By Sean Fagan
Is it crazy for me to say that Yoga has been a major part of my success in Muay Thai and in life?
It might be, especially when most people have preconceptions about practicing Yoga that are (mostly) not true.
Sure, there are some weird chants, poses, and techniques that you’ll find yourself doing during an intense Yoga class, but if you’re able to laugh at yourself and take Yoga for what it is, it can be incredibly beneficial to your Muay Thai training and life in general.
I challenge you to step out of your comfort zone and give Yoga a try. Although it might not be for everyone, I’m confident that you will take something useful from the practice if you stick with it.
One of the most obvious benefits you’ll notice when you start to implement Yoga and Muay Thai together is the improvement in your flexibility and your overall range of motion.
Every Muay Thai fighter’s dream is to land the perfect head kick knockout, right? Unfortunately, if you struggle with hip and hamstring flexibility, it can hinder you from throwing a solid head kick.
The variety of stretches you do during a Yoga class will drastically help with not only your hip flexibility, but it will help open up your chest, loosen up your hamstrings, lengthen your spine, and so much more!
Don’t get me wrong though, you can’t expect to all of the sudden be able to do a split or head kick after just doing a few sessions. Like anything else, flexibility takes discipline and commitment to stretch every day. Although Yoga is great for Muay Thai, you’re also going to want to have a complete stretching routine to follow after your training sessions as well. If I were to recommend one proven way to open up your hips and to kick higher (besides Yoga) it would be Yoga For Muay Thai, by my wife, Liz Fagan.
Being more aware and focused has probably been the number one benefit I’ve gotten from Yoga. I know, you would think the fact that I can touch my toes would be what I brag about most, but in reality, the ability to control my thoughts and breathing has helped in more ways than one.
First, I’ve become much more in control of my emotions and thoughts leading up to a fight. Before practicing Yoga for Muay Thai, my mind would constantly be filled with anxiety, excitement, fear, and every other emotion under the sun.
Now I’m not saying that all these emotions have disappeared because I do Yoga (because they haven’t) but what I’m saying is since practicing Yoga I have become much more comfortable with these types of emotions arising. Needless to say, instead of my emotions controlling me, I feel much more in control of my emotions.
Secondly, Yoga has helped me tremendously with my breathing. I know, who needs help breathing right? Well, if you’ve ever trained intensely, or better yet, been in a Muay Thai fight, you should know how easy it is to get tired and lose control of your breathe. With Yoga practice you will be much more in-tune with your body and mind and be able to catch your breathe, slow down your heart rate, and be in control of your thoughts during moments of complete chaos and between rounds.
Ever heard of “the flow state of mind”?
Well, this is the state of mind you hear athletes or fighters talk about when everything slows down and they are locked “in the zone”. Although there are some great supplements that can help you unlock this state of mind, through consistent Yoga practice you will be able to get “in the zone” almost on queue.
If you’ve seen some of the more advanced Yoga poses, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about when I say that Yoga takes a tremendous amount of balance. And since you’re into Muay Thai, you should know how balance plays a major role in being able to perform certain techniques correctly (especially your roundhouse kicks).
If you start to do Yoga for Muay Thai, you’ll notice how much more in control of your body you become after just a few weeks of consistent yoga practice. Not only that, but you will also feel much more confident throwing techniques that normally cause you to lose balance. Trust me, after holding some of these super awkward yoga poses for minutes at a time, pivoting on the balls of your feet for a roundhouse will feel much easier.
The amount of strength, coordination, and balance it takes to perform some of the more advanced Yoga poses is ridiculous! You might take a class where a girl shaped like a toothpick can do a handstand pushup into a handstand split and then slowly control her body to the ground… it’s absolutely insane.
Not only will you build your upper body strength by performing plank, handstands, and a number of other poses, but you will also dramatically improve your leg strength and core as well. Some of the movements that you see yogis do might look easy, but that’s just because their core is so developed that they have complete control of the movement of their bodies.
Screw lifting weights! If you can balance on one hand I think that’s more impressive than benching 400+ lbs.
Being able to push through the pain, discomfort, and stress of certain situations will not only help you fight through adversity in the ring, but it will also help you in overcome everyday challenges you face in your life.
When things get rough (whether in or out of the ring) it takes a strong person to persevere and overcome. Sadly enough, a lot of people can easily break mentally when pushed past their limits. They’ll beat themselves up and give up much more easily than someone who is mentally strong and can persevere through the difficulties that are inevitable in training and in life.
Fortunately, by training Yoga you will become much more in tune with your body, mind, and spirit (I know it sounds corny, but it’s true).
You will learn to be comfortable even when you are super uncomfortable. You’ll learn how to push past the mental barriers that are trying to break you down. You’ll learn how to turn the voices in your head off that are constantly screaming negativity at you and telling you to quit. You’ll learn how to turn a bad situation into a great opportunity with something as simple as changing your perspective.
I know, this is all spiritual and deep, but it’s honest truth.
I truly believe that if I haven’t been practicing Yoga, I wouldn’t have had the mental strength to continue fighting 4 more rounds with a broken arm and win. I don’t believe that I would be able to push my body as much as I do during intense training sessions without yoga either. And most importantly, I don’t think I’d be as grateful or happy as I am right now if I didn’t practice Yoga on a regular basis.
Yoga can be beneficial for individuals recovering from injuries - and those looking to avoid future injuries, too. It provides a low-impact form of exercise that gently strengthens the body while promoting flexibility and circulation. Yoga can aid in rehabilitating injured muscles, tendons, and ligaments by gradually increasing their strength and mobility.
Also, Yoga will improve your mobility! Chronic stress and tension can contribute to muscular tightness and restricted movement. Yoga incorporates relaxation techniques, breathing exercises, and meditation, which help to alleviate stress and promote relaxation. By reducing stress levels, yoga indirectly supports better mobility and decreases the risk of injuries caused by tense muscles.
Why not give Yoga a try? If you can get all these amazing benefits mixing Yoga with Muay Thai, what do you have to lose?
Sure, you’ll probably suck at first and feel a little awkward during class, but didn’t you feel the same exact way when you first started Muay Thai?
I challenge you to step out of your comfort zone and give Yoga a try. It may not be for you, but how will you know if you don’t try?
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