Yoga for BJJ: Shoulder Stand Anyone?

Fight Network Staff / June 26, 2012 - 7:40pm

Words by Minelle Mir (

People often engage in motivational banter about the advantages of certain Yoga positions for BJJ but you’re often left scratching your head wondering just what you’ll gain standing on your shoulders. I mean exactly how is that going to benefit your technique and the rest of your body’s biochemistry?

Don’t scratch too hard; I have simplified it for you.

I found my way to Tula Central- Hot Yoga and Spa located on 30 Duncan Street, downtown Toronto. Walking into the Zen like lofty space, I was immediately welcomed by friendly instructors that knew a thing or two about Brazilian jiu-jitsu, as they often had visits from BJJ students coming in for a hot yoga session. Peeping into the limb-challenging classes I was pleasantly surprised to see how relaxed the vibe was, it didn’t feel like I was in downtown at all, the blaring sirens outside seemed to fade away. Just as I was about to melt into a mat in utter relaxation I was greeted by well toned, stunning and super-friendly Audrey Anne Simard, a Vinyasa yoga instructor with about 8 years of Yoga experience under her mat. She was excited to show me just how a shoulder stand can help tremendously with technique in BJJ.

As she led me into a quiet yoga room, I asked her what brought her into yoga. “I was looking for a non-competitive solution to fitness. The spiritual aspect can really merge into mental training, which is so beneficial for Brazilian jiu-jitsu”.

The shoulder stand, also known as ‘Sarvanga-asana’, is considered to be one of the most beneficial yoga postures. There are a gamut of advantages to this pose, the first being, that if practiced early in the morning it can actually relieve fatigue; so you can finally take that six am BJJ class after all. In the evening the same posture promotes sleep, hopefully not while you’re still in it.

Since there is an increased blood flow to the head, you can use this pose to aid in the healing of headaches, nasal congestion and sore throats, stimulate digestion and calm your nervous system. These are just a few of the benefits; in terms of aiding BJJ technique the list is even bigger. I’ll narrow it down.

You can greatly improve your triangle, armbar and omoplata submissions from guard by utilizing the shoulder stand. You will increase the range with which you can catch your opponent when they are postured high in your guard. You will be able to reach and clamp your legs around your opponent for whatever submission you choose to execute.

With your feet directly over your hips, you are able to combine breathing (remember this is the key) with your technique and are using your lower back and arms for support, as your toes point towards the ceiling. You must always remember to keep your chin tucked in at all times, as Audrey points out, and never to hyperextend your arms. Posture combined with breathing and balance leads to an effortless submission.

It really helps when a Yoga instructor is familiar with BJJ, they can guide you to hold your proper posture as you use all the muscles to try to stack your hips over the shoulders and feet over the hips. Complicated? Not really, just some practice required and in this case, with this pose, your practice has a multitude of healthy benefits.

For more information on Vinyasa Yoga, a beneficial style of yoga for those that practice BJJ, head to www.tulahotyoga .com. Untwist the sore muscles and increase your flexibility!

Fun fact:  There are two variations of the shoulder stand. The first being the ‘salamba’ variation where you have the use of your arms to support the legs and torso. The second variation is ‘Nirlamba’ where ‘Nir’ literally means ‘without’ and therefore this pose is practiced without the use of the arms.

* Audrey is shown practicing the Salamba Sarvanga-asana.