In our last issue I touched on stretches that can be performed with your belt to further assist you with deeper stretches in order to improve your current physical condition. I’d like to further expand the variety of stretches available to you that can be performed with a belt, as well as, introduce their yoga-based roots.
What is yoga?
Yoga is a Hindu discipline aimed at training the consciousness for a state of perfect spiritual insight, heightened awareness, and tranquility. The actual physical act is a system of exercises practiced to promote control of the body and mind through physical and mental exercise. If the philosophical term doesn’t work for you, think of it as stretching on steroids (minus all the side effects & legal issues) combined with meditation.
Why do it?
The real question you should be asking yourself is, “Why not do it?” I understand that certain individuals may not believe yoga to be beneficial for them for whatever reason; however, you must keep in mind that you’re working your mind, your focus, your belief, and your faith, and in jiu-jitsu, that can take you a long way. I’ve come across very talented individuals who are beasts at their school, but put them in a tournament and all that talent is for not because they lose sight of these ideals during a match. Suddenly, all confidence fades away. Yoga can assist a jiu-jitsu practitioner by teaching him how to have his mind properly set up for success through improvement of focus, belief, and faith. In my opinion, training the body is much easier than training the mind for success. If you’re interested in learning more about the mental application of yoga through various breathing techniques and meditation, I suggest doing further research into the subject matter. Not only will you get this benefit, but you’ll also receive all the benefits of stretching stated in Issue 19.
If you’ve been practicing those stretches, you’ve already been doing yoga, at least the physical aspect. The shoulder stretch is called the Cow Face Pose, aka Gomukhasana, the butterfly stretch is the Bound Angle Pose, aka Baddha Konasana, and the hamstring stretch is the Reclining Big Toe Pose, aka Supta Padangusthasana, for example.
Let’s reiterate the benefits…
In case you haven’t checked it out, be sure to get a Jiu-Jitsu Magazine back issue of #19. There, I advised that stretching provides the following benefits:
• Decreases muscle stiffness and the risk of low back pain.
• Improves posture.
• Increases range of motion.
• May reduce your risk of injury.
• Helps reduce or manage stress.
• Reduces muscular tension.
• Enhances muscular relaxation.
• Promotes circulation.
• Helps relieve post-exercise aches and pains.
*Prescription for each stretch/pose: Hold these positions for 20-30 seconds and then slowly release each stretch. If needed, switch legs and repeat the movement three times. Remember to focus on your breathing and remain calm.
Seated Forward Bend (Paschimottanasana)
1. Have both legs extended out in front of you.
2. Place the belt around the balls of your feet.
3. Bring your upper torso down by pulling on the belt with your grip near your feet. Keep the neck at the natural extension of the spine. Do not round your back.
*Strengthens/stretches the spine, shoulders, and hamstrings.
Bow Pose (Dhanurasana)
1. Lie on your back with your knees up and feet on the ground.
2. Loop belt around both ankles and grab excess of belt behind your calves.
3. Roll over onto your belly with your arms to the side.
4. While clasping your hands around the belt, press evenly up and back through both shins and feet, and lift thighs and chest off the ground. Gaze upwards, keeping neck long.
*Strengthens/stretches the entire front of the body, ankles, thighs and groin, abdomen, chest, throat, and deep hip flexors.
Reclined Big Toe Pose 2 (Supta Padangusthasana 2)
1. Lift one leg up with your belt wraped around your foot (Padangusthasansa 1) Grab the belt with the same-sided hand as the leg that is up. Place your other hand on your hip to hold it down.
2. Roll the lifted leg out in the hip socket, drawing the lifted leg up towards you, and lower it out to the side. Do not let the weight roll into the lifted leg so that you tip over.
*Strengthens/stretches back and hamstring muscles while opening up the hips.
Reclined Big Toe Pose Variation (Supta Padangusthasana Variation)
1. Come into Supta Padangusthasana 1 (Reclined Big Toe Pose I) with one leg lifted. But this time grab the belt with opposite-sided hand of the leg that is up. Your other arm is extended and down on the floor.
2. Roll the lifted leg inward and across your body, while looking away.
3. Come back up to Supta Padangusthasana 1 and switch to the other leg.
Revolved Head-to-Knee Pose (Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana)
1. Extend one leg out to the side and bring the heel of the other leg into the opposite leg crease.
2. Loop belt around foot of extended leg.
3. While holding the belt, turn toward the opposite knee. Begin pulling yourself down toward your extended leg.
4. Bring belt behind neck, bring your rear hand closer to your neck by walking your grip down your belt, release front hand grip, and place your hand down on the ground.
*Strengthens/stretches the hamstrings, spine, shoulders, lower back, and sides of the abdomen.
Boat Pose (Paripurna Navasana)
1. Tie a knot at the ends of your belt so it forms a circle. (This pose may require you tying two belts together and having some excess slack; dependent upon the length of your legs and belt.) Slip the looped belt over your head, placing it just beneath your shoulder blades.
2. Bring your knees up and place the other portion of the belt against the bottoms of your feet. You should be inside the circle.
3. Place your hands behind you, press into the floor, squeeze your knees and feet together, and then extend your legs up.
*Strengthens/stretches the abdomen, hip flexors, and spine.
By now I hope you’ve decided to invest some time into practicing these yoga-based stretches to benefit your jiu-jitsu game. At first, they may seem tough, but if you are persistent and focus completely on what you are doing, it’ll get easier and easier. They can only help you get better; which after all is your overall goal. Roll on my friends.