The human body is designed to adapt to the positions and activities that it encounters most often. In Jiu Jitsu, the body experiences a constant contraction and compression of muscles. Whether it’s knees to your chest or elbows to your side, we all know that keeping our limbs close to our centerline is the best way to not get submitted in Jiu Jitsu. Over time, the body becomes accustomed to this consistent contraction and muscles and joints can become tight. This is the precursor to injury and soreness. We want Jiu Jitsu to be a lifelong sport, which means that we need to take care of our muscles and joints as best as we can.
So, what can you do to counteract the contractions that the body experiences during Jiu Jitsu practice?
One of the best known practices to open up the muscles and joints of the body is yoga.
Yoga is an ancient practice that involves the connection of breath to movement. It is composed of specific asanas (or postures) that are sequenced together into a vinyasa (or flow). Yoga asanas are intended to lengthen and open the body, which helps to balance us out from the constant contraction we experience during Jiu Jitsu.
Jiu Jitsu athletes most commonly have very tight hips, backs, and shoulders. This is because the body has adapted to the common demand of contraction and compression. Lengthening and opening the body through yoga is a great way to balance out the body.
Here are some common yoga postures to practice at home to open up the back, shoulders, chest and hips:
Back/Low Back: Downward Facing Dog
This posture is a full-body posture, but you can use it to really focus on opening up and creating a long, open spine.
In this posture, start on your hands and knees and tuck the toes under.
Then, on your next inhale, push into all ten fingers as you send the hips up and back. Focus on opening up through your low back by pushing your hips up toward the sky. You can bend your knees as much as you need to in this posture to feel the release in your low back. At the same time, press through your shoulders to feel an opening in the upper back as well.
Shoulders: Puppy Pose
There are many postures that you can practice to open up the shoulders.
One of my favorites is puppy pose. You can move into this pose from downward facing dog by setting your knees on the ground, align your hips over knees, and then walk your hands forward. Send your chest towards the floor (it’s okay if it doesn’t reach) and rest your forehead on that mat if you can. This posture opens up the shoulders and the chest. You can counter this posture with a child’s pose, arms by the side. Send your hips back to your heels and let your arms rest by your side.
Hips: Supine Figure 4 or Pigeon Pose
This posture targets the outside hips, which can get very tight in Jiu Jitsu when opponents crush our legs to one side or we use our hips and knees to defend from getting passed.
Lay down on your back, bring one sole of the feet to the ground behind your hip, and extend the other leg high. From there, cross the extended leg ankle over the other leg’s knee. You can push the bent knee away, or pull the hamstring of the other leg toward you to deepen the stretch. If you don’t feel the stretch here, you can move into pigeon pose (pictured left).
Chest: Cobra pose
Rounding of the upper back and shoulders is very common in Jiu Jitsu.
To counter this, you can do cobra pose. Lay on your stomach and bring your hands underneath your shoulders.
As you inhale, begin to pull your chest forward and up off of the ground. Avoid using your leg muscles, and instead use your back muscles to smile through your collar bones and shine your chest forward. Keep your gaze down.
These are just a couple of poses that you can use to open and lengthen the body. If possible, you can do these once a day, even for just 10 minutes, after class or when you get home from training.
Here are some important notes to keep in mind when practicing yoga:
- Use the breath to deepen the posture. If you don’t feel the stretch, try breathing deeply through your nose and out your nose to see if you can feel it.
- Do not push yourself past your limits (you do plenty of that in Jiu Jitsu!) Yoga is a time to listen to your body, and rest where it feels comfortable and where you can breathe.
Take a Yoga Class
If you are interested, Team Casarez is also offering yoga flows at the gym. Come try out a class to learn the postures and sequences so that you can ask questions and practice at home!
These classes are free and open to the public until March 26, 2022, so bring a friend or a family member who you think could benefit from yoga as well.
Wednesdays @ 10:30am – Mobility Flow (create more flexibility in the joints)
Fridays @ 1:30pm – Restorative Flow (rest and restore sore and tight muscles)
Saturdays @ 9:30am – Power Flow (create strength in the muscles to avoid injury)
If you have questions about yoga for Jiu Jitsu, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and Mary Ketterhagen or Catherine Holland, the yoga instructors, can answer your questions.
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