I had practiced martial arts for many years before I added yoga to my training routine. After just a few sessions it had a profound impact on my fighting ability. My flexibility, strength and calmness under pressure went through the roof. I even had a flow experience during a fight. It was not my first, but I am sure this time my yoga practice had something to do it. In this article I will go into these and other benefits of doing yoga for martial artists.
You will learn why yoga is a must if you are a serious or causal martial artist. You will also learn some poses that will help you.
In this Article…
Martial Arts Benefits You Can Expect from Yoga
Although there is an abundant of information, many people are not aware how much of a game changer doing yoga for martial artists is.
Yoga movements and stretches align your body so it functions efficiently, it targets the areas you need to be a good martial artist:
Yoga uses lots of static holds. Not all martial arts incorporate these into their training. Static holds increase tendon strength and because they keep the muscles and joints under constant tension, they activate more muscle fibres and improve joint and core strength.
This combination will improve your explosiveness and power. And develop what is known as Fa jing power in Chinese martial arts. This is the explosive power you can generate at close range with little need to use full body mechanics.
Yoga poses stretch your muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints in a gentle and gradual way. This helps you increase your range of motion and prevent injuries.
By improving your flexibility you can perform complex techniques and grappling positions and your movements become fluid.
I found I was less worried about getting caught in holds once I started going to yoga class.
Yoga poses challenge your balance by requiring you to stand on one leg and hold various hand positions and twists.
This helps you develop your proprioception, which is the sense you have of where your body is in space. Without this sense you would lose balance.
You can imagine how this will benefit you while striking and grappling.
Breath Coordination and Capacity
Yoga poses require you to coordinate your breath with your movement which helps you synchronize your body and mind in a harmonious way. This will improve your timing and accuracy in your techniques.
Synchronizing your breathing with movement also improves your body awareness and reaction speed.
The deep breathing in yoga also improves your lung power and capacity.
As Yoga requires you to be mindful of your breath, posture and alignment together, it helps you quiet your mind and eliminate distractions which improves your focus.
For me this was one the major benefits.
An often overlooked benefit of doing yoga for martial artists is the relaxation that carries over.
After doing yoga for a week, I found I could relax and stay calm while fighting or sparring. This was because my muscles and joints felt relaxed and fluid and my breathing was controlled and deep.
It also also gave me more confidence in my techniques as i knew I could execute them with more ease.
Yoga has different types of lower and upper body twisting movements which help lengthen the spine and loosen the supporting tissue around it. This will help you with your strikes and grappling movements and make you resilient to injuries.
It’s easy to look down on internal martial arts like Tai Chi but they understand by lengthening the spine you can create more power and energy, with less effort. This is an amazing benefit of doing Yoga for martial artists.
Yoga Shows Love to Your Shoulders
The Shoulder joint is complex and prone to injury. It is not only used when punching but it also takes a lot of wear and tear from submissions.
Yoga will strengthen your shoulders with the static holds and the stretches will keep them healthy and loose.
Healthy loose shoulder joints and muscles will allow you whip punches and elbows in and improve your range of motion for grappling techniques.
If you have shoulder issues or want to avoid injury, do yoga stretches, this article explains how: Do These Shoulder Poses to Release Tension and Build Strength.
How to Begin to Incorporate Yoga With Your Martial Arts Practice
Now that you know the benefits of the martial art yoga combination, here are some tips to get you started:
Choose a Style of Yoga that Suits Your Goals and Preferences.
When you are deciding which style of yoga for martial artists you want to do, keep in mind there are many styles of yoga. Some are more energetic, strength and power orientated, like Ashtanga yoga, Others are more restorative and focused on breathing, like yin yoga.
It depends on what you want to do. Have a look at this article to see which style makes sense to you given your current goals: Different Types of Yoga: the Only Guide You Will Need.
When you see one you like, speak to a yoga teacher to find out more. However, information only tells you so much. You’ll only know if it is what you want by doing it.
Start with the Basics.
If you’re new to yoga, don’t jump into advanced poses right away. Start with the basic poses that are suitable for beginners, such as mountain pose, downward-facing dog, warrior I and triangle pose.
Learn the proper alignment and breathing for each pose. Gradually progress to challenging poses as you gain experience and confidence.
To reap the benefits of yoga for martial arts, you need to practice it consistently. Aim for at least 2-3 times a week. How often and when you train will depend on your training schedule.
I have felt great by doing yoga in the morning and then martial arts training in the evening. The martial arts session felt easier to get into.
You can do what I did or do yoga on the days you are not training your martial art.
This article explains how to train more than once a day: Can I Do Yoga Twice a Day?
Listen to Your Body.
As martial arts practitioners we have the “push through” mentality. Yoga is not a competition. It’s a practice of self-awareness and letting go.
Don’t force yourself to do something that feels uncomfortable or painful, that’s not how you progress in yoga.
You will feel discomfort and you should not quit, but you must learn to balance pushing versus relaxing into the poses.
Respect your limits and modify the poses as needed.
Be Mindful of Hygiene
You do not want spread germs and bacteria. I’ve seen this happen when people start yoga. Especially when people train more than once a day, they try to save time and cut corners.
So make sure you keep your equipment clean. People often ignore cleaning their yoga mat because it seems it’s not important, however it can develop all kinds mold and fungi if you don’t.
This article shows you how to keep your mat clean in quick and easy steps: How to Clean a Cork Yoga Mat.
Yoga Poses for Martial Artists
Now you know the benefits and what you need to be aware of before you practice yoga, lets look at some poses.
Remember, yoga is a whole body practice, so all yoga poses will benefit your martial art. Because of the breathing and stretching, poses that do not seem obviously beneficial will have great cross over into your martial training.
Here are some poses to get started with:
Yoga for Martial Artists: Side Leg Lift
This pose targets your gluteus medius, which is responsible for lifting your leg to the side. It also challenges your balance and core stability.
Yoga for Martial Artists: Half Moon Pose
This pose stretches your hip flexors, hamstrings and calves, while also improving your balance and coordination.
Yoga for Martial Artists: Warrior II Pose
This pose works on your quads, glutes and core muscles, it also improves your focus.
The Warrior II teaches you to align your ankle, knee and hip joints to develop a solid base from which can move and strike from.
Yoga for Martial Artists: Triangle Pose
This pose stretches your hamstrings, inner thighs, hips and spine. It also enhances your alignment and awareness.
And the twisting motion opens up your spine and hips, while loosening the tissues around them.
Health Reasons to do Yoga for Martial Artists
You know how important it is to keep your body and mind in shape. You train hard, practice your techniques and push yourself to the limit. Yoga can help you with these and more.
Yoga is an ancient practice that originated in India thousands of years ago. It involves various physical poses (asanas), breathing exercises (pranayama) and meditation techniques (dhyana) that aim to harmonize the body, mind and spirit.
It has many benefits for your health and well-being:
Reduces stress and anxiety
Improves blood circulation and oxygen delivery
Boosts immunity, hormones and digestion
Increases energy and vitality
Promotes relaxation and sleep quality
Benefits of Yoga for Martial Artists: Conclusion
There are many benefits of doing yoga for martial artists. I found it to be an invaluable compliment to my martial arts training. You will too.
Don’t get to hung up on a particular pose.
Yes, some poses (like the ones shown in this article) have obvious carry over to martial arts. However, keep in mind that yoga is a whole body mind practice that synchronizes your mind, body and spirit to work together. So all poses and routines will benefit you.
Both yoga and martial arts require you align your body correctly, so they are a perfect together. You’ll find, like I did, your flexibility, calmness and movement will improve.
Choose a yoga style that makes sense to you given your current situation and goals, then start and see what happens.