Yoga and Martial Arts

At first glance, Yoga and Martial Arts seem like opposing forces and philosophies, but on closer inspection they are in fact opposite sides of the same coin, yin and yang you could say.

After many years of constant back pain, trips to osteopaths, physios and a real downturn in my spirit generally, coupled with the fear of having to quit my greatest love martial arts, I started to look at alternative ways I could ease my pain. I decided a double prong approach – firstly the mental side to dealing with pain. I decided to no longer think about the pain, as I felt I was in a cycle of expecting the pain then receiving it.   I do not advocate you ignore pain; however, I recognised a pattern between the psychological link and the reoccurring pain. The second action was to look for alternative softer training for the body and mind, to compliment the hardness of martial arts.

This is where I turned to Yoga. I have found Yoga one of the hardest mental and physical challenges, in many ways. Firstly the realisation that no matter how fit and strong I was from martial arts, I am very much a beginner at yoga and find the postures very challenging. I left some classes quite deflated to be honest.   Yoga makes you very aware of your body – where it is out of alignment, or where there are area’s that don’t feel right, which can be hidden during a tough martial arts class, adrenalin is a great pain killer!

Yoga postures can correct muscle imbalances, align the joints, improving bone density, lengthening and strengthening the muscles to prevent pain and injury. Improve breathing techniques and efficiency, improve reaction times and reduce recovery times. Also enables a greater range of motion in the joints meaning greater explosive power!

Since discovering Yoga I have seen a reduction in my back pain, and most excitingly it created a whole new approach to my martial arts training.   Many professional athletes and martial artist are now practicing yoga to achieve longevity in their chosen sport.

Martial arts is about hiding pain, hiding fear, pushing to the maximum, striving for the best.  You leave a class soaked in sweat, knowing a little bit more about yourself, feeling alive and knowing every muscle has given its all. Yoga is about going to the edge but never beyond, quietening the mind and listening to what your body is telling you; you might not always want to hear the answers!  You leave the class feeling grounded, calm and with a feeling you have healed your mind and body– ready to beast it back in the Dojo!   I would also say approach Yoga with caution, it may be associated with relaxtion and wellness, however, do not be fooled into thinking it is impossible to sustain injury in the practise, it most definitely is so like yoga advises, only go to your edge never beyond.

A quote which I think sums up Yoga perhaps…  “Water is fluid, soft, and yielding. But water will wear away rock, which is rigid and cannot yield. As a rule, whatever is fluid, soft, and yielding will overcome whatever is rigid and hard. This is another paradox: what is soft is strong.” ― Lao Tzu Oss

Sensei Jo