4 Effective Yoga Poses for Jiu-Jitsu
Building strength and flexibility is important for physical resilience. We must push our joints through their full range of motion and develop our muscles to keep our body functioning optimally. With martial arts, lifting, climbing, running etc, we’re putting our bodies through physical stress to induce growth and play. If you’re feeling stiff or are in pain, I recommend applying CBD lotion to the affected areas before yoga, but not after. Our bodies use pro-inflammation to initiate growth. It’s been shown that taking anti-inflammatory compounds within two hours after your workout, inhibits the pro-inflammation. Taking CBD before yoga or exercise may promote movement in your joints and reduce pain.
If you were to break down sport into its components, it’d be built like a mountain. At its base is your ability to tell your body how to move and where to move, next is your technical ability in the sport(How well do you know how to sweep an opponent), finally is your ability to strategize and deal with your emotions. Consistent practice of the minimum amount of yoga will increase your ability to move your body and use specific breathing patterns which is the fundamental component of any sport. Additionally, yoga will increase your range of motion and build your stabilizer muscles which may decrease your rate of injury.
If you’re a couch potato, the minimum effective dose of yoga is great for your lazy ass or busy bee. Since yoga focuses on quality movement and engaging your muscles to attain proper posture, it will increase your quality of life and physical well-being without looking like the Mountain from Game of Thrones. I’ve listed 4 yoga poses that’ll get you more loose and limber than granny and granddad at a swinger’s party.
Dhanurasana (Bow Pose):
dhanu = bow
Bow Pose got its name because it looks like an archer’s bow with the upper chest, hips, and legs representing the body of the bow and the arms being the string. Bow pose is great for protecting your shoulders and back from injury. If it hurts to get into the pose, do the best you can while being a place that is just bearably uncomfortable. Over time, you’ll work through these limitations and revitalize your spine and shoulders.
Lie on your belly with your hands alongside your torso, palms up. Exhale and bend your knees, bringing your heels as close as you can to your butt. Reach back with your hands and take hold of your ankles (but not the tops of the feet). Make sure your knees aren't wider than the width of your hips and keep your knees hip width for the duration of the pose. If this is easy for you, bring your knees together in this pose.
Inhale and strongly lift your heels away from your butt and, at the same time, lift your thighs away from the floor. This will have the effect of pulling your upper torso and head off the floor. Burrow the tailbone down toward the floor, aim the arrow, and keep your back muscles soft. As you continue lifting the heels and thighs higher, press your shoulder blades firmly against your back to open your heart. Draw the tops of the shoulders away from your ears. Gaze forward. Focus on your ability to pinch your shoulders back and together. This will increase your range of motion and strengthen your shoulders.
With the belly pressed against the floor, breathing will be difficult. Breathe more into the back of your torso, and be sure not to stop breathing. This will help you with breathing into your diaphragm - a great way to control your effort in a sport and re-establish your energy.
Stay in this pose anywhere from 20 to 30 seconds. Release as you exhale, and lie quietly for a few breaths. You can repeat the pose once or twice more.
Forward folds are fantastic for increase your spine’s range of motion and reducing tightness in your hamstrings. Incorporating twists will increase your lat flexibility which delivers power from the hips to the upper body. Adding a bind will also increase shoulder flexibility protecting it from injury. The goal to these forward folds is to comfortably be able to touch your toes and freely move through the pose. Start with the first pose and only progress to the next variation once you’ve achieved ease in the first pose.
A. Cross-Legged Forward Fold
Begin in mountain pose. Start to shift more of your weight into your left foot, decreasing the amount of weight in your right foot until it feels as if it is floating. Then lift your right foot and cross it in front of the left, planting it on the far side of the left foot, several inches away. The feet don’t have to be exactly parallel—in fact, the right will probably be slightly ahead of the left. Now try to equalize the weight between the two feet. Then bend your knees, hinge at your hips, and fold forward, letting your fingertips or hands rest on the ground. Lengthen through your spine, and allow your forehead to approach your legs without compressing the front of your neck. Extend through your legs to experience a stretch. You’ll probably feel more of a stretch on the left side than the right. Notice if you feel the stretch in your left calf as well as in your hamstrings.
Stay for five breaths, and then uncross your legs, and root down into your feet to rise up to standing, keeping your spine long as you return to mountain pose. Then switch sides.
B. Open-Twist Forward Fold
From mountain, bend your knees, hinge at your hips, and fold forward, allowing your hands to rest on the ground. Place your left hand or fingertips on the floor between and in front of both feet (so that your wrist is under your shoulder). Bend your left knee and extend your right leg. Inhale and reach your right arm straight up to the ceiling, opening your chest as you do so. Exhale to twist more deeply, keeping your collarbones broad. The spine is more extended than rounded here to allow for greater chest and shoulder opening. Direct your gaze up to the sky (if that feels comfortable for your neck). Stay for five breaths and then lower your right arm and switch sides.
After five breaths on the second side, lower your left arm to return to center; then root down through your feet, engage your core, and lengthen through your spine as you return to mountain pose.
C. Forward Fold With a Bind
From mountain, bend your knees, hinge at your hips, and fold forward. Bend your left knee and thread your left arm through your legs, allowing the back of your hand to rest on or near your left ass cheek. Bring the back of your right hand and forearm to rest on your low back, then try to clasp your hands (or grab clothing or hold a strap between both hands). Open your heart to the right; you can gaze down, straight ahead, or over your right shoulder, depending on what feels best for your neck. Lengthen your spine, soften the tops of your shoulders, and take five breaths here.
Release your arms and return to your forward fold before switching sides and then returning to mountain pose.
D. Shoulder Opening Forward Fold
Fold forward, reaching the crown of your head to the floor and drawing your belly button to your spine. Clasp your hands behind your back and draw your forearms as close together as you can. Let gravity roll your arms to the floor over your head. This pose will increase the rang of motion in your shoulders and protect it from injury.
Padangustha Padma Utkatasana (Toe Pose)
In this standing balance, the heart remains a focus as you sink down into the supporting leg and gently allow the hip of the bent leg to open with the breath. It helps strengthen the ankles and bring flexibility to the hips and develops balance and clarity of mind. It helps to find a single point in the room and stare at it for the duration of this pose.
1. Stand in Mountain Pose. Lift the left heel up to rest at the top of the right thigh as you bend the supporting leg a little. Press the left knee toward the floor to open the right hip. Lengthen the tailbone towards the floor and elongate the spine(it helps if you think of squeezing your butt cheeks together while pointing the front of your hips upward.). Or you could pretend you’re trying to avoid getting your turkey basted.
2. On and inhalation, raise the arms above your head. On the exhalation bring the palms of the hands together into the prayer position and lower the hands to rest in front of the heart center. Bend the right leg, lean forward more, and lift the heart center as you sink down a little deeper into the squat. Keep the spine long with the tailbone tucked under. The upper body will be leaning forward a little but still vertical. Gaze at the fingertips of the hands, with your focus on softening and opening the heart. If you like take the elbows to your shin.
Half Lotus Toe Balance 1
3. Bring the spine more to vertical and bend the supporting knee more as you lift your left heel and lower yourself to a one-Legged squat. Have the right heel between your sitting bones. Use your fingertips on the floor to help, if necessary, as you balance on the ball of your foot. This will help increase the flexibility and stability of your toes.
Half Lotus Toe Balance 2
4. Take care as you come out of the pose. Inhale and raise yourself to standing. Release the Lotus leg with control and return to Mountain Pose. Re-center yourself then repeat on the other side.
Reclined Hero’s Pose
Begin in a high kneeling position. Separate your feet a little wider than your hips (just wide enough so that you can sit back between them). Use your thumbs to massage down your calves, helping them to relax as you sit back, but avoid rolling your calves outward. While rolling the calves outward may initially make it easier to sit between your feet, it also puts your knees at risk.
If your seat is far from the floor place a block or folded blanket between your feet and ankles. Your feet should be just outside your hips, the tops of your feet pressing into the floor, and your toes pointing straight back. Your knees don’t have to be together (in fact, for many practitioners knees together isn’t optimal in Varanasi), but make sure that they don’t splay out wider than your hips.
Then begin to recline back, first walking back onto your hands, then maybe your elbows, and then if it feels comfortable, onto your back (if there’s a block under your seat, you won’t be able to go all the way onto your back unless you also have a bolster or stack of blankets behind you to support your middle and upper back, neck, and head). If you feel discomfort in your knees or lower back, or if your knees lift significantly off of the floor, back out of the pose and come more upright. When in the reclined position, tuck your pelvis back as if you were spilling a bowl of water onto the floor, just below your belly button. Breathe deeply into your diaphragm.