What’s the first thing that comes into your mind when you hear the word “yoga”? Personally, I think of a class of women in different weird positions trying to stay fit, or a bunch of hippies meditating and trying to be zen.
You might pass by a yoga class on the way to jiu jitsu training and never give it a second glance, just like many of us do.
But what might surprise you is that many jiu jitsu practitioners have tried to find supplementary sports or workout routines to compliment their jiu jitsu, and a great number have actually found that yoga was the most helpful by a mile.
Shocking, isn’t it? But what is even more shocking is the fact that the average jiu jitsu practitioner might have overlooked this relationship completely, simply because of the stereotypical image that most people have of yoga today.
Well, this article is here to open your eyes and tell you 5 great things you probably didn’t know about yoga in relation to jiu jitsu. And once you’re done with it, you probably might even grab a mat and step into that yoga class you’ve been passing by in the gym.
1. The pros are doing it
Did you know that Rickson Gracie does yoga to help his jiu jitsu? That’s right, he does. Wallid Ismail does too. So if these successful black belts have incorporated yoga into their training routine, then that definitely speaks for something.
2. Yoga is all about ground work
You’ll be surprised how much yoga and brazilian jiu jitsu actually have in common. The biggest similarity is actually that they’re both about your body and the ground. All yoga poses are about your body’s relationship to the ground and how it counteracts gravity in each step.
The positions are meant to hone how your body reacts to gravity and give you more fluidity as you handle yourself. Training in yoga is surprisingly helpful because the same close relationship is also present in jiu jitsu.
3. You get better submissions
Did you know that yoga can actually improve your arm bars and chokes? Oh yes, it can. A common problem with arm bars is the fact that the human body isn’t normally used to extending its back fully, the way it should in an arm bar.
Many jiu jitsu practitioners complain about back problems caused from your body being in a constant contracted state, especially when you’re in that hunched form before engaging with your opponent, or even if you have them in a closed guard. Yoga corrects these imbalances and makes your body more used to the range of motion required for good arm bars.
Your chokes are also going to get easier to pull off because the muscle endurance required in holding the asanas in yoga mirrors the muscle contractions of keeping your chokes. There are also many poses in yoga that are equivalent to jiu jitsu transitions, such as how “the crow” in yoga helps with the side mount to knee-on-belly transition.
4. Get flexible even when you thought you were a lost cause
In jiu jitsu, every day you can be faced with the fact that you can’t pull off certain moves just because you simply cannot reach that far without pulling a muscle. At the same time, you look at your more flexible teammates and wonder how a foot can get in your face while you are on full mount. But you’ll be happy to know that many jiu jitsu practitioners who believed they were too old to be working on their flexibility had proved themselves wrong with yoga.
5. It’s a different, better kind of strengthening
A lot of people think the best kind of strengthening for jiu jitsu is bench pressing your body weight or doing rigorous programs in the gym. I wouldn’t blame them, who would have thought that doing graceful poses and different positions would actually strengthen your muscles in an ideal way for jiu jitsu?
Yoga teaches your body to activate muscle groups in an order that maintains proper posture and balance. You can also already imagine the number of ways that improving your balance can affect your jiu jitsu. No more being swept, no more falling over while trying to attempt a new move that requires high precision.
But one of the best things about this kind of strengthening is that it also helps you to concentrate on your breathing while doing high-endurance moves, giving you more stamina as it teaches you the proper way to focus your mind while exerting physical effort.