and focus which can have an enormous impact on the effectiveness of a BJJ athlete in both training and competitive environments.
For more check out Simple Ways To Increase Flexibility for Jiu-Jitsu