CrossFit is a program of constantly varied functional movements performed at relatively high intensity.
CrossFit workouts are designed to improve the 10 General Physical Fitness Skills, which are measured by cardiovascular endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, power, speed, coordination, accuracy, agility and balance.
It would seem as though CrossFit and yoga are worlds apart—but that’s actually a myth.
Yoga can be an amazing compliment to any CrossFit workout as it also works to improve these skills—and then some.
1. Improving Range of Motion and Increasing Flexibility
Yoga teaches us to understand our bodies better and we gather information that can help avoid imbalances and areas of overuse. There is an emphasis on alignment and how to be in a pose safely. This awareness and insight transfers into all of our daily activities, our posture during physical activities becomes altered, reducing the potential for injury. In CrossFit, areas of the body become strong and sometimes tense or inflexible as a result. There are yoga poses that can help with shoulder and hip rotation that are often raise concern among strength and conditioning athletes. Yoga is low impact, which makes it part of any well-rounded fitness program.
2. Breath Work
What sets yoga apart is that it teaches us to breathe—yes—breathe. Normally, we don’t pay much attention to our breathing because it is a part of our autonomic bodily functions. As a result, many of us tend to breath from our chests and tense up in our shoulders. Nasal breathing is utilized to calm the central nervous system so that even in challenging poses, we remain at ease. Through yoga, we breathe into the diaphragm, increasing our capacity to take deeper breaths. Yoga links the breath with movement so that we are always alert and focused on the present movement rather than drifting off.
3. Mental Focus
Through the breath work and yoga postures we can train the mind. We can switch off the autopilot mode and be fully in the moment. Mental focus is a skill that can be honed with some practice, allowing you to steady your focus. The yoga poses and the transitions in between constantly remind us to remain present in our current movement and moment. CrossFit is extremely challenging and the varied workouts are designed intentionally to keep you on your toes to be ready for anything. Life consistently changes from day to day and challenges us all the time. The best way to prepare is to train the mind to adapt to anything that comes.
Yoga can improve coordination and enhance control. In poses like tree, we have to stay calm and balance our weight on one leg. This is similar to when you’re performing a pistol squat in CrossFit. You have to stabilize and engage the muscles that are holding you steady and efficiently distribute your weight. This skill can be helpful for all of us as we find time for family, work, play, workouts, socializing and all that good stuff in our lives.
Yoga helps with recovery as well. Most of the time stretching pre and post workout is neglected making for sore and tired muscles. These neglected areas of our bodies need some attention and yoga incorporates movements and stretches as part of each class. Rest is a component at the end of each yoga practice and although it’s only a few minutes, it can be extremely beneficial. For those few moments in final relaxation pose, we stop doing, planning, we let go of all effort. It’s probably the most challenging yoga pose because most of us can’t be still with all the thoughts racing into our heads and overloading us. But, chances are if you’re a CrossFitter, you’re up for the challenge. After all the intense workouts of the day (WODs), you deserve a few moments to chill.
It may seem a little weird for a CrossFit athlete to try yoga. Trying something out for the first time can be challenging, humbling, awesome and awkward all at the same time. But, you’re only a beginner at something for a short time.
Humbling is a good word to describe my first experience with yoga years ago and the same with CrossFit just recently. But, being able to complete that WOD (workout of the day) made me feel unstoppable. Give yoga a shot, CrossFitters, you will be amazed how much more you are capable of.
Author: Karla Rodas
Image: 182nd Airlift Wing/Flickr // Beth Skupham/Flickr
Apprentice Editor: Elyse Sinclair; Editor: Caitlin Oriel
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