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Mixing Yoga into Your BJJ Schedule
Training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu can give you one of the most comprehensive full-body workouts available today. It is extremely adaptable to every person regardless of their current fitness level. From the warm up, to the technique drills, to the live rolling, very few activities tax your cardio, strength and muscular flexibility like BJJ.
As with any activity, when you sufficiently tax and challenge your body, it's important to incorporate a good recovery program to ensure that you are maximizing the benefits of your jiu jitsu training and possibly shoring up any weaknesses you may be developing over time.
One of the best activities you can incorporate right into your BJJ training routine is by adding the use of yoga as a recovery activity. As you train BJJ, we are constantly stretching, pulling, tightening and releasing our muscles. This causes a great deal of stress and potential damage that can accumulate over time. This can range from simple muscle tightness, to actual joint and supportive tissue damage.
Adding even just 10-15 minutes of yoga techniques into your day can pay amazing dividends over time in the life of your training and makes sure you remain as healthy as you can over the long haul. Yoga encourages the entire body to relax by encouraging the muscles and nerves to work more fluidly and release tension. The increased oxygen and blood flow can go a long way to keeping that post-BJJ feeling of calm and elation going all day.
Let's look at a few ways you can easily incorporate yoga into your training schedule and how it might benefit you. With just a little planning and practice, you can greatly improve your flexibility, strength, and endurance which all will go a long way in your BJJ game.
Yoga in your warm up
How can you add some yoga training into your BJJ class warm up? What if your yoga training class warm up is set in stone and led by the instructor? No problem, you can add a few yoga stretches and poses prior to the formal warm up. Even 5 minutes would be hugely beneficial to get your muscles and mind prepped for the upcoming class.
On a very small level, much of the fatigue or mental fear of the BJJ class warm up is because of a variation of the adrenaline dump that can sometimes happen to competitive athletes when they step on stage. Think of a few yoga stretches and poses as a warm up to the warm up and you will quickly see that you are better prepared physically and mentally for the activity to come.
Another thought about adding some yoga before your class. After a certain amount of training, it's important to take ownership of your own development. Just like someone might do supplementary conditioning or drilling sessions outside of class to improve a particular aspect of their game, adding even a small bit of yoga can work wonders to improve many aspects of your game.
Yoga during class
How can I do yoga during class? What will the instructor say? One of the best examples of working yoga into class without anyone really noticing is how you sit during the lesson or between rounds.
Jiu Jitsu requires a lot of effort from our hip flexor muscles at the top of our thighs which essentially connect to our upper body in extremely simplistic terms. Playing a lot of guard requires a constant tension on those muscles, which can cause a lot of joint and muscle tightness.
Simply sitting on our heels and leaning back slightly to feel a good stretch on the front of our thighs and in the hip flexor area can go a long way to alleviate that "damage" that is naturally done during our training. Instead of sitting with your back to the wall and legs pulled up towards your chest waiting for your next round, sit on your heels and consciously give your muscles some much needed stretching in between rounds.
Another idea is to sit in an S position while watching the instructor show their technique. In this way, you are giving yourself a much needed stretch without doing yoga separately and distracting class. Finding ways to keep your muscles warm and keep that blood flowing will help you stay limber during class and also help recovery.
Yoga as your cool down
Is there anything that gets skipped more than the pre-class warm up? Surprisingly yes. Most of us don't do any kind of BJJ cool down at the end of class. We're usually in a rush to get home to our lives, or simply casually talking to friends and teammates about the techniques we just went through.
By consciously adding even 5-10 minutes to the end of your class before you jump into the car and get right back into a seated position which can wreak havoc on your hip flexors, lower back and overall health, you can drastically improve your recovery rate, make it less likely you'll be overly sore, and also give your body and mind time to unwind from a strenuous class.
Adding some simple yoga poses or stretches when your body is warm and your energy levels are expended allows you focus on your breathing and enjoying the overall benefits. Give it a try the next time you attend class. Even the simplest cobra pose where you lie face down with your arms under your shoulders and slowly push your upper body off of the floor while keeping your hips and legs in contact, stretching your lower back, upper torso and neck--will do a great deal to improve recovery and adjustment back to the non-BJJ parts of your day.
Yoga with your coffee
Starting the day with some yoga can be a great way to jump start your energy and get your day set in motion with some positive activity. Through the night, our muscles and joints can tighten, as we sleep in awkward positions, bent and contorted in every direction. The process of yoga stretching can release that and get blood flowing in our stiff and sore muscles and joints.
By linking yoga with your morning coffee, you also go a long way to establish a routine that can be done consistently. The first thing many people do is shuffle mindlessly to their coffee pots to get their day going. As the coffee is brewing and even after as you sip, is a great time to do some very simple yoga techniques. The increased blood flow is also going to help the caffeine get to your early a.m. brain, so it's a win/win for everyone.
Yoga in front of the TV
Many of us spend a lot of time in front of the TV. Ideally, you're watching BJJ Fanatics instructional videos or old ADCC matches, but even if you're not, why not make that time a little more productive? The goal of this article was to give you some ways to add yoga into your day without seeming to ADD anything to your day.
By doing a short yoga routine a few times while you're binge watching the most recent season of your favorite show on Netflix will make your mind and body a little more active and help you supplement your BJJ even when you're not in class and just trying to enjoy some potentially mindless TV. We won't tell everyone that you really don't only watch documentaries in your free time if you add some yoga to those sessions.
In the video below, Josh Stockman, the No Gi Yogi shares some very simple yoga techniques with Bernardo Faria. Bernardo will admit that he is not the most flexible guy, but Josh shows that yoga can be done by everyone. It is very similar to BJJ in the way that it can be adapted for everyone's ability and skill level.
The end goal of this piece was to give you some ideas on how to add yoga into your daily activity and training routine without really adding much time to your schedule. If we can kill two birds with one stone in our training, we are more likely to maintain the activity and also reap the benefits.
Yoga can be an amazing complement to your BJJ training. By increasing your flexibility, coordination, and body movement, the techniques you currently use will become more accentuated as the increased flexibility and ability to control your body movement is applicable to every single position or technique in jiu jitsu.
Yoga is a great cross-training tool because it allows you to work much of the same areas as your BJJ at times when you can perhaps not train due to travel or work schedules. You can do Yoga completely alone and with very minimal space and virtually no equipment.
With just a few minutes added before and after class, you will improve your body and mind's adjustment to the training and the physical stress you put it under during an average BJJ class. By combining it with your every day actions, like sipping your morning coffee or while you're watching the latest season of Curb Your Enthusiasm, you will seamlessly insert a hugely positive activity into your day without adding anything EXTRA to your plate, which is the mistake we make when we try to incorporate a new activity into our training program.
Now that you're ready to start squeezing a little bit of yoga into your day, check out Josh Stockman's newest release "Grappling with Yoga" available here from BJJ Fanatics! In these 4 volumes, you will get all of the techniques that keep black belt Josh Stockman on the mats, flexible and healthy.