Benefits of Yoga for Martial Artists

If yoga had belts, I would be wearing white. I started yoga around May/June of 2013, 1-2 times a week. So I’m not a yoga expert. Yet.

With 14 years of dedication, my martial arts practice is already a lifestyle. In the true martial arts tradition, I am always looking for ways to become better. And I’m finding that yoga is a great parallel path.

tree pose

Tree pose: growing to new heights, whether in martial arts, yoga, or in life.

I started out wanting to share the benefits yoga has brought to my martial arts practice. It turned into a 4-part article exploring how yoga is helping me with:

  • Breath
  • Alignment
  • Flexibility/Pain Management
  • Anatomy

This is part 1. Read on to find out what I’ve discovered (so far) on my yoga journey!

1. Yoga Taught Me How to Breathe

I have a quick test for you. Put one hand on your chest and the other on your belly. Breathe. Which one do you feel move first?

If you answered chest, you are like most people. (FYI, an easy fix might be fixing your posture. Rounding the shoulders forward contracts the muscles around your lungs, giving them less space to expand).

If you breathe only from your chest, you’re not taking full advantage of the breath. The purpose of breathing is to supply your body with oxygen.

  • Shorter, shallower breaths –> less oxygen
  • Less oxygen to brain –> brain no function good
Breath practice.

Breath practice.

Yoga is an activity which allows time & space for breath practice. As an athlete, I am only helped by breath practice. Since beginning yoga, my cardio performance has markedly improved.

I also think about a situation in which I’m attacked. Yoga sometimes deliberately puts you in tough positions. Literally. Learning how to breathe through a stressful pose can only be good for learning to overcome “panic” and “freeze” responses.

To sum up what I’ve learned: Stop hunching & stop sucking it in.

Breathe.

Part 2–Coming soon!

About Sensei/YDN Caitlin

Sensei Yudanjanim Caitlin is a 2nd degree black belt, senior instructor, administrative assistant, and student of Tae Kwon Do, Karate, and Arnis at Northwest School of Martial Arts.
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