Martial arts principles for better yoga
When you unroll your yoga mat and lunge into warrior pose, do you ever feel like you’re just going through the motions? As your yoga practice develops from an exciting new venture and becomes a weekly routine, it’s not surprising that it can start to feel a bit stale after a while. That’s why it’s important to find ways to keep it fresh. One such way is to combine the principles of martial arts with your yoga practice.
If the idea of mixing martial arts principles with yoga startles you, note that the two practices share a number of similarities: they both encourage strength, flexibility, breath control, discipline and focus. So while it may sound unconventional to mix these ancient eastern practices, there are certainly ideas from martial arts that have the ability to rejuvenate and deepen your yoga practice. Here are three.
Embody your yoga practice fully
In martial arts, practitioners spend hours repeating the same bodily motions to perfect a single block, kick, or punch. Paying attention to not only what you are doing, but how you are doing it, is of the utmost importance because when facing an opponent, mistakes can hurt – literally.
Next time you practice yoga, pay attention to the “how” of your poses and transitions. Feel the stretch in your legs as you hold downward dog. Embrace the ache in your arms as you bend into scorpion pose. Most importantly, be mindful that it’s not about the end result, but the journey.
Remember that a fundamental principle of yoga is to pay attention to your breathing. This helps you stay present in your body, one breath at a time. Try to synchronize your breathing to your movements. This will help you embody your yoga practice fully and breathe new life into it.
Wear a blindfold
Martial arts practitioners sometimes use blindfolds to improve muscle memory and bodily awareness. Transferring this practice to yoga can have a similar benefit. Not only will you be more present in your body, but you’ll also improve coordination and balance.
To incorporate a blindfold into your yoga practice, start slowly. Use it for only one pose at first. As you become more comfortable, add another pose until you can go through an entire yoga session blindfolded.
Yield, instead of force
“Be like water,” Bruce Lee once said. What does water have to do with martial arts? Water never fights or forces no matter what obstacle it faces. It is always soft, always flexible and can dissolve even the hardest of substances in time.
For many martial arts styles, yielding is a fundamental principle. The idea is to use the energy of your opponent against him or her, using as little force as possible. How can this apply to yoga? Don’t force yourself into poses. Instead, listen to your body. Breathe into your poses, and allow your body to deepen and soften into them in its own time. With practice, you’ll be able to ease more fluidly into your poses – as naturally as water itself.
Want more ideas on how to rejuvenate your yoga practice? Call us today to talk with one of our seasoned yoga teachers.