Having taught martial arts practitioners in the past, I found that there’s a common misconception among martial artists, including these MMA fighters, that yoga was just a way for relaxation, but this can not be further than the truth. Yoga can be so much more! In fact, yoga can be an ideal complement to your own martial arts training and may even elevate your skills if you give it a chance.
Yoga is Not Just About Flexibility
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When asked, most people would say that they couldn’t do yoga because they didn’t have the flexibility. Their perception of yoga as a sport only for the flexible perhaps stem from the many images on the Internet of yogis holding a pose that seemed almost impossible.
It is true that yoga and flexibility go hand in hand. But flexibility is not a pre-requisite to yoga. A long-term practice will help you gain flexibility but it doesn’t mean that without it, you can’t start the practice at all.
The very reason you should add yoga into your martial arts practice is to build flexibility over time. Aside from having the ability to perform high kicks and submissions, flexibility helps safeguard you from possible injury during your practice. As the saying goes “I bend so I don’t break.”
Yoga Increases Strength
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When I first started yoga, I too, was of the opinion that yoga is for the flexible. I was quite naturally flexible so executing poses came quite easily to me. However, over the weeks and months, I injured my lower back and wrist. I was tired and aching all the time. I then realized that I depended too much on my flexibility to get into poses rather than strength.
With that realization, I began to work on the other important base of yoga – core strength. As a yoga teacher, my advice to my students has always been to work from the ground up. Create a strong base and then go from there. Although many of the fancy yoga poses you see online requires flexibility, the most essential part of executing them still comes from core strength. You can’t lift your body off the mat if you didn’t have the strength, now can you?
I found that this core strength became useful in so many other sports. I took up rock climbing one day and found it to be relatively easy that my instructor thought I was an experienced climber! In martial arts, the use of your core will help you nail stronger punches and kicks. The core is also the center of many movements that you make in martial arts, so strengthening it will help strengthen your practice overall.
Yoga Brings Breathing to Your Practice
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Any experienced martial artist will tell you that a calm and focused mind is necessary when engaging in a fight. When the mind is calm, its senses are sharpened. The only way to achieve a calm mind is through the control of your breath.
Since the basis of yoga is the unified flow of breath with movement, the practice makes a great complement to martial arts! Yogic breathing techniques like Nadi Sodhana or Ujjayi Pranayama will help the practitioner learn to deepen their breath and then synchronize breath to movement.
Complement your martial arts training with a side of yoga. Be on your way to becoming an even better martial artist by reserving your spot at one of our martial arts and yoga holidays today!