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Popular Classes: Yoga for Martial Arts

Browse the following free yoga classes for martial arts. Want more? Visit my Free Yoga Class Library to browse all yoga classes by style, intensity, and more.

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Why yoga can be better than static stretching for martial artists

Yoga and martial arts share many similarities. Like yoga, the oldest form of martial arts still practiced today—Kalari— originated in India. Both yoga and martial arts use movement, breath work, and inward/outward focus as a means for human development.

Only since the 1970s has yoga developed a reputation for being a pseudo-spiritual alternative to jazzercise—a stereotype we’re still working hard to shed. In truth, martial artists have likely used some form of yoga for thousands of years. The same can be said of ancient yogis borrowing from martial arts.

“Yoga is a martial art you practice against yourself.”

  • Nicolas Gregoriades, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Blackbelt under Roger Gracie

As martial artists, that’s a quote we can all relate to. Whether you wrestled in High School or joined a Jiu Jitsu gym as an adult, you’ve likely experienced what it means to “face yourself” on the mats. By reframing yoga as a “martial art”, we can move past the modern stereotype that it’s nothing more than tights and man buns.

Here are 5 reasons you will find a yoga practice more beneficial for martial arts than traditional static stretching.

  1. Yoga improves mobility. Whereas stretching focuses on extending range of motion, yoga teaches how to broaden range of motion with strength and control. It is a subtle difference. The flowing nature of yoga helps develop this mobility through poses that mimic vital martial arts mechanics, like pivoting, hip rotation, and scapular extension.
  2. Yoga develops core strength. Static stretching usually asks you to relax your body so your muscles can fully lengthen. And while that can be beneficial in developing foundational flexibility, it’s ultimately sub-optimal when trying to bullet proof your body for combat sports. Martial artists who practice yoga get the added benefit of developing core strength while holding and transitioning from posture to posture.
  3. Yoga teaches you to find balance (and stay there). Unless you find yourself in a Barre class, static stretching rarely challenges your sense of balance. Martial arts-focused yoga includes various postures that do, helping you develop proprioceptors (the things in your body that give you a sense of orientation in space). This is often pursued through balancing on a single leg or arm, which has the added benefit of developing strength and mobility in the feet and wrists.
  4. Yoga teaches you to breathe. Whether you want to focus your mind or rev up your heart rate, ancient yogis have developed a breathing practice for it. Martial arts icons like Rickson Gracie openly praise such exercises, like Durga Breathing and Breath of Fire (skip to the 22 minute mark of the Choke documentary on YouTube, one of the most important martial arts documentaries of all time). Breathing exercises are built-in to each martial arts yoga class on Yogi Panda, so you can develop your breathing technique every time you unroll your mat.
  5. Yoga builds mental focus. One of the greatest gifts of martial arts is the discipline it cultivates. As a martial artist, you already have a foundation of mental focus to apply to your yoga practice. By the same token, learning to flow from one yoga pose to the next will deepen your mind’s ability to focus in a martial arts context. In this way, the two arts complement one another.

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