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Why Every Grappler Needs to do Yoga, by Yoga for BJJ’s Sebastian Brosche

Why Every Grappler Needs to do Yoga, by Yoga for BJJ’s Sebastian Brosche

A black belt in BJJ under Eduardo Rios and a second degree black belt in Judo, Sebastian Brosche is the creator of the famous „Yoga for BJJ“ website – where he aims to transform every single jiujiteiro into a mobile, pain-free and less injury-ridden grappler.

In an interview for BJJ Eastern Europe, he speaks about the reasons why he chose Jiu Jitsu over Judo, his love for Yoga and why every jiujiteiro should start practicing it immediately.

 

BJJEE: We are happy to be talking with you, Sebastian. Thank you for being here.

Sebastian: Thank you for having me over for an interview. I love BJJ Eastern Europe and I love the things that you guys are doing. I know that you’ve been doing this for a long time, and I hope that you stay in the game for many, many years.

BJJEE: Thank you for your kind wishes, we really appreciate them!

To start our interview off, would you mind telling us about your first encounter with Brazilian Jiu Jitsu? You were already a second degree black belt in Judo – so what made you choose Jiu Jitsu and stay in it, instead of going back to Judo?

Sebastian: My first encounter with BJJ was back in 2001, when I was watching UFC 1, UFC 2 and UFC 3 with my mates in school. It was really cool to see how Royce Gracie was able to beat up all of these bulky guys, with what were, in my mind, essentially Judo techniques. I didn’t know that he was doing Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, I just thought that was modified Judo.

And so I went to a few classes around the world – in Hungary, Sweden and Norway – while I was training Judo. But I didn’t put a lot of effort into it really, because I was so focused on making a national team in Judo. Plus, I was a lot better than the guys I rolled with in my BJJ classes, at least the white belts that is… So, I didn’t have much respect for the sport at the point.

However, I didn’t get to make the national team jump as an „adult“. I was really good as a „junior“, when I was under 19 years old; but as soon as I turned adult, I got smashed so hard that I stopped making results and I failed at making the national team.
Eventually, I ended up with a herniated disk as well and that really put me off track to become an elite athlete. I had no plan, no team, no backup and no one to explain to me so as to how I was supposed to fix it.

And Jiu Jitsu seemed to be a lot more gentle on the body than Judo. I also realized that Jiu Jitsu is a more developed system than Judo. I mean, Judo is so very much sports-oriented and its rules are so narrow. You can’t grip like that, you can’t do this, you can’t do that for more than 2 seconds… There are so many limiting rules and it seems that Judo is getting more and more narrow with each passing year.
For example, let’s say that you have a couple of favorite techniques that you have been working on for many years… And then, suddenly, those techniques are not allowed anymore. Then you have to completely retrain yourself, which is difficult if you have been doing something like that for a long time. It is very difficult to stay „young“ in a sport like Judo.

So, I made the transition from Judo to Jiu Jitsu, and once I did that there was absolutely no going back anymore. It was so much fun to learn about the thinking process and methodology of Jiu Jitsu, the type that Judo lacks.
What I mean is – at any place that I trained in, Judo had no methodology on how to win on the ground, for example. And the rules in Judo prevent you from doing the proper technique. It basically comes down to just defending like a crazy maniac or attacking with an aggressive choke or armbar. Or pinning someone down… That’s Judo ground work. And once I got a taste for the immense library of options that Jiu Jitsu presents, I was simply hooked.

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BJJEE: And we are more than glad that you got hooked, for you have been such a great addition to the BJJ community. In that way, your greatest gift to the community is „Yoga for BJJ“.

For those of our readers that are uninitiated, would you be kind enough to explain a little bit so as to what „Yoga for BJJ“ is and who is it for?

Sebastian: Yoga For BJJ is a website and application for jiujiteiros. The goal is to transform every grappler on the planet.

Most people in Jiu Jitsu are stiff, achy and miserable whenever they’re not training. They only feel good while on the mats. And what I want to do is help transform all of those people into flexible, balanced and well-rounded athletes that have a deep understanding of their bodies and that have unique skills which they can transfer to the mats.

And the way that I do that is through using selected Yoga tools, techniques and positions that translate well into Jiu Jitsu.
There are two types of positions. The first type are the positions that are really similar to Jiu Jitsu; in that case, if I do a Yoga pose, I will immediately be able to see that this position is very relevant to Jiu Jitsu. And that is because I’ve been in that position a lot during BJJ training and competition.
And then, there’s an another type of positions – the ones which are complementary poses. The poses that you never find yourself in while doing Jiu Jitsu.

The reason why you’re stiff, achy and miserable is that you never do the poses that – instead of closing it – open the body up and stretch it out. So, it is good to create balance in your practice in regards to these two positions, as you’ll get those mentioned results of having a more open body; the type of results that you never get in a BJJ training session.

BJJEE: So, it is basically designed for all grapplers, no matter their current Yoga skill level?

Sebastian: Yes. Everybody can do it, even the injured athletes! If you are injured, I have developed several „Rehab Programs“ in conjunction with a licensed osteopath and black belt in Jiu Jitsu, Rosi Sexton. These are the programs we have made for all of the common types of injuries that occur in BJJ, so you can use those to get back in the game whenever you are injured.

You can sign up for two weeks for free, so you can start getting the results you complain about because you’ve never gotten them… Everybody is sometimes guilty of complaining about a thing or two, instead of doing something about them. For example, we complain that we are in pain or that we are too stiff to do a certain technique. With my website, that excuse is no longer valid.

Also, in terms of the value: the price of one month of Yoga for BJJ is an equivalent of one drop in session for a regular Yoga class. So, instead of buying two cups of coffee per month – which would not help your Jiu Jitsu all that much nevertheless – you can invest into something that is extremely efficient and that will help you get the results that you want.
Once you’ve gotten over the initial threshold, Yoga starts feeling really, really good. It doesn’t feel like you’re fighting your own body anymore; it’s not a sparring session against your hamstrings anymore, but it feels really pleasant instead.

So, I strongly encourage you to sign up for free for two weeks and try it out. If you don’t like it – which I believe won’t be the case, I believe that you’ll love it – you still didn’t lose anything, but invested a few minutes of your time in order to give it a shot.

BJJEE: And what about your own Yoga beginnings? Who introduced you to it and why did you start practicing it in the first place?

Sebastian: I met a beautiful and lovely girl, that later became my wife, who was a full-time Yoga teacher when I met her.

She had a lot of patience as she was helping me work through and around my excuses that I had… And, since I had back pain, I had a lot of excuses. So, in order to protect my ego, I tried to excuse all of her suggestions. But she persisted, and as I got through 6 months to a year of consistent Yoga practice, my back became a lot better.

And that got me so much respect for the practice that I wanted for more people, who were in my situation, to be able to experience the same thing. It was quite revolutionary and quite a dramatic experience to go from almost quitting Jiu Jitsu to being able to get the best results in sparring, better than I’ve ever had before.
So, I knew that everybody that was doing Jiu Jitsu needed this on one level or another.

BJJEE: And that realization has motivated you to create the website. What were the early stages of Yoga for BJJ like?

Sebastian: I made the whole website myself. I didn’t know how to make websites, so I had to figure that out. I also had to figure out how to film classes… I cursed at the camera so many times. With that, I also used a very bad camera; it wasn’t even a handheld camera, but just a phone one that I used for the first year or two.

I was also doing marketing by myself… I was doing everything by myself for the first couple of years. And I made just about every mistake that you can imagine, several times over.
The website crashed and I had to build it from scratch, for example. But I was persistent and I knew that this was something that everybody needs. And there was a real need for it; it is not just some gimmick that is fun, which people will do for a while and then quit. There’s a real need for a service like this.
I understood, of course, that if the desire and need are that deep, that it was then a good business opportunity as well. So, I just had to push through those several beta-phases.

After a while, I randomly met Miha Perhavec. And that guy complements me in so many ways; in that he’s structured and he knows his way around the technical stuff and that, if he doesn’t know how to do something, that he finds someone who does – or he figures it out himself.
So, we grew the website a lot and now there’s a big team of people from all around the world that is working on making the service more accessible.

You know, at one point or another, certain limitations will make you plateau and hit a wall. So, I am very grateful that I am surrounded by great people, who are smart and hard-working people that are helping me take this to a new level that is more accessible to everyone.

BJJEE: So, when it all adds up, it can be easily said that you have been practicing and teaching Yoga for a long time. How does it feel like to be working as a Yoga instructor, both online and offline; is it a challenging job?

Sebastian: I’ve been doing this for a long time, it will be 6 years now in August. What I’ve done is that I’ve adopted the feedback that I received from the first round of members – because I was making a lot of mistakes in the beginning and I wanted to learn from those mistakes.

I was probably a blue belt at Yoga when I started, but now I am either a four-stripe purple belt or a fresh brown belt.

I get to teach Yoga to every kind of a person with any type of body. And of course, because I never lived in an another person’s body, it could be very hard for me to relate to someone who doesn’t have really flexible hamstrings, for example. But, the way that I’ve been getting around that is that I’ve been teaching a lot of classes in our Yoga Studio – I am a full-time Yoga teacher, so I’ve been teaching group classes for many years. Through that practice, I’ve learned to help all kinds of different people work around their issues, no matter what type of an issue it is.

BJJEE: And what was your own first breakthrough moment, in your Yoga practice? What kind of an issue did you resolve first?

Sebastian: My first breakthrough in Yoga happened when I was just rolling on my back – holding my hamstring and rolling on my back and then sitting up again. And it took me at least five minutes to be able to do that, because my lower back was so flat that it was, basically, a clunking movement of falling down, smashing into the mat and then sitting up again.
But my wife persisted in saying that I should give this a try… And I did not have enough faith in her understanding at the moment. If I’ve had more faith in Yoga at the beginning, generally speaking, then I would’ve gotten much quicker results and would have been a lot happier. But, I went through each first step just doubting and fearing everything.

But, at the point when I started rolling on my back and when, after trying so much, I could roll up and down… At that point, the release from the tension in my lower back was enormous. So, from there, I started doing that as a warm-up exercise before every Yoga practice that I had. I started learning about the proper position of each technique, in order to do them correctly.
I wanted to do it properly, because I noticed that my sparring was sloppy and that everything physical I did was sloppy. And so, in order to straighten that aspect of myself up a bit and to learn how to do things with control, I decided to learn proper technique it and it made a huge difference.

I think that the reason I got injured was that I was too sloppy when doing things. Because I was hurrying and skipping steps, because I was impatient and was trying to get to the goal immediately. That was what got me injured. And stopping doing that is what got me to be better.

BJJEE: And did it take you a long time to start getting additional, long-term results?

Sebastian: Yeah, it took me some time. It took me almost a year to become pain-free, and then a couple of more years to get Yoga to feel „easy“.

Just like Jiu Jitsu, it takes several years to be able to handle things. Unless you are a huge guy and have a strength and weight advantage, Jiu Jitsu is really hard in the beginning. And Yoga is no different, because we come into Yoga with a lot of challenges; like stiffness, pain and injuries.
Like all big challenges, it feels very difficult in the beginning – we feel horrible and we have every possible excuse to stop doing it. But, if you push through that threshold, then the more time you do it, the easier it becomes.

And I see the same thing on the statistics on my website; a lot of people that sign up don’t have the discipline and motivation to get through the first point. And that is my biggest failure in my business; that I am not able to convey the message and to perform well enough as a motivator in order to keep the attention and enjoyment in the early days.
I do have a plan how to change that and that will be a part of the next year’s updates, so it is going to be very exciting to improve that.

 

BJJEE: So, what would you say is the most difficult thing for a beginner to do in Yoga?

Sebastian: The most difficult thing to do, as a beginner, is to first not doubt Yoga, but to be a bit naive and go into it with a positive attitude. And then, as soon as you run into your first challenges, it is important for you not to be discouraged enough to quit… And to push through the challenges instead.

For example, one challenge might be that your partner doesn’t like that you take time off to do Yoga, instead of doing something else. That is a challenge. And you have to push through that challenge, in order to find enough time to do Yoga every day.
Maybe it’s about disciplining yourself – maybe you found out that you’re a bit lazy in the morning and that you want to snooze, sleep in and skip training that way. And that’s a big challenge as well.

Once you start doing Yoga, then you get smaller challenges in front of you. For example; one might be that you need to figure out how to adapt a specific pose to your body. That can be a challenge, but it is not a big one.

But the most difficult thing in the beginning is to actually get yourself to do Yoga. And the reason for that is that Yoga is not as fun as Jiu Jitsu.
As soon as you start Jiu Jitsu, you either quit immediately or you’re hooked. So it’s not hard to train BJJ for most people. But, to do Yoga is more difficult; because the results are not immediate for most people, as well as because it’s a long-term investment – not a quick fix and instant gratification.

So, when you start, keep in mind not to be one of those people that quit immediately.

BJJEE: Understood. And what type of a benefit do you think is most important, that a jiujiteiro will get if he continues practicing Yoga?

Sebastian: I would say, straight up, that it is the ability to feel comfortable in any sort of a weird physical position. Yoga has many different poses that feel very weird at first; but you can adjust yourself to find the ways to make these weird positions comfortable for you.

Because you are practicing Yoga, you won’t freak out, panic or do something stupid when you end up in weird poses during a Jiu Jitsu match. Instead, your body is already used to, for example, being twisted back and having your hip opened at the same time.
And that can go for attacks as well. If you’re trying to take someone’s back, then you have to put your knees and arms in a strange position sometimes – and if you’ve been doing Yoga poses that are similar to this position, then you will be able to generate more speed and power, as well as use your flexibility in a more efficient fashion.

What happens is that you learn not to resist positions in a wrong way, so you’re avoiding injuries; as well as that you are now able to generate strength from these positions.
So, you might be very weak when you go into a Yoga pose for the first time; but, as you do it regularly, it starts feeling more and more natural to be in that position.

There aren’t that many different positions that you can put your body into. The body can’t do so many weird things because we’re not made out of rubber – we have a skeleton and muscles, and they can all do just a certain amount of things.
So, there are basically 20 to 40 different types of positions that you can practice in Yoga and that you can end up in when practicing BJJ. If you learn all of these possible types of positions and you do them well, then you will not feel uncomfortable in any Jiu Jitsu position – because you are practicing them regularly on your Yoga mat.

BJJEE: So, it is the comfort that the practitioner starts to feel, which translates into the quality of his or her Jiu Jitsu. But, which one of the programs from the website would you advise someone average to do? Someone who might not even be a jiujiteiro, but an Average Joe? 

Sebastian: Well, if there were such a thing as an „average person“, then I would say that they should do the „Yoga for Rocks“ program.
That’s because most people are really inflexible. So, I would say that everybody would benefit from this particular program. Even the flexible people could do Yoga for Rocks if they do it in modified ways as I present them.

So, it is just a lowering of the bar on that part, done for inflexible people so that they don’t feel left out. It’s Yoga as well, but I just lowered the bar so that most inflexible people can feel welcome as well.

BJJEE: And what about back pain in BJJ? What should a Jiu Jitsu practitioner do when they deal with back pain, how can they relieve it?

Sebastian: I’ve dedicated a whole program just for that problem, the problem of back pain.

First of all, if you are in severe back pain, you should see a medical professional. Go to an osteopath that has experience, so you might be able to get some sort of a solution from them. Maybe they’ll tell you that what you need to do right now is to just rest and do nothing. But, if you are just suffering from general back pain, then definitely do the „Back Pain Program“.

Back pain can take on many different forms. So, for some people it helps a lot to do one kind of a position – like bending your back backwards. For some other people, who might have a herniated disk, it might be folding forward… It’s very hard to just give one or two positions that work for everyone.
However, spinal mobility exercises would be a definite „yes“ for almost every back pain form – meaning, just standing on all fours and doing cat-cow stretches. You should be flexing your spine and not go into positions where you get leverage on your back.

In other words, you really want to get into positions where your back is working against gravity. Or where you’re working your balance, so that if you go too deep into a pose you’ll lose your balance, falling out of it… Or that you’re working against gravity and it becomes tougher for your muscles to hold yourself in the position. You don’t want to find a position where you get leveraged to pull your back so hard that you get injured.

And I am very good at explaining this in my videos. But, basically what you need to do is that you just need to do spinal mobility exercises… Make sure that you both fold forward and bend backward, side-stretch and twist every time you do a spinal sequence.
And do that several times a day, every day. Even if it is two minutes, just mobilizing your spine and twisting it and stretching it a bit sideways, doing a couple of backbends and forward folds… Is going to teach your back to increase mobility slowly. Because, the chances are that you’ve injured your back in the first place because it was too stiff and you quickly forced it into a position in which it shouldn’t be.

BJJEE: Thank you for your insights, Sebastian. As our last question, could you share a „Yoga Pro Tip“ or two with our readers? As in, a pro tip so as to how can they start making most out of their Yoga practice?

Sebastian: That is a tough one. Imagine that you are coming up to a high-ranking black belt and that you don’t know anything about Jiu Jitsu. Then, you ask him: „Hey, what’s your pro tip from you, as a black belt, for me – a white belt – to learn Jiu Jitsu?“ He is just going to give you a long stare and tell you that which has been said a million times: learn the basics. Learn to move your own body, learn to move your hips. Learn to not overextend, learn to not freak out, learn to squeeze your elbows in… Just learn the basics.

He’ll tell you not to worry about the crazy techniques. To not worry about the „cool“ techniques, the low-percentage ones; but just to focus on the basics. The basic half-guard sweep, the basic armbar, the basic guard passes. To repeat that over and over again, with many different opponents, until you understand it. And only after that you can start asking about the other, more complex advice.
I mean, sure. If I ask a high-level black belt for a pro tip, then I can immediately either discard it, because I know it’s not going to work for me for whatever reason, be it that I am too weak, too short, that I don’t like the technique… Or I can immediately apply it to my game. But, if you are new, then you don’t need any „pro tips“. You just need to do the basics.

And that sort of an approach will help you much more than anything else. If I just gave you 10 pro tips on how to do Yoga in „this and that way“, then you don’t have any framework to apply it to.
You need to build the skeleton first, before you put any muscles onto it. You need to understand the basic Yoga positions first, before I can be of any real help in regards to the pro tips.
And the way that I’ve designed the programs on the website is from that sort of a standpoint. From the basics.

So, the best tip that I can give to you is to start.

Other than that, and in regards to Yoga for BJJ – I am busy, but not so much so that I don’t reply to specific questions, even though there are thousands of members on the website. I take the time to reply when someone has a specific question. So, anyone is welcome to ask me about particulars in that way.
And I really like it when people film themselves doing Yoga. If they send me that video, then I can look at it for a couple of minutes and then I can say: „Okay, you need to practice this, this and this“. Which they might have already known, but just hearing me confirm that you need to practice something specific proved itself to be really helpful. And those are usually the types of pro tips that come from me in a specific way.

BJJEE: So, all in all, the most important thing is to just get it going and not quit at the very beginning. Then it gets easier.

Sebastian: Yes, my general advice would be to just get started, to keep doing it and cover the basics, and then to do it over and over again. Every day is a fresh start and that means that you can start from scratch every day.
That is why consistency is so important. You can’t start off really hard, doing Yoga every day for three months and then stop, because the benefits and the progress you’ve made are slowly going to diminish – just as strength, cardio, Jiu Jitsu or any other skill for that matter will decline if you stop practicing it.

So, just keeping it up and prioritizing it for 10-15 minutes every day is the best advice I could ever give.

BJJEE: Thank you very much for your advice and contribution, Sebastian. It was a true pleasure.

Sebastian: Thank you very, very much for taking the time to have me. I really appreciate it and hope that your own Yoga practice will get you to feel the best that you can.

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