From bakasana to bang

I used to make fun of people who did yoga. I thought it was nothing more than glorified stretching. My first yoga class was easy. (I’m a former gymnast who’s stayed in good shape by staying active.) So I turned it up a notch and started doing more advanced yoga. Vinyasa yoga coordinates all your movements with your breath. It requires steady calm breathing while doing even the most difficult of poses. It’s also a boon to anyone who wants to improve their shooting  . . .

Breathing has a dramatic impact on sight alignment — especially long distance target shooting. Breathing in raises your sight picture, breathing out lowers it. By controlling your breathing, by being aware of your breathing, you can shoot when your sight picture is rock steady. During a natural — or forced — respiratory pause.

Yoga teaches you to be supremely aware of your breathing. It teaches you to control your breathing — even when your muscles are under stress. Such as when you’re trying to show your friends that you can hit a target in the middle when it’s a long way away. Or hunting, when you’re excited. Or self-defense, when your entire body is suffused with adrenalin.

Controlling your breathing allows you to control the amount of adrenaline or dopamine flowing through your bloodstream (generally). Slow your breathing down and you will relax, at least somewhat.

Breathing properly eases my muscles, making a day of shooting more relaxing (if that was possible) and my body is less sore the next morning. An out breath as I fire my Mosin Nagant 91/30 lessens the recoil to my shoulder. Yes, it’s still felt, but the body will take it better.

Yoga has also refines and strengthens connective muscle tissue and some of those really small muscles responsible for balance and stillness and calm (a.k.a., stabilizing muscles). You can hold the gun up longer and more still — without it bouncing around nearly as much as you look for the target and align my sights.

A good yoga practice can and does cross over to shooting. Most people don’t get it, and you probably won’t until you try. I didn’t. I also understand that yoga isn’t for everyone. But neither is shooting. I use the benefits from one to help me improve the other. Why not you?

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49 Responses to Training Tip: Yoga Can Improve Your Shooting

  1. Please tell me I wouldn’t have to wear yoga pants. Before facing the possibility of seeing me in yoga pants, buy stock in brain bleach providers.

    I do take your point, but the snark is strong in this one. 😉

    Nice Quigley reference, bye the bye.

  2. Sara, you’re spot on.

    Yoga and shooting have far more in common than most shooters or most yogis would care to admit, primarily (I think) for cultural reasons. In fact, before I took up yoga, the main benefit I got from target shooting was the same completely-focused, meditative calm that I now get from yoga.

    • I don’t do yoga regularly but as an experienced weight lifter who has taken the occasional yoga class, I can add that yoga is no effing joke. Fantastic workout.

      • Indeed.

        I know some seriously hard core martial artists that say the same thing. They add yoga to an already full training schedule of their pet MA’s.

        I do know the Vinyasa mentioned in the article seriously kicked my butt when we were doing it regularly.

  3. Great share. I learned zen meditation from a Vietnam Veteran who had become a Zen Buddhist monk. I later added yoga when a Marine buddy of mine became a teacher. It’s now part of my everyday repertoire. KRI certified teacher. I add it into my TSAC courses. Definitely recommend.

    Additionally, for those of us combat vets that deal with post traumatic stress, it becomes a great help in navigating those waters.

  4. I did Bikram yoga w/ the wife a couple times and actually quite enjoyed it. That’s where it’s like 105 degrees and 100% humidity in the room. Makes you bendy and sweaty and I felt soooooooo relaxed and loosey goosey afterwards. I believe it’s also a specific series of poses and they aren’t as demanding as a lot of the other yoga stuff (easier on previously-damaged knees, shoulders, wrists, etc).

    • Be careful around those Bikram classes. The guy who started Bikram is a charlatan and molestor, and the creepiness pervades the entire ‘sexy-yoga’ culture.

  5. I don’t know about shooting, but I used to do yoga once a week for about 30-45 mins, and I’m here to tell you, it will dramatically increase your balance, endurance, speed, and explosive power. And you won’t have to pick up a weight to do it.

    I might have to bring yoga back into my workout routine.

  6. I’ve had an improvement in competition scores after swimming laps (40x50m). This has improved upper body and arm strength as well as stamina.

    But now the summer season is over and most of the local pools have closed until October. My preference is for a 50m indoor pool, but at least there are some options fairly close to home or on my way back from returning my son to his mother.

    • Nope. Not at all.

      Well, I guess it depends on what type of yoga one is doing. There are some forms that are dang strenuous…far more strenuous than just ‘stretching.’ The Vinyasa that we were doing was akin to doing push-ups interspersed with jumping jacks (or similar calisthenics) for 15 minutes or so…that’s not “glorified stretching” by any … stretch…of the imagination.

      And it could be argued that Vinyasa is not the most hard core version…

      I also find it interesting that years ago I was in Physical Therapy for a back injury, and later when I did some yoga I learned that ALL the PT exercises I did was exactly yoga exercises.

        • 🙂

          Stretching can be strenuous, but not all strenuous stuff is stretching.

          There is some seriously hard stuff in some forms of yoga that are not stretches at all…like the aforementioned push-ups. Some of the balance moves require crazy strength to do and hold.

      • You are totally correct. The yoga I do is not the diabetes ad stretching you see on TV. The first fundamental of Bikram is building strength, then only does the flexibility come. And the 105+ degrees for 90 minutes adds a whole new level of stress to the body. The good stress that your body needs.

    • I do both stretching and yoga. If you are doing a genuine form of yoga, the two are quite different. In addition to stretching, yoga also involves strength, balance, concentration, specialized breathing exercises and deep relaxation and meditation. Some forms of yoga also involve cardio. Regular stretching does none of those.

  7. Id choose a solid diet and a rigorous workout routine over yoga. Most people would be blown away by the dramatic improvement to day to day life a man can get just by working out 3 days a week.

    Do some damn deadlifts.

    • Most people that have never done yoga would be seriously blown away by how difficult, and beneficial, it can be. It might surprise you how much of a “rigorous workout” yoga is.

      Seriously, why would it have to be either / or? Some folks could choose one form of exercise over the other, some may choose both.

      Ah…the exercise version of the caliber war….”gotta like what I like” rears it’s head one more time.

    • I pick up heavy objects to exercise, focused primarily on the Olympic lifts. Squat, clean, jerk, deadlift… But every damn night I do a small yoga routine that focuses on my spine and hips so that I can continue to pick up heavy objects.

  8. Awesome post! Tai chi is my personal Dao. Any method that helps one master the breath is a winner when it comes to improving one’s skill with a firebrand.

    • I’m glad Taiji works for you. I studied combat Taiji it for 15 years, under three great instructors, and didn’t feel I got as much out of it as I have from Yoga. Maybe I was doing it wrong!

  9. Yoga and Tai Chi are very good for improving the sense called proprieception: the sense of where your limbs are in space. Proprieception sensors in your bones and muscles are the coordination sensors that communicate to your brain so you don’t gouge out an eye when you rub your nose in your sleep. Breath control to maintain sight picture is a significant part of maintaining sight picture to send your round down range. Weight lifting has many benefits but the skinny coordinated shooter will most likely put a round closer to x-ring than Ahnohld.

  10. I recently took up yoga, which is to say I recently gave up yoga. I started out in downward facing dog position, and ended up in temporarily paralyzed middle aged man position.

  11. It is in everyone’s best interest to do something physical at least three times a week. Exactly what physical exercise you choose is a lot less important than actually exercising. Try different exercises until you find something that you like which is a good fit for your body and lifestyle. Try yoga, martial arts, swimming, calisthenics, softball, tennis, volleyball, rock climbing, etc.

  12. This is a great post and I am glad to see that I’m not the only one that’s noticed the benefits of a consistent yoga practice to shooting. And having a place to discuss! It’s not the typical subject matter at the studio I attend–I’m pretty sure I’m the only NRA member there.

    I find the calmness I get from Bikram and Power Yoga helps my shooting significantly. And the rest of my life. I did consistent cardio (stairmaster) for 20 years, then transitioned to Krav Maga. The KM is a great skill and it reshaped my body, but only when I started yoga did I find an exercise that can change your mind. Hard to believe I’m saying this as I was a yoga hater for decades, but the yoga practice I do is life changing. It has curbed cravings, improved sleep, increases clarity and focus, and is a natural antidepressant. I’m 50 years old and I wake up every day not believing how good I feel. Like I was 20 again.

    BTW, nice Crow position. I’m jealous!

  13. lillias introduced me to the sponge position. and here i remain, stirring only for pabst and buffalo wings.

  14. BTW, one might wonder how someone could CC in a Yoga class. When I was practicing Vinyasa Yoga, I found wooden Yoga blocks that had hidden compartments inside accessible through a sliding panel. I admit it was off-body carry, but I had a Sig P290RS tucked away inside of one of them and my wallet, phone (on silent) and other valuables inside the other. So I used those instead of the studio-supplied foam blocks and no one was any the wiser.

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