At first glance, martial arts and yoga may seem like complete opposites as the former emphasizes fighting while the latter speaks of compassion and benevolence. However, what most people fail to realize is that they both draw their usefulness from similar principles. On closer examination, you can see how certain components of martial arts are derived from yoga and how the two complement each other in many ways. For starters, the fundamentals of both yoga and martial arts are mindfulness, consciousness and awareness, both in life and on the mat. Also, both practices focus on movements, precision and being aware of your surroundings. Taken together, yoga and martial arts act as yin and yang, stabilizing each other to form a powerful combination. Don’t believe it? Here are some ways in which yoga complements martial arts and can even enhance your skills when done right.
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How Yoga Can Complement Your Martial Arts Training
Your flexibility, endurance and core strength can be improved considerably if you combine MMA training and yoga.
Yoga is known in fitness circles for its ability to improve flexibility, and this can benefit martial artists. Repeating the same movements involved in martial arts training can make your muscles tight and knotted. However, yoga positions and stances are designed to stretch the muscles and bring fluidity to your joints. This increased flexibility will help you pack more power into your punches and perform high kicks and submissions with more finesse. Moreover, increased flexibility aids in preventing injuries when sparring or competing.
When practicing yoga, you must hold different poses for extended periods. Although it sounds easy, it’s not, as doing this strains muscles and maintaining the pose causes a burning sensation thanks to a buildup of lactic acid. This will however increase your endurance. Flexibility and balance are key ingredients to yoga, which boost your physical and mental endurance.
Teaches Focused Breathing
The different poses in yoga, like the Sun Salutation, integrate the mind and body with the help of stretching and focused breathing. As a martial artist, you can benefit from this body/mind synchronization during matches. The different breathing techniques learned when practicing yoga, such as the “Breath of Fire” and belly breathing, allow you to avoid holding your breath at crucial moments, like during matches.
Any form of fitness training involving martial arts can lead to the tightening of muscles. Many martial artists tend to stick to a technique of their liking, to the point where they may over-develop either their right or left side. This makes you vulnerable to injuries. However, when you pair your training with yoga, you increase your flexibility and range of motion, which helps loosen tightened joints and muscles. Additionally, the heightened awareness of their body allows the fighter to correct improper posture, which could lead to possible injuries. Overall, the traits introduced by practicing yoga ensure that you prevent injuries. This, in turn, allows you to push harder in your training without worrying about accidents and hurting yourself.
Boosts Core Strength
As soon as you hear the term ‘yoga’, do you automatically think it’s all about meditation and flexibility? Do you dismiss it as a way to build your strength? By practicing challenging poses, you realize that the true difficulty lies not in getting into them but in maintaining them. Holding a pose for an extended period, forces fighters to use their core muscles which lays the foundation for throwing strong kicks and punches. This will make you experience a “burn” caused by straining muscles, but the longer you can hold the pose, the stronger your core muscles will get, and vice versa.
Reduces Recovery Time
As a martial artist, you are likely aware that fighters are prone to injury, no matter what precautions they take. You may also know how it feels to sit on the sidelines and not be able to practice or fight while you recover. The great news is that along with improving flexibility and balance, and preventing injuries, yoga also accelerates healing. A yoga session after a martial arts class will encourage your muscles to relax, making your body enter recovery mode.
Martial arts and yoga offer equal benefit to body and mind. The habits and skills you develop practicing yoga can be the stepping-stones that take your fighting skills to the next level. If you’re a martial artist practicing yoga for the first time, you will notice a difference in your performance right away.