By Evelyn Sutton
Certain body parts play pivotal roles in Jiu-Jitsu and your back is one of them. Improving back flexibility helps your muscles get stronger to perform the many twists and turns of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. As you become more flexible, your speed, strength, balance and coordination also increases. Back flexibility reduces the risk of potential injuries to the neck and spine, while helping speed up recovery time from sore muscles. The following set of yoga poses are known as back bends, and specifically target back, shoulder and neck flexibility. Practice daily, and notice the positive impacts increased back flexibility has on your BJJ performance.
Fish Pose (Matsyasana)
Bring hands to your sides, then press through the floor as you lift through your chest to create a bend in your back, and rest the crown of your head on the floor. You can also add a gentle hip opener by bringing soles of the feet together, allowing your knees to fall open to the sides in reclining butterfly as shown.
Bow Pose (Dhanurasana)
Press the hip bones into the floor, bring feet into your hands, then pull against your feet to create tension within your body and allow a higher lift. Try to keep your knees in line with your hips as you come up higher to create the shape of a bow.
Locust Pose (Salabhasana)
Grounding through the hip bones, stretch your arms out alongside the body with fingers pointing towards your feet. Interlock your hands together behind your back, and simultaneously lift your chest and legs. Keep your legs and feet together as close together as possible.
Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)
Bridge pose is also known as the “bridge of healing”. This backbend has many benefits to the body and mind. Not only it bends your whole back from top to bottom, it’s a great pose to engage the muscles in the glutes, inner thighs, and lower abs. To perform this pose, lift through your hips, pull your ribcage together to stop your ribs from splaying open, and roll your shoulders under your body to come up higher. Try placing a block between your knees and squeezing it for deeper activation.
Wheel Pose (Urdhva Dhanurasana)
A powerful back bend and heart opener, wheel pose is best performed after more mild backbends, so leave this pose for the end of your yoga session when your spine will be ready for it. Start lying down with arms alongside the body. Bring the palms of your hands next to your ears so that your elbows are pointing straight up and your fingers pointing towards your feet. Place the crown of the head on the floor. Push up through feet and hands lifting the hips as high as you can. Then push up until your head comes off the floor and use your forearms for support.
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