Balance fits among the many challenges the body of a BJJ fighter faces. And how can I improve my balance you ask? Well, practicing yoga would be our top answer.
A lot of yoga movements, even those that may look pretty easy, require a significant amount of balance. Many of the standing poses are done on one leg, which not only improves stability but sport-specific strength as well.
When you fall, whether it’s falling out of a pose on your yoga or jiu-jitsu mat, quick reaction time and awareness are keys to getting back on top. An advantage to your opponent, but you’re still very much in the game, fighting.
- Focus your eyes on one spot.
- Use your wall, chair or any other piece of furniture, to help support you and prevent falling over.
- Try to steady your mind. You might not think it, but your mental state is tightly connected with your physical ability.
- Breathe properly (you can check our Breathing Program if you still struggle with this part).
Stand with your feet together and lift your toes. Lift your right knee up – in case this already challenges your balance, spread your arms apart or just cheat slightly by holding onto the wall. The next step is to grab your right knee with both hands and lift it up as high as you can, without bending the standing leg. We want to work on our ankle balance, so try to engage all the muscles around your upper thigh. Lean forward, hug your knee tight and take a breath.
The next variation of this pose is to extend your left arm and right knee to the side. If you are a really advanced yogi, aim for an extended hand-to-big-toe pose, otherwise just stay in this position.
Moving on the pose #2, still practicing balance on the same leg.
Take the right foot behind you and grab the outside of it with the right hand. Press the top of the right foot into your hand and pull your right leg back, allowing the torso to come forward naturally. Start creating distance between your butt and the hill. Take a few breaths.
Release the pose, shake out the foot and repeat the two-pose process on the other leg.
This pose is not only beneficial to your balance, but it also provides a powerful stretch for the front side of the body, the psoas, and the quadriceps.
Next, we’re doing a little bit of arm balancing with the crow pose. Plant your palms firmly on the mat, about shoulder distance apart, then place your knees on your elbows. Lift one foot off the ground and point the toes. Alternate one foot up and the other down until you feel comfortable. The key to this pose is learning where your center of gravity is and how to distribute your weight so that you can balance efficiently.
Start the position off in the normal plank and lift your left arm up. Pull the shoulders back and balance on the right side. Try to put both feet on top of each other. Your butt is going to want to drop down, so your job is to push the hips forward and up to prevent that from happening. Take 3 breaths here. This pose is great for strengthening your oblique abdominal muscles as well.
Kneel with toes tucked underneath you and hands gently resting on thighs. Lift your heels off the floor, pressing the balls of the feet down as you keep your core engaged. This pose will strengthen your ankles and allow you to experiment with balance in a squatting position.
Another arm balancing exercise. Place the palms of your hands on the mat, about shoulder length apart. Lift one of the legs up and do 5 jumps, while keeping your balance. With a lot of practice, you’ll be able to hold a handstand here for a longer period of time.
From there, go straight into your standing split, buy pulling your head closer to the knee and bending your top foot. Your bottom knee can be bend too, just try to get your head low.
Needless to say, you have to do the same thing on the other side as well.
Balance is not only super important from the top game, but also from the bottom. And here’s where our last pose comes in – the boat pose.
It starts in a seated position with knees bent and feet on the floor. From there, extend the arms out straight at shoulder height.
Lift the feet of the floor, so the legs are bent at 90 degrees. An advanced variation would be to extend the legs straight so the feet point up and your body makes a “V” shape. Lifting your chest more will also make this pose a bit harder. So just adjust the pose to your own level.
Boat Pose is a challenging balance pose, that not only engages your deep core,but also strengthens the hip flexors and spine.
Mastering these poses will massively improve your top game by making you far harder to sweep. It will also improve throws and takedowns, as well as your passing game.
The video tutorial is a part of the 10-in-10 program, which features 10 different areas of focus in 10 days. 10 minutes of practice a day. It is an easy and worthwhile commitment to start building your yoga practice. Your jiu-jitsu will thank you.