If you’re deep into your MMA training, there likely comes a time when you realize that you NEED to prioritize your mobility and flexibility.
Better flexibility = fewer injuries and greater endurance.
So after my own experiences of flexibility woes and injuries, I decided to put together this article on the best yoga for MMA, including types and poses to choose to help you in your own training. Let’s get to it!
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My Experiences With Yoga In MMA
After the first year or so of my own MMA training, I began hitting persistent walls.
I’d burn out easier with trying to fit in more kinds of training, and I’d get injured a lot. My back, my toe, my chest and ribs, my wrist, my elbow… the issues kept piling up.
When you first start mixed martial arts, the excitement alone can drive you for a long while. But when you hit your first injuries (we all do), it can be a struggle to get back to your best training sessions.
Sure, we can take steps to prevent injuries, like using hand wraps properly and wearing a mouthguard in sparring. But many common injuries come from a lack of flexibility or mobility and being caught in an awkward position.
I had to learn to look after my body better. What helped me a lot was to spend a lot more focus and time on flexibility and mobility. And that led me to use a mix of Yoga disciplines to do it.
So here’s what I’ve learned…
Is Yoga Good for MMA Training?
Yoga is a good addition to MMA training because not only will it help you to improve your flexibility and mobility, which benefits many martial arts, but will lead to greater stability in your joints and muscles. This means you can train better and get injured less.
Let’s focus on some of these core benefits:
Have you noticed that you tend to repeat moves quite often in MMA? Training occasionally left me with severely tense muscles and knots.
However, once I started combining yoga with my MMA training, everything became easier. I noticed that I improved in delivering my high kicks, and I could pack up more strength in my punches. Yoga poses stretch our muscles, making our joints more fluid.
Practicing Yoga for martial arts like Judo or BJJ is also excellent where moving your body in awkward positions requires a lot of strength in outstretched movements or positions.
Calm and Deep Breathing
By engaging in belly breathing, I can now focus on my breathing during extended matches.
Yoga poses such as sun salutation allows you to concentrate on your inhale/exhale rhythm. And you can’t imagine the immense benefits better breathing can offer during MMA.
Holding poses for lengthy periods may seem like a walk in the park when you see a yogi doing it. However, that isn’t the case!
A constant pose strains your muscles, leading to a quick buildup of lactic acid.
By maintaining the discipline needed in yoga, you can improve your endurance not only during these exercises but also in MMA.
This is a BIG one. MMA training may lead to the tightening of particular muscles.
We tend to adopt a certain style of striking or technique. Sometimes that can be sub-optimum. As a result, we perfect our skills on one side at the expense of the other.
In doing so, we become prone to injuries when our opponents capitalize on our weakest areas.
Through yoga, we attain body awareness, which may help us find a better posture. Additionally, the enhancement of flexibility ensures we improve our skills all-round to handle attacks from any direction.
Better Core Strength
Are you among MMA enthusiasts who take yoga classes to carry out meditative and flexibility exercises? It may shock you once you realize that doing a yoga pose isn’t a big deal but maintaining a particular pose can be difficult.
Keeping these poses for extended periods forces you to use your core muscles. Consequently, you’ll feel a burning sensation. But, the more you can maintain the poses, the better your core strength becomes.
You don’t necessarily need to lift weights as a fighter to improve your strength (though it definitely helps), as practices like Yoga have great benefits to increasing core strength.
An improvement in your core strength results in better kicks and punches and far fewer injuries!
Do You Have To Be Flexible to Do MMA?
Although you don’t need to be flexible to start MMA training, it’s crucial to improve flexibility as you progress. With improved flexibility, you can deliver more advanced strikes like spinning kicks more easily. Flexibility also helps ground fighting and is necessary for success in BJJ.
Most MMA gyms accept individuals with no MMA background or who may not have an exercise routine. The same goes for flexibility and mobility, but it is an important part of any martial art.
Fluid motion allows you to make a wide range of defensive movements to ensure you are always a step ahead of your opponents who are less flexible.
Flexibility allows you to properly position your body, improving your level of preparedness when your opponents’ throw kicks and punches.
Quickly responding to your opponents’ moves may also save you from kicks and punches that would have led to serious injuries.
Trying out stretching exercises such as yoga ensures you are in a prime position to improve your MMA skills.
Let’s envision a rubber band. Isn’t a short one stiffer than a long one? And, isn’t a stiffer one easier to break? A long band is more flexible and difficult to snap.
Stretching exercises can lengthen your muscles. Each time you engage in yoga, your body undergoes minute muscle tears. During repair, these muscles get reconstructed, allowing you to be more flexible.
Flexible muscles make punching and hitting easier. It minimizes your chances of losing balance after performing a high kick.
Are Professional MMA Fighters Flexible?
Professional MMA fighters are often very flexible. With the various martial arts and conditioning they undertake, their bodies are stressed and stretched to the limit. At the professional level, fighters also need to have regular mobility sessions to reduce fatigue and prevent injury.
Any fighter needs to be flexible to stay in control of many situations, like in ground game. Otherwise, you’ll restrict your range of movements and won’t be able to tap into situations that will give you an advantage over your opponents.
Take the example of Vasyl Lomanchenko. Whilst a boxer, he is a good example of an elite striker because he moves with so much swiftness that he attacks his opponents without giving them a chance to redeem themselves.
His movements are similar to a ballerina dancer. Before opponents can counter an attack, he moves quickly and unexpectedly attacks them from behind.
Anderson Silva is another great example. Are you wondering why he holds the longest title reign at UFC? It’s not all about strength but his impressive range of movements.
Notice knockout number five from the video above, look at the ease of teep to the face and a resulting knockout.
Did you know he used to fight with his hands down! Shifting between striking and evading opponent punches with finesse ensured he remained a beast in MMA.
Another great response of Silva’s abilities to watch is when he grabbed James Irvin’s leg (knockout number two on the video above) as he delivered a kick, responding with a right straight and sending him to the ground, and finishing it off by dominating him with ground n pound.
The Best Types of Yoga for MMA
There are four main types of Yoga that are ideal for MMA fighters and students:
Each type of yoga comes with subtle benefits that can aid mixed martial artists’ training.
Let’s look a bit closer into each:
If you are a fan of Vinyasa like I am, you understand the numerous merits of this yoga style.
From improving sleep patterns to stress relief, there is a lot that Vinyasa can do for any person. But how is this yoga style beneficial to MMA fighters?
Previously, we mentioned that one of the benefits of yoga is enhancing core strength, something Vinyasa does best.
This style improves your endurance and stamina. It has intense exercises to enhance resistance and body balance.
I personally love this style since it aims at improving overall body strength.
From arm balance to backbends and inversions, Vinyasa strengthens the muscles you need to beat your opponents during MMA.
Improved flexibility and better posture are other advantages. Better coordination makes MMA fights more straightforward.
When I started my MMA journey, I could barely finish ten minutes before feeling like I was going to pass out.
After my sensei told me that my breathing rhythm was the issue, I started holding back, only taking a few puffs in between lengthy periods of punching and kicking. And you know what?
That is until I found out how Hatha can be beneficial to MMA.
Deep breaths followed by prolonging the exhalation period. A deep exhale followed by a delay in inhalation.
Over time, I improved my breathing rhythm, allowing me to fight for a longer time. And that wasn’t all I gained from Hatha!
Through Hatha, my body posture improved. With a better posture, I can move around the ring faster and avoid punches more frequently.
For MMA fighters interested in intense posture workouts, there isn’t a better yoga exercise than Yin.
Yes, other yoga styles may have extended posture maintaining exercises. But none compares to the periods you have to maintain in yin.
Yin aids in resilience improvement and better body alignment. Since it mostly involves floor postures, it assists MMA fighters in ground fighting.
While restorative yoga may not be as intense as other yoga styles, it’s one of the best styles for of Yoga for fighters.
After an intense match or MMA practice session, our muscles tend to shrink. And Restorative yoga is a great way to ensure they remain stretched and your body retains flexibility.
I love Restorative yoga because you’ll be able to gain many benefits with relatively minimal effort compared to the other styles.
The Best Yoga Poses For MMA
Here are the poses that will offer you a lot of benefits for becoming an MMA fighter.
This pose involves bending your back by ensuring your chest is outwards.
Through this posture, I was able to counter forward hunching shoulders present amongst many MMA fighters.
There’s lots of benefits to this pose. The hips open up, and if you pull your shoulders down and back then you can improve the strength and stability in your shoulders and upper spine.
It can help to counteract hunching (if you work at a desk all day), hunching isn’t ideal for your body, and the Cobra can help you to improve your body alignment.
People with lower back issues should probably avoid this pose altogether, and work on stretching the hamstrings, upper back, and hips in other ways (like the Pigeon below).
The pigeon pose stretches your leg and hip muscles. It’s an excellent way to enhance your guard skills. It’s particularly essential in high and closed-guard training.
Pigeon pose is ideal if you want to improve hip rotation and have an upper edge during ground fighting.
Some people, especially super tight men, could find the pigeon difficult at first. To make it a bit easier, you can use yoga blocks to raise yourself from the floor by placing one under your seating spot. Some also need some help by adding them under their knee or ankle as well.
This triangular-shaped body posture with your arms extended forward has surprisingly more advantages to MMA than you can imagine.
It’s a fantastic way to stretch your hamstrings, calf muscles, and feet, ensuring you can deliver high kicks more easily.
You can strengthen your shoulder muscles, triceps and biceps, quads, knee joints, and more. With better body strength, you can inflict more damage to your opponent.
Including the best yoga for MMA training might supplement your techniques in various ways.
Imagine improving your core strength, posture, and more, all in a single package! Not to mention, there are other immense health benefits of yoga.
Any serious MMA trainee or fighter should take yoga to stay in the best shape.