Re: Aikido and Yoga
I've been studying yoga along with aikido for a couple of years, and they complement each other greatly.
I'm an avid fitness enthusiast, and the one critique I had of my aikido practice was the lack of a comprehensive conditioning regimen; sure, we had a warmup and stretching period before each class, but nothing that would really develop full body strength, active range of motion, or static flexibility that is useful for any martial art. I wouldn't be satisfied with the athleticism and fitness of a healthy guy my age; I wanted to be the guy who could sprint like the wind, run for miles if I had to, then climb a mountain and do some backbends at the top to celebrate. Basically I wanted to be Jackie Chan. :-)
I found traditional weight lifting useful for a time, but I got turned off by the use of artificial movements and isolation of muscles, since the body should be used together as a coordinated unit in my opinion. It was also very boring.
So I started yoga, beginning with the usual Hatha, but now I'm exploring Scott Sonnon's Prasara yoga, and I love it. Its like a combination of Vinyasa yoga, gymnastic bodyweight exercises, and the kind of conditioning exercises grapplers and Brazilian jujitsu players utilize; its demanding and its fun. My flexibility, both passive and (more importantly to me) kinetic, has increased dramatically (though my backbends look horrible, let me tell you), my full body coordination has improved, and my breathing has improved as well. All of this has translated into better posture in my aikido techniques, greater coordination, and controlled breathing which equals more powerful, effective techniques. The reverse breathing techniques I learned were particularly useful in directing focus and linking up the body's various fascial components.
In my opinion, yoga helped me become sensitive to my own body, how it moved efficiently, and how to coordinate it to do my bidding. Aikido does that too, to a lesser degree, but its real clout is in helping me develop a sensitivity to the movement of the outside world, usually the movement of my training partner, and how to avoid their dangerous movements while guiding those movements into advantageous positions. But you can't guide your partner if you can't control yourself; and study of coordinating yourself is enriched by the study of the kinetics of other people. They complement each other greatly, in my opinion.