By: Nick Bez
If the Gracie’s do it, there’s your sign.
At first glance, they may seem like opposites, yoga with its the meditative qualities and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu with its combative and competitive nature. However, they are an excellent pairing. If you’ve seen the 1999 documentary “Choke,” you know there’s some history to back it up, too.
In Choke, Rickson Gracie discusses and demonstrates the value and grace of yogic breathing techniques and yoga movements.
In the years since, we’ve learned and observed that there’s even more to it.
And now, in no particular order, we present our top three reasons why yoga programming will benefit your students and should be incorporated into the programming at your jiu-jitsu school.
#1: BJJ is Better with Yoga Breathing and Movements
A surprisingly common mistake among grapplers is the unconscious act of holding their breath or breathing too shallowly or quickly, neither of which is efficient and both of which cause fatigue.
Yogic breathing techniques are great for resetting these unconscious patterns as they, in large part, focus on increasing the duration, depth, and seamless rhythm of an individual’s breathing. This means that when they are practiced with consistency they help keep student’s muscular systems well oxygenated and performing efficiently while keeping students present and calm under pressure.
“Under pressure” is where yoga movements come in. A well-run yoga program will teach and explore the benefits of stress and release, meaning there will be a mix of yoga postures, some which require a wide range of muscle engagement and actively challenge strength and flexibility, and others that require little to no muscular engagement and are entirely focused on passive physical stretching.
Within the ebb and flow of a yoga program like the one described, jiu-jitsu students will further develop body awareness, strength and flexibility, presence within the moment, and the ability to calmly breath along edges of sensation and surges of energy. They will also expand their range of movement and increase the fluidity with which they are able to grapple.
#2: Yoga Supports Injury Prevention and Increased Endurance for Grapplers
Studies show that orthopedic injuries, especially those relating to elbows and armbars, are the most common when it comes to grapplers, but yoga, especially those previously mentioned passive stretches, can help.
By calmly and consistently exploring a wide range of stretching and movement, grapplers can increase the flexibility and resiliency of the connective tissue that runs through their body, especially at the joints. This stretching also elongates muscles and encourages muscle growth, which increases both strength and endurance.
#3: Make Money, Money. Make Money, Money
Having little, if anything, to do with the benefits of practicing yoga is the business of it. At a high level, there are two initial considerations. First, adding a yoga program immediately creates the opportunity for you to increase per person revenue from your existing student base. Basically, they already trust you with their time and money when it comes to jiu-jitsu. So, if you create the opportunity and explain the reason why it’s beneficial they are highly likely to give you more of their time and money for yoga.
Second, adding a yoga program immediately gives potential students even more of a reason to become a new student. This means that if someone is actively comparing the local options for jiu-jitsu schools yours will be positioned to stand out. This is because you are not only offering classes to support grapplers but also possibly offering classes for parents to take while their kids are in children’s BJJ programming.
The moral of the story? Warm-up, cool-down, get stronger, last longer, and do it all with yoga!