4 Ways To Incorporate Yoga Into Your Training Regime
4 Ways To Incorporate Yoga Into Your Training Regime
So, you're doing BJJ, you're lifting weights so you can outstrength your opponents when your techniques don't suffice, and now you're stiff as a rock. You figured Yoga for BJJ could be the thing for you, but you don't want to sacrifice your precious strength. I feel you! How should you go about incorporating Yoga for BJJ into your weight lifting regimen?
There are several things to consider, and I'm here to give you some arguments for a few different takes on when and how to do yoga and weight lifting in a manner that suits you and your goals best. First, lets list a few ways to combine lifting and yoga:
1. Doing yoga before lifting
2. Doing yoga after lifting
3. Doing yoga on rest days
4. Doing yoga as cardio or for weight loss
1. Yoga before lifting
Yoga is my favourite kind of warmup for lifting. It's way better than walking, running, stationary biking, or what else you might be doing, in my opinion. After going to yoga classes several years, I made my own warmup routine five-six years ago. This routine took me about 30 minutes to complete. These days I usually don't have the time or the need for such a long warmup. Now I use "the Old Yoga for BJJ Warmup Routine". It's done in less than 10 minutes, and my body feels ready to hit the weights when I'm done. If I have more time, and I want to indulge myself, I might do a longer session as a warmup, but it’s not necessary. Then I start my exercise specific warmup, which I never skip. And neither should you. If I'm squatting, I always start with the bar, and then progressively increase the weight as I'm lowering my reps, until I reach my working weights. Anyways, here's my argument for yoga as an ideal warmup: First of all, you use your entire body doing yoga, increasing blood flow throughout the body, sending the necessary nutrients you need to perform to your muscles, as well as making your muscles loosen up. Which brings us to the next argument.
When blood flow increases and you stretch your muscles, you increase your range of motion (ROM). Increasing your ROM lets you keep your posture better when lifting, which we all know is key to both performance and injury prevention. Again, take the squat as an example: doing yoga with a focus on the hips and hamstrings will let you squat deep (as you should!) with a straight back, instead of tucking your butt under when you go deep. This decreases the chances of you popping a hernia. If you’re too stiff to go deep now, don't worry, you'll get there eventually if you keep doing yoga. Another aspect of increased ROM, which is way more sexy than injury prevention, is the increased strength and muscle gain you’ll get. When the muscles are worked, the muscle fibers are pulled apart and together, which results in micro tears in the fibers. The body heals these tears, and over time you get a stronger and bigger muscle. Going through a greater ROM will increase the tears in the muscle fibers, and thus increasing your gains. And for those who believe that stretching will decrease their strength, as I hear some people worry about, don’t be afraid. From my powerlifting days, I know that some of the strongest people in the world do stretching as part of their warmup. I’ve even heard rumors that Carl Yngvar Christensen, the legendary powerlifter, was doing splits as part of his warmup routine, before squatting close to 500 kg.
So don’t worry too much about yoga decreasing your strength. The last reason yoga is great as a warmup, is the activation of stabilizing muscles. Doing three legged dogs will activate the minor muscles in the hip, side planks will activate stabilizers in the shoulders, etc. These muscles help ensure correct lifting patterns, and keeps you injury free. As well as moving greater weights.
2. Yoga after lifting
If you prefer to do yoga after lifting, you probably should do it as a cooldown. If you have done some serious lifting, doing a very demanding yoga session afterward probably isn't the best idea. Your muscles are tired and your energy reserves are probably more or less drained. Rather, I'd aim for a yin-inspired yoga, taking your time in each pose. Focus on your breath, and allow your heart rate to slow down and your muscles relax and lengthen. Will this stretching decrease the soreness you might experience the following days? Probably not, but it still feels good. Taking the time to calm down could also help kickstart your restitution.
3. Yoga on rest days
Doing yoga on rest days is a great idea. You might have more time to take a longer class, and will also help your restitution. If you're stiff and sore after lifting, rest day yoga will help you (however, keep in mind that you don’t have to be sore to have had a good workout. When I competed in powerlifting, I squatted and benched four to five times a week, and I very rarely was sore. I trained relatively heavy, but never to failure). Getting the blood flowing with a moderately hard class will loosen your muscles up, and send some much needed nutrients to your muscles. Or, if you're drained, do a yin inspired class and relax into the poses, knowing you're giving yourself some well-deserved TLC.
4. Yoga as cardio or for weight lossFor those who want to do yoga for weight loss or as cardio, this can be great. However, it will test your grit. If you're doing yoga for weight loss or cardio, I would recommend doing it as either your warmup, or on rest days. The sessions should be of a longer duration, and they should be quite intense. If you're not soaked afterwards, you didn't pick the right class. My recommendation is to do classes that are from 20-90 minutes, aiming for the longer ones. Remember to leave your ego at the door, and when lifting, decrease the weights if necessary. You're not supposed to set PRs when you're loosing weight, you're using lifting to maintain muscle mass and strength. Unless you're a masochist, I wouldn't recommend doing a hard yoga session after lifting. I prefer doing yoga as a warmup when combined with lifting, however, I do morning yoga every day. After a while, you’ll get addicted! If you give yourself 3-4 months of daily yoga, you'll know what I mean. If you don't have the time, don't worry. Experiment, and figure out what works best for you right now. It could change down the road, and that's fine. Incorporating yoga into your daily routine is great, but it has to suit your life. What are your experiences with yoga and weight lifting, and what do you prefer? Have I missed something, or do you have something to add? Lastly, leave a comment and let us know how you program your lifting for your BJJ!
Håkon, Norwegian power lifter legend (300kg classic deadlift).