Yoga Sports Science® for the Martial Arts

Could Sport-Specific Yoga be the missing link to achieve that extra edge in martial arts?
Fiona Adamson

Martial Arts is a sport and discipline requiring an intense level of physical and mental endurance, placing immense demands on a martial artist. Every athlete recognises these demands and will have spent a significant amount of time with their coach identifying ways in which to enhance their performance.
Yoga is fast becoming an accepted beneficial add-on to traditional training for athletes looking to achieve that extra edge.

Sport-specific yoga suffers from its label ’Yoga’, the image of being dressed in lycra, having to touch your toes and bend your body into the shape of a pretzel. This does nothing to promote its real image and considerable benefits. Even if you never do touch your toes sport-specific yoga will improve your performance and make you a better athlete or performer, no matter what your sport or discipline.

Yoga is an ancient science that studies the nature of the body and utilises the body’s natural ability to perform to its highest potential.
Yoga Sport Science® combines this ancient science with modern developments in sports science, enabling an athlete to integrate training techniques to produce a significantly superior training programme to achieve that extra edge that is needed over an opponent.

I am an Advanced Yoga Sports Coach™ working with the Yoga Sports Science Institute®, currently only a very small number fully qualified, recognised and registered in the U.K. and across the world.
As an Advanced Yoga Sports Coach™ I work alongside coaches, athletes, performers, teams, support staff and NGB’s and have seen first-hand the considerable benefits and improvements that an intervention of sport-specific yoga techniques can produce in an athlete’s performance.

I have been actively researching the benefits of yoga within sport and performance and have completed a successful research paper introducing performance breathing techniques to enhance performance in elite martial artists.
Breathing is one aspect of training that is often overlooked by both athlete and coach. As a martial arts instructor also, I know from experience, that focus is heavily placed on many other aspects of training apart from the breath.

Over the course of the intervention the breathing techniques were found to be very beneficial to the athletes’ performance and training, by not only working to recruit and utilising correct breathing postural muscles, the primary and secondary breathing muscles, but were quickly picked up by the athletes as ‘tools’ to utilise during pre and post-performance, during bouts and between rounds to help with relaxation, nerves, focus, continued concentration and stamina / breath recovery.
Not only this, but they began to observe very early on significant improvements in their functional strength and conditioning, mobility and stability, endurance, stamina, agility, alignment, proprioception, reaction times and correct muscle recruitment through kinetic chains.

Performance breathing techniques increase VO2 maximum capacity, breathing efficiency, train the neural pathways of the brain to work the serratus anterior muscles, increases lung expansion and capacity, diaphragmatic breathing into the lower lobes of the lungs, working efficiently into the primary and secondary breathing muscles and improve and increase heart and lung organ strength.
Reaction time, added balance, coordination, stamina, and endurance were also improved through breath control and because of the increased vasodilation and oxygenation to the muscles, lactate/pyruvate and waste products can be removed quicker, which can prevent injury and soreness after an accumulation strength session.
They can also be utilised as a relaxation, recovery and focusing tool away from training to engage with the parasympathetic nervous system.

These are just a few of the benefits of an intervention of sport-specific yoga techniques.
The benefits of sport specific yoga when used consistently are:
• Development and enhancement of focus, concentration, and mental stamina, mindfulness and awareness
• Enhanced physical performance, stamina, agility, fitness, and endurance
• Improved functional strength and conditioning
• Development of structural postural and core stability and increased range of motion
• Improved functional mobility and stability and static and dynamic balance
• Improved intrinsic sequential firing of the muscles through kinetic chains
• Aid injury prevention and recovery from injury
• Improve the quality and efficiency of the breath through performance breathing techniques.
• Effective management of tension and control stress levels
• Improved explosive power and explosive breathing
• Improved proprioception, spatial awareness, body awareness and alignment
• Greater motor control and develop an improved movement accuracy
• Increases longevity within chosen field
• Improved reaction times and biomechanical efficiency
• Corrections to muscle imbalances and joint instability, perpetuated through repetitive and unbalanced sports
• Reduced recovery times – restorative posture work benefits the cardiovascular and lymphatic systems – promotes Active Recovery

A sports specific yoga programme is designed with an understanding of the athlete’s biomechanics and the biomechanical demands of each specific sport and discipline, so each programme is uniquely and realistically designed to fit in with a possibly already intense schedule.
After an initial introduction to sport-specific yoga techniques an intervention will often last between 5 to 30/60 minutes, enabling the athlete to continue to attain training objectives.
I am available to work with martial artists, athletes, performers, coaches and support staff, individuals, teams, clubs and NGB’s, be it on a one-to-one basis, workshops, team or group sessions and weekly / monthly / seasonal classes along with Biomechanical Assessments.


Fiona Adamson is an Advanced Yoga Sports Coach™, working with athletes and performers of any discipline; coaches, teams and NGB’s etc. on any aspect of training, pre-hab and rehab, helping to improve and enhance an athletes performance and achieve that extra edge. She is a Martial Arts instructor and trains British and European Champions. Twitter | Facebook


Yoga in the news

The Times and Independent newspapers featured Premiership footballer and Sports Personality of the Year, Ryan Giggs and his passion for yoga to which he credits his longevity in the game (now 37 yrs old with 600 appearances!) and which has inspired his new strength and conditioning DVD – read more: Independent (2011), Times (2008), Times (Jan 2011)- online subscribers, Guardian (2009).