Many martial arts schools offer yoga classes and for good reason: Yoga and martial arts share many of the same basic skills. Yoga is a low-intensity activity that’s unlikely to result in injuries, and it provides excellent physical and mental conditioning for martial artists. Here is how practicing yoga can benefit martial arts students and enhance their studies.
1. It enhances balance.
Martial artists need a highly-developed sense of balance to recover from opponents’ moves, to change direction quickly and to switch between defensive and offensive postures. Standing and one-legged yoga postures such as garudasana (eagle pose) and vrksasana (tree pose) develop your ability to balance and improve your stability. Postures that require looking up or to the side such as trikonasana (triangle pose) help develop equilibrium and control, which you need for martial arts moves such as high round kicks and spin kicks. Practicing yoga regularly improves balance, making it easier to master the basic stances and katas (sequences) and enabling you to put more power behind punches and kicks.
2. It helps you focus.
Yoga is a mental as well as a physical practice that incorporates breathing and sensory techniques, which helps people become more mindful and cultivates self-awareness. This self-awareness can be applied to other activities, including work, school and sports. Martial artists need to focus when they are competing, fighting or simply learning new moves and techniques. However, many people pursue the structure and discipline of karate, judo or taekwondo classes simply to become more focused in other areas of their lives. Yoga teaches you to reduce mental distractions so you can concentrate on your moves, your opponent’s moves and your teacher’s instructions, which decreases the chance of injury and helps you get more out of your training.
3. It increases flexibility.
Stretching is a major component of yoga classes – it stimulates muscles, helps prevent injuries and increases your range of motion. Most yoga classes include a combination of uttanasana (standing forward bend), which stretches the hamstrings, and (pigeon pose), an intense stretch that loosens the abductors, adductors and hip flexors. Loose hamstrings and hip muscles make it easier on your back when you bend, reach and twist, which are critical moves in aggressive martial arts like krav maga. Flexibility is also essential for reaching full extension in kicks, achieving low stances and escaping holds and locks. Yoga is a safe and gentle way to become more flexible and limber, which can help you progress to more difficult martial arts moves.
Yoga is an effective way to relieve stress and relax, but it’s also an excellent form of physical conditioning for martial arts. It helps you develop balance, focus, and flexibility, which are also some of the core skills of martial arts. Whether you take a class or do yoga on your own, it’s a great way to supplement your physical and mental development and enhance your martial arts training.