Yoga And BJJ (Is It Worth Doing?)

Brazilian jiu-jitsu is a complex martial art with many physical and mental demands. We constantly look for ways to improve our game using other training methods and practices. One of the most popular exercises for BJJ outside of strength training is yoga. But how do yoga and BJJ mesh together?

With the proper training routine, yoga is an excellent supplementary practice for Brazilian jiu-jitsu. It improves flexibility, balance, and agility, increasing body awareness and breath control. Done correctly, it can improve many aspects of your BJJ and life without interfering with other forms of training.

Still, if you spend your precious time doing yoga, it’s worth knowing in detail what benefits you can expect and the best way to achieve them.

How Will Yoga Benefit Your BJJ

Yoga and BJJ are a great match, and the two practices share a lot. Both have a deep root in Buddhism. Both emphasize mind-body connection and encourage growth and self-reflection. Physically, they also share many things, like the flowing movement patterns and the need for a specific breathing pattern for best results.

But what is yoga? Yoga is a broad term that includes many practices, including physical postures called asanas, breathing exercises called pranayama, and combining both flows and meditation.

The benefits of a proper yoga practice are immense. They can turn you into a dangerous and annoying opponent on the mats.

Improved Flexibility

Best Yoga For BJJ

Most BJJ practitioners start doing yoga to improve their flexibility. While you can get away with not being flexible in jiu-jitsu, this attribute can be extremely beneficial in every aspect of your game. If your joints have a good range of motion, you have access to at least double the number of submissions you have if you are stiff as a board.

Flexibility also allows for better sweeps, better defense, and easier holding of various positions. Even the body triangle can be problematic if your knees and hip joints are not mobile enough, and some techniques, like the rubber guard, are impossible. But you already know flexibility is essential for BJJ, and yoga is an excellent way of improving it.

Yoga is much more than holding static stretches. A well-structured yoga practice will include active and passive stretches and fluid combinations of movements, improving your flexibility and mobility like few other things can.

And with the other added benefits of yoga, it’s the most efficient way of improving flexibility if done correctly.

Body Awareness and Breath Control

Breath control during motion is one of yoga’s main pillars and something every martial artist should be competent in. Spazzing frantically through the mouth while rolling is a sure way to empty the gas tank in the first minute of a match. The only way to prevent it is to control your breathing and energy expenditure.

You will inevitably learn both through jiu-jitsu, but the process will be much quicker and more concentrated in yoga. Without an opponent in front, you can focus entirely on your body and breathing and learn to control them during movement much more quickly.

The importance of breath control cannot be overstated. Additionally, many breathing-specific exercises in yoga called pranayama will teach you to engage your diaphragm better.

Rickson Gracie and his son Kron have done a lot to popularize breathing exercises in BJJ and MMA. Many people like to use them to improve their breathing patterns and, most of all, to control their mental state. Meditation and breathing exercises are unmatched for cognitive training, even if you use other ways to improve mobility, flexibility, and strength.

Yoga strengthens the mind-body connection and improves your flow and rhythm on the mat.

Increased Strength and Balance

Yoga For Grapplers

There are better solutions than yoga to improve strength. You need resistance training, but yoga will improve your strength in specific static holds, which can still be beneficial on the mats.

When done correctly, yoga positions and flows require using specific muscle groups, enabling you to learn much better muscle control. Then comes improved balance through the constant maintenance of postural alignment in many yogic moves.

Some yoga flows are challenging and go through various one-legged, one-armed, or balance-challenging poses and sequences. By doing them, you will quickly notice improvements in your balance.

So, while yoga will certainly not promote muscle hypertrophy and bigger muscles, it will increase static hold strength and muscle endurance and drastically improve balance.

An Active Recovery

One of the most incredible things about yoga is you can reap the benefits without interfering with your other training. After all, we are BJJ practitioners searching for ways to improve our grappling. Yoga can be an excellent supplement exercise because it can be done on rest days and with all other training without needing to replace anything.

The mental benefits of yoga and meditation have been well documented. If you avoid doing hard or overly long yoga practices, they can perfectly fit your rest day as a way of active recovery. In fact, yoga is one of the best low-intensity exercises to help the body recover from heavy workouts by reducing muscle soreness when done in the evening or on your off days.

What Yoga Style is Best For BJJ

How Often Should You Do Yoga For BJJ

There are many different types of yoga, and not all are equally good for Brazilian jiu-jitsu. The yoga with which we in the west are most familiar is called Hatha yoga, which includes the poses everyone recognizes as “yoga.”

The sub-style of yoga most suitable for BJJ is vinyasa yoga because it has a flowing pattern linking together poses in a dance-like sequence, much like how a BJJ sequence works.

But there may be better ways for a novice to learn your way through these very broad styles. Luckily, some have dove deeper into yoga, distilled the knowledge we, as BJJ athletes, need the most, and removed the stuff we can do without.

You can find several yoga programs designed specifically for BJJ players, saving you the time and effort to dive into regular yoga and see what works best for grappling.

Here is just a couple of them:

How Often Should You Do Yoga For BJJ

You can do it daily, depending on the intensity and type of yoga. In our case, yoga is used as a supplement to our BJJ practice. We want to gain as many benefits as possible without hampering our training.

Ideally, you can do yoga every evening or every morning. A 15-minute practice daily is more than enough to reap the benefits of yoga without taxing the body. Then there are longer practice routines with specific goals, but you must prioritize your training time.

Ideally, you should be doing BJJ as your primary training and strength training specific to grappling as a secondary. Yoga is optional on top of these two, and if you have the time and energy, you can do longer routines as long as it doesn’t interfere with the other things.

For example, I have been doing 15 minutes of yoga every morning for years and feel great. It doesn’t get in the way of my martial arts or strength training, but it is a perfect way to start the day and improve flexibility, breathing, and mind-body control.

Yoga has also been proven to enhance sleep, so a short routine before bed may accelerate your recovery. Then doing a longer routine on rest days is also a good option.

Yoga Is Not A Magic Pill

As many benefits as yoga has, it’s not a magic pill and will not instantly solve your problems on or off the mats. This article looks at how yoga can benefit Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioners.

To do that, you need to view it as a complementary exercise, not a primary activity. It works best when the exercises and routines are chosen in conjunction with the primary BJJ training and secondary strength training. 

Structure your yoga practice in a way that does not interfere with other training, do not push yourself too hard as you would in grappling class, and pick suitable routines. Yoga will make you a better grappler and a better human being.