8 Oct 2016

Review - Yoga for BJJ

Yoga for BJJ is an online yoga instructional website taught by BJJ brown belt black belt Sebastian Brosche. I decided to try the course out having never had any yoga experience before. This is my day by day diary of the first few weeks.

*NOTE: This report has been updated following six months of use. See end of article for updates.

I have for a long time heard a lot about how yoga practice was really good for BJJ people. Yet I've never been tempted before. There are two main reasons why I felt now was the right time to try out Sebastian's Yoga For BJJ site: the main reason is that I was picking up a huge and growing list of personal endorsements and recommendations from BJJ friends about the program. The other reason is that I've really been feeling my body ageing - the slow recovery times after training, the increasing lack of flexibility, the poor posture, the repeat incidents of low back pain...it seemed the time was right for me to do something about all of this and Yoga for BJJ seemed to fit the bill, especially as I lack the time to attend a real world class.

Sebastian Brosche
I don't know Sebastian personally, but I've seen him compete at the TUFF Invitational. He's a BJJ brown black belt from Sweden who lives in Norway. There is a handy AMA on Reddit if you want to know more about him. Suffice to say I was suitably happy that he came across as a legitimate yoga instructor and a high level BJJ practitioner to trust in his methods.

Sebastian himself in high flying action

Signing on
As a complete yoga virgin, I didn't really know what to expect from the program. Probably like most folk, my mental image of yoga is filled with stereotypical ideas about impossible body positions, meditating in lotus, lycra leggings and tantric shenanigans.

Signing on to the website was super easy. The website layout was easy to navigate and I like the fact that the first month is only $7, with a monthly fee of $17 thereafter or a yearly subscription of $150. Users can cancel at any time. I paid for the monthly subscription plan. Compare those fees to my local yoga class, which is £10GBP per one hour session or £90 for a block of ten sessions. Obviously, attending a real world class is arguably more preferable to learning online, but as Sebastian says in his AMA:

"The vibe at a yoga studio can be irreplacable, and the social aspect will be missing in any online venture. However, even at a studio with a very good instructor, there will be very little personal follow-up, so there will not be that much different from taking an online class."

When you sign in, Sebastian welcomes you with an introductory video. He explains the ideal progression: Begin with the 10 in 10 program, move on to either Yoga for Rocks or Start-up week. Yoga for rocks is for those whom lack flexibility or require an extra gentle step before moving to start-up week. After start-up week, users then take part in Foundation Week. After this, they are free to pick and choose the many various programs available on Sebastian's site. The main programs tend to focus on isolated body parts, so for example there is Back Week or Shoulder Week etc. There are also many additional videos that can be cherry picked according to your needs. The archive is huge and Sebastian is constantly adding to it. My impression here is that my monthly subscription will be well catered for with a growing collection of fresh new material.

Users can select a yoga program from the main dashboard
Ten in Ten Beginner's Program
The 10 in 10 is the 10 day program where Sebastian advises all of us to start. Each day he runs through a different set of stretches and positions that last a mere ten minutes. It seemed the perfect way to start for a complete beginner like me.

Here are some excerpts taken from my daily Facebook updates:

Day one of the 10/10 beginner program involves working the hip area. My god how stiff am I !!!! Sebastian talks you through the exercises, but it's uncanny how he knows every ache and pain I am feeling as he narrates the instruction. Very detailed so far, but not impossible to do. Day one complete, my hips are feeling loose!

Day Two of my Yoga for BJJ beginner's 10/10 program. Today Sebastian works on the shoulders. The BJJ link continues as he gets us to grab a BJJ belt for the exercises. I found these exercises easier to do than yesterday as my shoulders are fairly flexible to begin with.

Day 3 today was all about the spine, basic cat stretches, downward dog and other positions that flex and stretch this area. I must admit I didn't enjoy this set as much, this is due to my stiff back which is recovering from a recent bout of pain. I'm normally able to roll my feet over my shoulders and touch the floor but not today.

Day 4 was all about the hamstrings. I was dreading this. Sebastian refers to an analogy about muscles being a lot like a piece of steak - they'll get softer the longer you cook them. I feel my hamstrings have the consistency of beef jerky, that's going to require a lot of cooking! The stretches involving the belt don't allow for too much slack, although again, I had to perform the less stretchy version of each exercise. Despite that, I did feel slight tingles as I pulled and my leg began to shake under the stretch after a few breaths. It didn't used to be this way. Back when I did kickboxing and karate, I very much took for granted that I could do splits and extreme leg stretches. This is no longer the case. Sebastian spent a little more time to chat on this episode, providing a bit of a pep talk on how yoga should best be viewed as a daily routine rather like how one views eating a meal everyday, as opposed to a big once a week workout. Interesting stuff and clearly my hamstrings are in an awful state which I hope more yoga stretching will help improve.

Day 5 focused on the hip flexors. These exercises I could do without grimacing or wobbling, didn't require the belt either for the stretch pictured here so a good set for me, which makes a change considering how awful my hamstring stretches have been. Sebastian ends the set here with a warning not to slouch when sitting on the matside waiting for your turn to spar...guilty as charged! From now on, I will be sitting in good posture on the mat.

I was too crazy busy past three days so neglected my Yoga for BJJ ten day program. I'm back on track and Day 6 is all about the Core. Sebastian gets a bit more hardcore on this session, he refers to the well known Russian way of motivation ;) Anyway, these were fairly easy to do, though planks are never fun haha.

I felt like a dyspraxic ape in Day 7 of my Yoga for BJJ 10 day program. The one where you have to clench your fists from a sort of inverted wrist lock position is really hard to do. The others were a push on my body too, clearly my wrists and ankles need a lot of help!

Day 8 of Yoga for BJJ and today was a short cardio routine. These were really fun to do, although I needed to stop the video and work out my coordination for a couple of the exercises. Then I realised they were similar to the 'technical standup' style exercises as we normally do in BJJ. At one stage Sebastian starts singing to us and discusses Alzheimer's Disease.

Well instead of vegging out for a late night Xbox gaming session, I decided to do some late night yoga. Day 9 of the Yoga for BJJ 10/10 course was really fun, all about using the wall to help with stretching and handstanding. The King Arthur stretch I must admit was a bit painful, but no harm done, it actually feels kind of good now.

I have to fess up and admit I couldn't do ten days in a row of Yoga for BJJ, more like 15 days. But I completed the beginner program and ready to move on to Start up week where things last a bit longer and go into a bit more detail. Day ten btw is a series of balancing moves, most of them are okay but the hand standy one (as shown in the photo) is kinda crazy ha, something to aspire to I guess!

Startup Week
I felt pretty good after the ten in ten program. I felt confident that I wouldn't need to move to the BJJ for Rocks program so I went straight to 5 day Start-up Week. I assumed it would be more of the same as the ten in ten program. I was wrong!...

Again, here are excerpts from my daily diary.

Yoga for BJJ Startup week - day 1. This was very nice to do, lots of gentle stretching and an amusing thing where you pivot your upper torso while in a cross legged position, kinda looks like you've had too many drinks. I've also sussed out the correct way to breathe, I was doing it wrong before - it's a deeper emission of air, more like when one snores rather than what I was doing before, which was a nasal whine. Anyway, looks good so far, I'll report on all five days then I'll stop the reports and write up a proper review.

Day Two. I realise I'm only able to find the spare time to do my Yoga for BJJ late at night. During any other time, it's impossible to find ten minutes of peace and quiet in my house. Another thing, I need to watch these videos **before** following them along. When I tried to follow along today, I was craning my neck and arching my body while trying to catch a glimpse of the transitions on my PC screen and at the same time trying not to topple over [another reason for late night yoga - so my family won't mock and laugh at my terrible position work]. Definitely feeling like a white belt in yoga here.

Day Three. Not gonna lie, I toppled over like a condemned building doing this posture, much to the amusement of my son, who was kind of mimicking me, only far better. Yoga for BJJ start up week day three and this was actually a fun workout. Sebastian doesn't hang around, each pose lasts a max of five breaths and you move onto the next posture. I liked the way he instructs on how to keep the various muscle groups tight because when I do them I'm not aware of them.

No diary entry for Day 4 - I did do it though.

Day 5 of Startup Week in my Yoga for BJJ program. Not gonna lie, that was 30 minutes of tough! The good news is I'm getting more familiar with the terminology, so when he says 'downward dog' or 'cobra' etc I don't have to necessarily glance up at my computer screen to view the pose, I just do it. I'm going to run through the five day startup week program a few more times. I felt I was wobbling and creaking all over the place. Still, it's a good workout, I feel refreshed and ready for BJJ class now!

I'll come straight out with it. I really loved the whole BJJ for Yoga set up, the exercises, the way Sebastian teaches, the website, whole thing. But it wasn't all easy to do. Yoga can be pretty taxing on the body, especially if you carry some injuries or inherent body stiffness. But I didn't injure myself, I didn't pull a muscle. I did however fall over a few times, I did creak and groan and generally muddle my way through some of the more complex transitions...and so far I've only done a very beginner's set of routines!

While learning yoga online is convenient, I do have the overriding sense that I'm not doing most of the poses properly. Photographing myself for the purpose of this review was very revealing and I can see that my body is nowhere near the same posture as the way Sebastian shows. I really need an instructor there to correct me. Still, I'm hoping I'll improve as I go along and I can always video myself to see how badly my form is doing. Who knows, I may even take part in real world yoga classes.

Either way, I do genuinely feel much better for my brief stint practicing online yoga. I'm more aware of all the parts of my body - in normal everyday life as well a during training. I am also armed with a bunch of simple movements I can use during my own warmup and warmdowns. Even something as fundamental as learning about breathing and posture from these yoga drills has helped me change the way I go about my daily life. I know I won't be able to do it everyday as Sebastian suggests, but I'm definitely going to keep training and hopefully I'll get better at the postures and stretches. I just wish I had started earlier in my life.

Update – six months later..
I’m still using this website! Reading back on my early reports, it seems I have improved a lot with my poses and flows thanks to keeping up with BJJ for Yoga regularly. These days I refer to it  three or four times a week, which coincides with the number of sessions I do BJJ. Usually I get about an hour in the evening to myself while the kids are occupied and I use this time to pick and choose a video to work on. Then, fully limbered up, I go off to jiu jitsu class where, if I’m a little early, I’ll use the time to do a few mini-yoga movements before class actually begins. When I myself am teaching, then I will usually add a few yoga aspects into our warm ups. Also, I tend to do a mini stretch everyday using some yoga for BJJ movement – usually a cheeky hip flexor stretch or squat when I take a break in the office.

Here are the things that keep me coming back:

Competition Week: this is a five day intensive workout designed to loosen as well as strengthen the body of folk who are competing soon, or for folk (like me) who are just curious enough to want to push themselves a but further. The best part about these sessions is the ten minute basic Yoga for BJJ flow. It’s a condensed warm up that is easily memorized. It works the entire body and really gets one ready for training.

Back Pain week: this is brilliant and precisely what I require whenever my back is feeling a bit sore.

Hip Week and Back Body week: these sessions work parts of me that rarely get stretched so are useful, if painful.

Warm up drills: Sebastian (btw he’s now a black belt, well done Sebastian!) and Miha demo a whole number of solo and partnered warm up and training drills specifically designed for BJJ students. These aren’t particularly related to yoga but they are super fun!

So I could go on about the benefits of each of these programs however it’s probably more important to discuss HOW Yoga for BJJ has impacted my body and health issues. Well, I’m definitely much better at performing most of the easy to medium difficulty level techniques. My downward facing dog, hand stands, side planks and various other ‘basic’ positions are easier to do and, I hope, look better in terms of body position. The one legged stances are very wobbly for me and I can never seem to raise my one leg very high in the air when in one legged downward dog.

My back is much better and I’ve not had an episode of back pain since taking up the program, although I do still get sore if I get stacked or other awkward position during training, so this is a constant daily reminder for me to maintain my exercises and roll with care. Overall, I’ve got a lot better body awareness as a result of the yoga. Another perhaps unintended consequence of training is that I can now hold a hand stand for a number of seconds. It’s something I could never ever do before. I also enjoy cartwheeling when rolling. I know Sebastian himself loves to do guard passing like this so I wonder if his influence is rubbing off?? In anycase, it’s a joy to be able to walk, run, move, roll, flex and stretch better than I have done in years, all thanks to a few minutes of online yoga training a day. I guess in many respects, yoga and BJJ have many parallels as a lifestyle - I find I’m thinking about both on a daily basis and fitting them around my life until they just become a normal part of what I do everyday.

I soon intend to post a photo or video of me working a flow, stay tuned.

About the Author


Author & Artist

Meerkatsu is the artist name for BJJ black belt Seymour Yang.



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