Why Yoga is Awesome for Aikidoists
It’s time to roll out your yoga mat and discover the combination of physical and mental exercises that for thousands of years have hooked yoga practitioners around the globe. The beauty of yoga is that you don’t have to be a yogi or yogini to reap the benefits. Whether you are young or old, overweight or fit, yoga has the power to calm the mind and strengthen the body. Don’t be intimidated by yoga terminology, fancy yoga studios and complicated poses. Yoga is for everyone.
Many people add yoga to their fitness routine to improve flexibility and balance. There is considerable research that backs this benefit, demonstrating that it can optimize performance through the use of specific poses that target flexibility and balance.
A recent study looked at the impact of 10 weeks of yoga on 26 male college athletes. Doing yoga significantly increased several measures of flexibility and balance, compared to the control group. Another study assigned 66 elderly participants to either practice yoga or calisthenics, a type of body weight exercise. After one year, total flexibility of the yoga group increased by nearly four times that of the calisthenics group.
In addition to improving flexibility, yoga is a great addition to an exercise routine for its strength-building benefits. In fact, there are specific poses in yoga that are designed to increase strength and build muscle.
Incorporating regular yoga into your life as an aikidoist has more benefits than you might think.
Yoga practice strengthens both the key supporting muscles used in aikido and the underused muscles. The movement on the mat develops strength in the core, quads, hamstrings and hip flexors which will help us to stay injury free.
We need strength to perform exercise but also the flexibility to move with freedom and ease. Yoga poses held for long periods of time create elasticity and loosen up the muscles, joints, ligaments and connective tissues that will ultimately help to do aikido with more freedom.
Breathing is one of the most important parts of Hatha yoga, the breath nourishes and guides the asana (posture) practice. Through conscious breathing we are more aware of sensations in the body, we learn that slower breathing is more relaxing, faster breathing is more energizing. When doing aikido we can breath to bring about a more relaxed mental state or feel more alert and focused. Breath work will increase oxygen intake and can help reduce performance anxiety.
Yoga will not only balance out the body but the mind too. Yoga teaches us to look after our bodies and having that balance of training hard and taking time to rest, recover and heal.
The foundation for efficient movement in aikido is posture. Yoga teaches us to elongate the spine without adding any tension. Alignment is key in yoga and as we learn to stand taller, stronger without tension we can practice this in our technique.
Through yoga you cultivate improved concentration and the ability to overcome the ego, learning to accept the body and mind you have on the day and only push it as far as it will go.