There are a lot of reasons why martial artists should do Yoga. And that goes DOUBLE for the grappling kind of martial artists, including BJJ’ers, submission grapplers, Judoka, Sambo practioners, and people training in MMA.
Yoga brings a lot to the table. Stuff that can benefit your body (and your grappling game) right away.
Here are the biggest benefits that I see from a consistent Yoga practice
This is pretty obvious. Yoga works a LOT on stretching and lengthening the muscles and tendons of the body. Increased flexibility will allow you to bridge higher, maintain the guard easier, kick higher, etc.
Flexibility is a HUGE asset when you’re grappling. Everyone who has been on the mat for more than a month or two has had that experience where you’re pinning someone in a solid position and then – out of nowhere – your opponent’s legs come from some impossible angle, latch onto your body, and put you back in the guard.
Your ability to have your legs magically materialize wherever and whenever you need them is directly related to your hip and leg flexibility.
Core Strengthening and Stability
Balancing the Body
One claim that’s often made is that increased flexibility also leads to reduced injuries. Well, the research on that particular topic is controversial; in runners, for example, increased flexibility actually lead to increased injuries.
My personal opinion, not backed up by any research, is that grappling and running are two very different activities. Nobody is trying to force you into a pretzel when you’re running, whereas in grappling you basically have no idea what positions you’re going to end up in.
So until someone specifically studies BJJ and submission grappling practitioners I’m going to guess that increased flexibility probably does reduce injuries in grappling.
There are many different styles of Yoga out there, and some of them emphasize quite different things.
I’m a pretty pragmatic person, and as such I tend to avoid the more woo-woo styles and teachers of Yoga. “Breathe out the red light, breathe in the green light” – no thank you!
Here’s a short video that sums up the benefits of Yoga for Martial Arts visually: