The Benefits of Yoga For Martial Arts
“Why you should practise Yoga to improve your Martial Arts”
Have you ever considered practising yoga as a complimentary fitness system to your martial arts training? If you think it’s a weird combination since one seems to be combative while the other a more peaceful and meditative system, well then, you’re either quite new to martial arts or lack the correct knowledge, when it comes to yoga. In truth, they both go hand in glove, so well, that yoga has long been used by experienced martial artists to fine-tune their combative skills. As a martial artist, and someone with the privilege of having participated, trained and worked with some great Muay Thai champions, I can completely vouch on the benefits of yoga for martial arts.
Because, although, at a glance, these two training systems might seem like polar opposites, they actually work to achieve the same mind-body mastery, that the students of both martial arts and yoga seek. Wondering, where’s the link between the two? Keep on reading, today’s article is meant to be the thread that connects yoga and martial arts.
The misunderstanding about yoga being a bit too passive is because the underlying physical benefits of practising yoga is not immediately visible. Sure, yoga does help in relaxing your body. However, it is also an over thousand-year-old, fitness and training system that originated in India and has been vouched for by millions, around the world, for its ability in boosting not just mental, but also, physical fitness. Since all those challenging poses of Yoga have to be maintained for a long duration, it improves your physical fitness, by working on your core strength, balance, coordination etc., while also enhancing your mental fitness as well by enforcing proper breathing techniques, meditation, increased awareness etc. The result of using yoga for martial arts is that many of the benefits that you get from yoga will complement and take your martial arts skills, up to a few notches!
So, whether you’ve recently started training in martial arts, or have been at it for a while, then this article will give you 10 solid reasons that might make you consider practising yoga for martial arts. Here we go…
The #10 Reason To Use Yoga For Martial Arts: Yoga improves your flexibility.
To begin with, let us right away point to the elephant in the room, and when it comes to yoga, it is of course – Flexibility. Almost all of the yoga poses require a substantial amount of flexibility, with some poses being so complicated that it’ll make you shudder! However, it is indisputable, that yoga helps you get incredibly flexible. A study has shown the regular practice of yoga to bring about almost 35% increase in flexibility in merely eight weeks!
Now, do I really have to tell you the importance of flexibility in martial arts? No matter which style you practice, good flexibility is essential to martial arts.
The flexibility that yoga provides can also sometimes be the reason people shy away from yoga classes. Understandably, some of the yoga poses do look quite intimidating, and if you do not think you are flexible enough, then that is perhaps the very reason you should consider picking up yoga. Flexibility is not a prerequisite, but, the result of having practised yoga. And this way, with the increased flexibility, you can vastly improve your combat skills by using yoga for martial arts. However, as you will soon see, there is much more to Yoga than just Flexibility.
The #9 Reason To Use Yoga For Martial Arts: Yoga strengthens your joints
While flexibility is undoubtedly one of the most valuable benefits of practising yoga, those difficult poses that you have to maintain for a substantial duration, have other equally beneficial effects. In order to achieve the flexibility that the yoga poses demand, the torso and muscles get lengthened. This also leads to the joints being well lubricated, while also lengthening them.
The end result? Super strong joints that let you maintain those difficult yoga poses for long durations, while also ensuring that the martial arts punches and kicks you throw are indeed effective.
The #8 Reason To Use Yoga For Martial Arts: Yoga will improve your balance
Apart from flexibility, many of the yoga poses will also require excellent balance in order to maintain them for a considerable duration. Many times there will be dynamic movement during which balance will need to be maintained as well. This skill comes in particularly handy when you need to maintain balance during many of the martial arts movements.
Balance is about maintaining your centre of gravity. And keeping your ‘centre’ is something you will hear over and over again in class, no matter which martial arts you train in. Yoga heightens your awareness of the body and helps maintain a solid balance, which is an essential component of martial arts.
The #7 Reason To Use Yoga For Martial Arts: Yoga helps to prevent injuries
Martial arts and other fitness training can sometimes lead to very tight muscles. Many a time, martial artists stick to their favourite techniques so much that they end up over-developing either the left or right side. These conditions make one more susceptible to injuries.
Practising yoga regularly, on the other hand, increases your flexibility and range of motion, it helps to loosen up those tight muscles and joints by lengthening them and also improves your balance and coordination. Also, with heightened awareness, one tends to notice and correct improper posture immediately. Overall, all these traits help to prevent most injuries from occurring. This helps you to push your martial arts training even further and not have to worry about any injuries.
The #6 Reason To Use Yoga For Martial Arts: Yoga boosts your core strength
It is a common misconception, among men especially, that yoga is all about meditation and flexibility. This leads to them not considering yoga when it comes to building strength. If you can identify with such a line of thinking, then the 10 benefits of yoga for men will help correct that misconception. Although all those difficult yoga poses you see, might make you think yoga is all about flexibility, but there is much more to it than meets the eye. The actual difficulty is not just in making those poses but in having to maintain it for a considerable duration. If you’ve ever tried to hold a yoga pose for even a while, you’ll know how excruciating it can get!
If it burns, the medicine must be working, right? Well, maybe that’s not always true. However, you can be sure, that the burn of a sustained yoga pose is due to the strain the muscles are under. Being able to hold those poses for a longer duration, in this way, will help build your body’s core strength. And if you want your punches and kicks to have some weight behind it, then you better have some solid core strength. Yoga helps you achieve just that!
The #5 Reason To Use Yoga For Martial Arts: Yoga increases your endurance
As we saw from the earlier point, maintaining those difficult yoga poses for long durations is no piece of cake. It puts a tremendous amount of strain on your muscles, and to hold on and maintain the pose correctly through all that burning sensation, increases not just your core strength but your endurance level and stamina as well.
Since, flexibility, balance, pain all are involved continuously, yoga helps to boost not just your physical, but your mental endurance as well. Any seasoned martial artist will vouch for the importance of having a strong physical and mental endurance level, because, in the real combat world, your martial arts skills don’t have much value if your endurance level is low.
The #4 Reason To Use Yoga For Martial Arts: Yoga cuts down your recovery time
We have seen from the above-given reasons, how, by improving your flexibility, balance and coordination, by strengthening and lengthening the joints and muscles, and by increasing your awareness about your body, yoga helps in preventing many injuries from occurring in the first place. The even better news is that practising yoga also helps in speeding up your bodies recovery time!
A yoga session after your martial arts class will help relax your muscles, immediately making the body go into an anabolic state, which is where it goes in recovery mode. By putting you in a relax mode, yoga also helps in eliminating stress, which again plays a significant role in ensuring a quick recovery.
See how, even though many martial arts beginners associate yoga with being passive and about meditation etc., all of the reasons mentioned above point to the physical benefits that yoga provides. In fact, these are the physical traits that form the very foundation of martial arts. That is not to say, however, that the mental benefits of yoga are any less important. Let us now see how the mental benefits of yoga can help advance your martial arts.
The #3 Reason To Use Yoga For Martial Arts: Yoga ensures proper breathing
Yoga constantly emphasis on the importance of proper breathing. ‘Pranayam’ exercises in yoga helps to improve your lung capacity, leading to full and proper breathing habits. Such a breathing method helps to get more oxygen throughout your body, which calms you down and makes you feel more energetic.
Martial arts too places constant emphasis on proper breathing. Breath is the core of the ‘ki’ in martial arts. By practising yoga, you build the habit of proper breathing. This way, with your ‘Ki’ being strong, and your mind calm, without distractions, yoga helps to improve your martial arts skills further.
The #2 Reason To Use Yoga For Martial Arts: Yoga makes you focus
Through meditation and the breathing practise that yoga instils in you helps to improve your focus. Even the various poses, some of which require a lot of flexibility, balance and endurance, demands your complete focus in order to be performed correctly.
In martial arts, the ‘Chi’ that is sometimes referred to, is talking about proper breathing and clear focus. Also, what do you think would happen in a combat situation if you maintained poor focus against any decent opponent? That’s right, all the skill in the world amounts to nothing with lack of focus, and regularly practising yoga will help you to be wholly focused on the task at hand.
The #1 Reason To Use Yoga For Martial Arts: Yoga gives you mental clarity
Here’s something both the masters of yoga and martial arts will agree with – both arts are finally about mind over matter. Both seek to increase one’s awareness of the body by breathing correctly, quieting the mind, maintaining a clear focus. This practice helps to bring about a state of mental clarity that is impossible to disturb. In combat, or even while just practising your martial arts, without good mental clarity, you are bound to perform poorly.
As you can see, all the mental benefits of yoga come more in handy the more your martial arts advances Proper breathing, complete focus and absolute mental clarity – these are the traits that bring out the full potential of your martial arts skills and are the deciding factors in any combat.
Both yoga and martial arts gives equal importance to the body & mind. The skills and habits one learns through yoga become the stepping stone to take your martial arts skills even further. If you’re a martial artist, trying out yoga too, then surely you’ve already experienced at least some of the benefits of yoga to martial arts that I’ve mentioned above. If so, then please do comment below – a healthy discussion is essential to gaining proper knowledge! And if you know of any friend who has recently taken up an interest in martial arts don’t forget to share this article with them.
Krix Luther is a Health and Fitness Specialist and one of Asia’s leading Personal Trainers. He is an Ex Professional Muay Thai fighter and Avid Free Diver. At the same time as being a very active person he also has a passion for gaming and has his own Twitch stream. If you have any questions for him, you can contact him via his Instagram.