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“Breathe through your nose!” shouts the burly martial arts instructor, clad in a T-shirt and sparring shorts. Eight muscular fighters flare their nostrils in response, inhaling deeply as they assume a low push-up position on a worn wrestling mat. To a bystander, the scene in this sweaty combat gym might resemble a typical MMA class, and the students, all scarred and tattooed, look the part. But the next command reveals a different purpose. “Exhale slowly and flow from upward dog into downward dog,” says Phil Migliarese, a fifth-degree black belt in Brazilian jujitsu and master-level yoga teacher. “Inhale again as you reach the top of the pose.”
This is Yoga for Fighters, and if that sounds odd, you should see the room.
There are no yoga mats, incense sticks or rows of women wearing all the latest yoga kit. Indeed, there are no women at all. This brand of yoga is geared to men; the goal is to improve performance in the octagon and the weight room. “Normal yoga studios do poses that average guys just can’t do,” says Migliarese, who developed Yoga for Fighters during 20 years of jujitsu and Ashtanga vinyasa study. He combined key moves from both practices to create his own unique hybrid. “Men also have issues like tight hips and hamstrings that everyday yoga just doesn’t address properly.”
Sun salutation, described below, forms the core of Migliarese’s method. It combines dynamic movement, stretching and focused breathing to build strength and power, enhance mobility and hone focus and endurance. Do it on its own during recovery days or as a cooldown after a hard workout. “Most guys have never tried anything like it, so they make across-the-board athletic improvements extremely fast,” says Migliarese. “They’re also surprised to discover that it’s as challenging as an actual fight. It’s a grappling match with yourself.”
Move through these poses in the order shown, breathing in and out through your nose the entire time. Hold each pose for three deep breaths. Inhale on upward movements (even numbers) and exhale on downward movements (odd numbers). Complete the sequence three to five times.
By Michael Easter