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New classes! Yoga at Gracie Barra Downers Grove


Yoga: The Best BJJ Training Supplement You’re Not Using

Here’s a quick history on yoga.  I’ll keep it simple and just get to the down and dirty.  First, let’s be 100% clear – yoga is not a religion!  Its origins date back over 5,000 years.  Before Hinduism, before Christianity, before Buddhism.  Hinduism has done an amazing job adopting yoga into part of their religion, but not every Hindu practices yoga and not every yogi practices Hindu.  Christianity has more recently adopted yoga as a way of worship.  They have the right, too!  But again, not every Christian does yoga and not every yogi is a Christian.

The Gracie connection to yoga is a deep one.  You can find all kinds of YouTube videos, articles, and information about how the Gracie’s have adopted yoga into their training.  Rickson Gracie does Ginastica Natural – a form of modified yoga.  Gracie Barra is  bringing yoga to almost all of their associate schools.  Don’t be afraid to try yoga.

Ok, enough history.  Ignore the fact that yoga has been practiced for thousands of years.  Ignore the fact that yoga is practiced by the family that has made Jiu-Jitsu famous (arguably even created the sport).  None of that matters.  What matters is why you should care.  Why should you do yoga?  I’ll give you three simple reasons.  Breath, strength and flexibility.

Learning to breathe when you roll is one of the hardest things every Jiu-Jitsu practitioner has to learn.  It’s also one of the hardest things every yoga student has to learn.  A good yoga teacher will focus on breathing throughout the class.  I’ll be honest, remembering to breathe when you’re twisted up is hard to do.  It’s even harder when you’re twisted up and someone is trying to manipulate your joints.  Learning to breathe on a yoga mat and taking it with you to jiu-jitsu is far better than trying to figure it out on your own.  And let’s be honest with ourselves, too.  How many of us have had a jiu-jitsu instructor remind us to breathe during class?  Not too many come to mind.

Your body requires oxygen to function.  As you work harder, the muscles in your body require more oxygen.  It’s a cycle – the oxygen goes from your lungs, to the blood, to the muscles, and then the blood carry’s away the waste, such as lactic acid, carbon dioxide, adenosine and hydrogen ions.  Unfortunately, we only use about 25% of our body’s energy that we create with our muscles.  The rest of that energy turns into heat, which is why you’re hot after rolling for 10 minutes (it’s not because of your gi and the gold weave won’t always keep you cooler).  Breath work also cools the body.  Breathing out releases the excess heat created by your body’s muscles.  Breathing in provides oxygen which helps to cool the body.

Our brain uses 20% of our oxygen supply.  Surprised?  Not really.  We all know our brain is the most sensitive and most active part of our body.  Feed it the oxygen it requires and you’ll have improved response times, increased memory retention and improved balance.  All of these are important – especially when someone is on top of you trying to physically remove one of your limbs.  Learning to breathe during jiu-jitsu and learning to control your breath and training your body to breathe will all result in improved performance on the mats.  Always come back to your breath.

Some folks would argue that strength, when all other variables are equal, is the determining factor in a fight.  I don’t argue this.  In fact, I agree with it.  This is why there are weight divisions in competition and it’s rare to see a flyweight win the Absolute division.  That’s not to say it doesn’t happen, but it’s definitely a factor.

will argue that you need to build the right kind of strength. You need to build strength that matters.  Yoga uses the body’s natural movement for complete muscle development.  Sounds good, right?  But what does that mean?  When you do a bicep curl you’re only using one dimensional resistance for a specific muscle.  When you perform Crow Pose you’re using the small and large muscles of the biceps, the triceps, and the core all while building balance.  Now do it with a twist.  Literally.  Do Crow with a twist and watch every muscle in your body scream (and don’t forget to breathe while you do it!).  When you’re on your side trying to do a simple Scissor Sweep and you feel every muscle along the side of your core flex as you pull and extend, you’ll thank me.  Yoga is the best form of functional fitness (besides jiu-jitsu, of course) that exists today.

Oddly enough, flexibility and strength training directly correspond to one another.  Yoga is rare in that it’s one of the only exercises that actually stretches the muscle as its contracting.  Think about the contradiction that I just asked you to believe!  Yoga stretches the muscle while simultaneously forcing you to contract it.  It elongates the muscle while strengthening it.  It forces the joints to create and release synovial fluid which facilitate movement and improve flexibility.  Weight training does the opposite.  When the muscles fail to be properly stretched, the muscle fibers will heal close together and inhibit flexibility.  Through life and age, our bodies become used to certain movements and we settle into a limited range of motion.  Think of turning hide to leather.  We dry up and get stiff.  Practicing yoga forces the body’s tissue fibers to lubricate themselves, preventing them from drying out and developing the cellular cross-links that prevent muscular fibers from moving independently.

There are plenty of resources out there for jiu-jitsu players to get started.  Many of you may already have yoga offered at your academy (it’s being offered for a reason).  If you’ve never done yoga before I would recommend our new classes at Gracie Barra Downers Grove.    Odds are you weren’t catching people in Flying-Triangles after one class of jiu-jitsu, either.

Ultimately, there are more than three reasons to practice yoga:  Relaxation, regeneration, camaraderie, exercise, weight loss, and so on and so forth.  Will practicing yoga make you a better Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner?  No.  Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu makes you a better Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner.  However, yoga may provide you with the slight edge that you’ve been looking for.  It may improve your ability to physically perform jiu-jitsu.  It may improve your mental clarity, or physical stamina.  It may reduce the current number of injuries which keep you away from jiu-jitsu.  I challenge you to get on the (yoga) mat and find out what it will do for you and your jiu-jitsu.

We are offering Yoga classes at Gracie Barra Downers Grove.

New schedule! Please, take a look on the schedule and reserve your spot.


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