Note: This is a guest post from a long-time member of the Community, Misty.
First off, thanks Jerred for asking me to write a guest post for Eo3. This is such a great community that I’m really excited to be a part of.
When Jerred first approached me about writing a post for Eo3, my head was flooded with ideas. He told me to write about something I am passionate about, so I thought obviously I am passionate about CrossFit! I give my opinion about CrossFit all the time. I love lifting, snatching and coaching, but what experience can I bring that may be a little more out of the box yet something I find instrumental to my training? That’s when I got it…Yoga!
So guys, before you think “I don’t have time for this, its just another chick posting about yoga,” I ask you to reconsider and keep reading. My goal is not necessarily to tell you to do yoga, but more so to convince you of what it could do to enhance your current training. Also, how yoga can make general improvements to your overall fitness level.
I don’t actually like/enjoy yoga (sorry if this sounds odd from someone posting about doing yoga) but my coach always tells me to train the things I don’t want to train. Just because I don’t always like yoga classes doesn’t mean that I don’t understand and reap the benefits of doing it. For instance, I don’t like the press but I still train it every week.
I am not your “typical” yogi and this post is coming from what I consider a weight lifters/CrossFitters point of view.
First, what is yoga:
Yoga is a physical, mental, and spiritual discipline, originating in ancient India. The goal of yoga, or of the person practicing yoga, is the attainment of a state of perfect spiritual insight and tranquility while meditating on the Hindu concept of divinity or Brahman. -Wikipedia
I respect the true nature of yoga and those who practice it as it is intended; however, for some, “spiritual discipline” is not necessarily the goal.
How can CrossFit and yoga co-exist?
Yoga involves incense, OMs, peace and vegetarianism whereas CrossFit cultivates explosive power and aggression in utilitarian-style affiliate gyms. But when delving below the surface, these practices are not only startlingly similar but also complement each other. –Kristen Gilbert CrossFit Journal
The main question is: how will yoga make me better at what I’m already doing?
Yoga checks off on more than half of the 10 general physical skills talked about in CrossFit: balance, agility, coordination, flexibility, strength and even stamina. But more specifically lets take a look at how I think yoga can help you be fitter and help attain your personal goals.
1. Yoga helps with Breathing
The basis for energy production in the body stems from a chemical known as ATP and oxygen is critical for ATP production. Breathing is life and is required for our most vital functions.
Obviously if you’re not breathing, you’re not going to be able to do any work
– Graham Holmberg 2010 CrossFit games champion and yoga practitioner
Yoga combines movement and pauses with inhalations and exhalations and teaches us how to control these two things in unison. When you lift do you think about breathing? Sometimes the hardest thing, once you know in your mind where to breathe, is how to connect it to movement.
Proper breathing calms you and sets your focus on the task at hand, and if you concentrate on your breathing, allowing your body to be as focused and prepared for what is about to happen, you will see results.
When the Breath wanders, the mind is unsteady, but when the breath is still, so is the mind still.” – Hatha Yoga Pradipika
2. Yoga helps with Balance
I think this is one fundamental idea most understand of yoga, but more importantly, how does training balance benefit CrossFit/weight lifting?
Balance is body awareness to the max, without it you will never be sturdy on your feet, which will affect your capabilities on all of your lifts and in life.
In order to create a solid foundation at the base of our structure… maintain proper positioning of weight and body balance over the feet.
– Greg Everett
Take the most basic fundamental movement…the squat. This movement requires overall body stability and balance and even more so when you start to add weight on your back, weight in the rack position or overhead. Without good balance, this basic movement becomes more difficult and improvements are unlikely to be attained.
3. Yoga helps with Strength
a.) Hold plank position for 5 second
b.) Slowly descending into a half military pushup and hold for another 5 seconds
c.) Descend until your chest is hovering the ground, hold there for 5 seconds
d.) Lift your chest to the sky without letting anything but your hands and toes be in contact with the ground
e.) Now send your hips up and back and back down and hold here (this is your rest position).
This is called chaturanga dasdasana, a basic transition pose in yoga performed continuously throughout a normal 1.5h class.
How does this help you? When I started coaching CrossFit at my current box there was a 40 year old woman who joined (she will kill me when she sees I put her age up here) and the first time I saw her do pushups in a workout I was floored! I mean I’m still in my 20s (although closing in very quickly on 30…) I should be able to do more pushups than her and I’m the coach!! How was this possible?? Yoga, she was in the process of training to be a yoga instructor and so it was a big part of her fitness routine…I thought I was strong but she really brought out a weakness of mine!
What are we working in the sequence above?
a.) Core strength
b.) Shoulder strength
c.) Arm strength
d.) Leg strength
If you have the strength and control to manage the movement of your own body weight, imagine what is possible when you add a barbell to that, it will give you a stronger foundation of which to work with.
Yoga is not a passive practice it is about engaging and maintaining tight and active muscles at all times. The most important thing here is that it teaches you HOW to activate your muscles and keep them active when need be.
By consciously activating your muscles, and even more specifically your core, your lifts will be stronger and you will have less likelihood of injury. You’ll increase your ability to maintain positions such as the hollow position, which will also enhance movements such as the handstand pushup, handstand, handstand walking and even barbell movements like the press.
4. Yoga helps with Mobility and Flexibility
Holmberg uses yoga to improve his flexibility, but he also uses it to work on his concentration and intensity during focused movement. Even so, he believes the flexibility benefits are unmistakable, and flexibility is one of CrossFit’s 10 general physical skills—even if many ignore it completely. CrossFit Journal
Increasing flexibility is about balancing strength with stretch, there are no short cuts to lengthening your balled-up muscles!
In yoga, “flexibility” releases tension from our bodies and minds, allowing us to drop more deeply into meditation”…”in Western, physiological terms, “flexibility” is the ability to move muscles and joints through their complete range. Its an ability we are born with, but that most of us lose, as our lives are restricted and sedentary” – yoga journal
Is that not what we want? The ability to move freely through full range of motion! What good is a squat if not below parallel or not without pain? What good is a front squat without the flexibility to get your elbows high in the rack position, and what good is an overhead squat if you cannot reach depth while maintaining good overhead position?
Jerred recently had a great post about mobility that is worth reading, daily mobility is a must for all athletes to see improvement and to decrease your likelihood of injury. Like Jerred discussed; Kelly Starrett’s mobilitywod.com blog is a fantastic resource. But if you want to accomplish increased mobility/flexibility, while working on your balance, strength and breathing why not try yoga!
Sometimes the most intimidating thing about trying something new is exactly that, trying something new. What yoga class do I take? I don’t want to end up meditating for an hour, what if I can’t do the moves? What if I fall on my butt in front of everyone? These are all valid excuses but why not stop making excuses and just give it a try.
Regularly learn and play new sports – Greg Glassman
If you do, I might recommend trying out a beginner’s power yoga class this is what I’ve had most experience with and it is more tuned to what a lifter might be looking for. Some yoga studios also have a “yoga for athletes” class which is, as titled, directed towards athletes who are looking for the benefits without the meditation. CrossFit also talks about Ashtanga, which is a more advance “athletes yoga” from what I understand of which I have yet to try.
If joining a yoga class seems too intimidating consider buying a video, it will teach you the basic poses, and maybe give you the confidence to at least try a real class one day. Try to incorporate this in your life for 30 minutes every few days, trust me you’re body will thank you.