I give yoga a go for 7 days to see if it makes a difference to my Jiujitsu
I’ve heard it said time after time that yoga and Brazilian jiujitsu are made for each other, so, as an ‘over the hill’ BJJ practitioner (40+) I decided it was time I found out what yoga could do for me. Proper yoga classes are one option, but since all my free time is taken up with work, family life and BJJ I don’t have time to go to them, so I needed to look for something I could do from home.
It turns out that there’s a website just for people like me. No, it’s not Tinder. It’s Yoga for BJJ and it offers a yoga system that’s specifically designed for BJJ practitioners who feel stiff and uncomfortable after rolling and want to feel better. To access the site, which has over 100 yoga videos, you need to subscribe for $17 a month, but the first month is only $7, and they offer to refund you if you don’t find it useful. Admittedly that sounds like a good deal, but since I am your typical inflexible and stiff male who went to a few yoga classes about 10 years ago and hasn’t done any since, I decided I needed to look into another option first.
I discovered that Yoga for BJJ offer a free 20 minute introductory session (i) on YouTube. I decided it was probably worth my time just repeating their free class once a day for a week, and saving the website trial until I could get more out of it. You see, finding the time to do yoga in my day is also an issue – I have a job, 2 kids, BJJ and freelance writing to fit into my busy schedule, so I needed to find out if I could even make time for yoga.
My goal was to do it every day for a week. In the end I managed 6 out of 7 days, and here’s what I found.
Yoga for BJJ is a programme run by Sebastian Brosche (seated above), who is a competitive brown belt, so he knows what he’s talking about when it comes to BJJ. And from the video I’d also say he knows what he’s talking about when it comes to yoga. I liked that he points out the simple mistakes that beginners are most likely to make, particularly about trying to do postures with straight legs if you’re not that flexible. He also talks about the postures in BJJ terms – so child pose is turtle, etc. Also, he’s a man, I’m a man – we have men things in common. I prefer the idea of trying to replicate the postures when shown by another man to copying a slim, flexible yogini, whose body bears little resemblance to my own.
The gains from yoga are immediate. After the first session I did feel a bit achy, but this is normal. After day 2 I started to notice I felt a lot freer in my movement generally, and especially in BJJ class. Here’s what I discovered:
In the Yoga for BJJ podcast (ii), Sebastian talks about getting feedback from people who have started his yoga programme saying they feel like the Run, Forrest, Run! scene in Forrest Gump where he’s running and his leg braces fall off, and suddenly he’s free. There is definitely some truth to this, but I didn’t realise that this also meant your cardio would improve, but I guess if you’re not fighting your own body to get into positions, then it’s obviously going to take less effort.
As a short, stocky guy, my game is based more around butterfly hooks and sweeps from guard than triangle submissions. As such I didn’t think that the increased flexibility yoga offers would help my game that much, but I’ve been surprised. I hadn’t figured on the extra smoothness your body acquires once the chains of stiffness start to come off. This makes everything feel better – even if it’s an X Guard sweep that doesn’t require that much flexibility, you’ll do it better with yoga on your side.
I think we all intuitively know that our breathing and movements need to work together to get maximum efficiency, but unless you actively practice combining them, it’s just not going to happen on its own in BJJ. The idea of yoga is that you make a conscious effort to yoke your breathing and your movements together. This takes a bit of practice, but you start to get it relatively quickly, and it’s a lot easier to get doing yoga than when some guy is trying to choke you.
Opening up your body with yoga definitely improves your posture. Simply doing yoga doesn’t guarantee you perfect posture, of course, but it does start to remove any restrictions you may not even know you’re dealing with, and it certainly makes you more aware of your body. Breathing and posture are linked, and a lot of yoga postures work on opening up your chest, which facilitates better breathing, and hence improved cardio. See 3 tips for good posture.
I actually picked up a little injury this week in BJJ. I sprained a tendon (or ligament) on the side of my knee while trying to calf crush somebody who had very long legs. It wasn’t a technique I normally use, so that’s a factor, but maybe it was related to the yoga or maybe not. Either way, it’s worth remembering that if you’re changing the way your body feels when you move then you’re going to need some time to adjust and it’s possible that little accidents could occur as you get used to it.
It is tough to make time for yoga in your day. For me I found that 20 minutes before I went to bed was the best time. You can’t do it when the kids are around and I never really felt like losing sleep by getting up early to do it. As Sebastian says in the video though – yoga takes time, but you need to start thinking of it as something that gives you back time – more time to do the thing you love, which is BJJ.
Finally, the last thing was something that’s hard to quantify, but worth mentioning. Yoga makes you feel good. And if you feel good you feel less stressed by everything and generally happier. At the end of the yoga session you definitely experience a deep level of relaxation – something akin to the feeling you get after a glass of wine, but without the obvious health risks.
That’s it. The week is done. Would I recommend yoga if you’re a BJJ practitioner? Yes, of course. I’m going to make an effort to keep up with my home yoga sessions because I like the way it makes me feel, and I like the idea that so long as I keep flexible I can keep doing BJJ as I age. I enjoy the greater freedom of movement I have, and it makes my BJJ better, and frankly, it makes ‘me’ better too.
Maybe once I feel like I’m getting more proficient with the basic sequence and I feel like I need something more I’ll try a subscription to BJJforYoga.net. Until then, I’m happy with the Youtube clip.
Try and do 10 minutes a day of yoga, not 1 hour every week if you want to make it a lifestyle change.
i) Yoga for BJJ free basic class video:
ii) Listen to the Yoga for BJJ video podcast for tips on integrating a yoga practice into your life.
iii) There’s also this great blog post by Sebastian with a yoga practice that you might like to try – 5 Yoga poses that will help your BJJ.
iv) So, at some point I’m going to sign up for Yoga for BJJ and write a proper review, but until then you can read what the esteemed Seymour Yang of Meerkatsu BJJ blog thought of it here.