You come to class, do a quick warm up, train, roll, and go home to clean out your fridge and pass out on the couch. We’ve been told to stretch when we exercise since middle school gym class, so why do so many practitioners skip out now?
Most people just want to go home, and the thought of spending an extra fifteen minutes holding poses while sweat dries on their body isn’t very appealing. So, we forget the aftercare and get going.
I’m guilty of this too, and paying the price in injuries and killer DOMS. In an effort to convince you (and maybe myself) to take some time for dynamic stretches, I’ve dug up some information on the deep and vast benefits of a good cool down.
If you don’t know what yoga is, I suggest you turn off your computer and go outside for a bit, then come back and look it up.
Yoga just so happens to be a perfect mixture of isometric and dynamic stretching with a host of benefits that extend far beyond simple range of motion. People who practice yoga have shown increases in muscle endurance and strength along with flexibility1. Other health benefits reported include decreased blood pressure, suspected increase in baroreceptor sensitivity, injury prevention, cardiovascular health, more efficient respiration, and weight control1,2.
So, a greatly improved quality of life is all well and good, but what about my jiu-jitsu?
Never fear, my friend, I’ll delve deeper in to the good stuff below.
Yoga is very different than static stretching, which in reality does little to benefit the body. Yoga engages the entire body and involves multiple fluid transitions speckled with isometric poses. This setup works the normally small and forgotten muscles, such as the subclavius, pectoralis minor, and coracobrachialis5 while simultaneously realigning and lengthening strangled muscles3. By extension, this lengthening and realigning of skeletal muscle brings blood to otherwise cramped tissues4 while also increasing the circulation of lymph fluid, speeding up recovery times by up to 15%5.
Okay so you could probably get on board with all of that. After all, we hear about the “restorative benefits” of yoga all the time and now you just know a little about what that means. What might be more surprising, however, are the edges yoga can give you, actively, in the heat of a competition.
Yoga has been shown to increase the vital capacity (the maximum amount of air that can be exhaled after the deepest possible inhalation) and tidal volume (lung volume without extra effort) of practitioners5. Translation: yoga expands your lungs, making each breath more efficient. Yoga also improves what your muscles actually do with that oxygen, increasing the VO2 max and respiratory endurance of skeletal muscles in male and female athletes6.
During a fight or competition, mental health is just as imperative to victory as physical health. Luckily both anecdotal and scientific evidence is just lining up at the door to once again sing the praises of regular yoga practice. Many yogis and yoginis claim a better mental and emotional attitude after practice, and there is evidence that supports the claim. Some studies suggest that yoga can improve the balance between our sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, allowing us to be more calm and focused5,6. There is also evidence that it lowers the galvanic skin response, which is a measure of physical stress often used in lie detector tests.
All of these claims may seem incredible, and in a way they are. So I encourage you to try to practice for yourself. Start slow with short videos or classes and build over time. As with any sport or exercise, volume doesn’t necessarily matter as much as consistency.
Please note that while doing yoga on your own is awesome, to get the full benefits it might be worth checking out a couple of classes or consulting with a professional.
Quite frankly, I’m barely scratching the surface on how good this stuff is for you both mentally and physically. For more information, check out my sources below:
1. Publications, Harvard Health. “Yoga – Benefits Beyond the Mat.” Harvard Health. Harvard, Feb. 2015. Web. 15 Dec. 2016.
2. “The Benefits of Yoga.” The Benefits of Yoga. American Osteopathic Association, n.d. Web. 15 Dec. 2016.
3. Lloyd-Billington, Michael. “6 Athletic Performance Benefits of Yoga & How to Achieve Them.” Onnit Academy. Onnit, 29 Nov. 2016. Web. 15 Dec. 2016.
4. Lees, Kristi. “Yoga – Debunking The Myths.” Bodybuilding.com. N.p., 04 Nov. 2016. Web. 15 Dec. 2016.
5. Sharma, Luxmi. “Benefits of Yoga in Sports- A Study.” Internal Journal of Physical Education, Sports, and Health (2015): 1-3. KheliJournal.com. Internal Journal of Physical Education, Sports, and Health. Web. 15 Dec. 2016.
6. Bhutkar, Pratima M., Milind V. Butkar, Govind B. Taware, Vinayak Doijad, and B.R. Doddamani. “Effect of Suryanamaskar Practice on Cardio-respiratory Fitness Parameters: A Pilot Study.” Al Ameen J Med. Sci. 1.2 (2008): 1-4. Web. 19 Dec. 2016.