The first two limbs of yoga as described by Patanjali are the fundamental ethical precepts called the Yamas and the Niyamas. These can also be looked at as universal morality and personal observances.
YAMA – Satya: Truthfulness. Satya guides us toward truthfulness of thought, speech, and deed.
Unlike your classic yogini, I am loud, buxom, feisty and clumsy. I have thoroughly studied mellow yogic philosophy, but I believe in the here and now. I don’t practice yoga to change that fact—I’ll be the first one caught giggling in class during Happy Baby Pose—but I use it to bring out the best in the eclectic chaos that is “Me.” This heightened awareness while going through my yoga motions confronted me with the need for strength in my life: strength of body, purpose, and heart. Enter “CrossFit” and my passion to prove to the world that yogis and CrossFitters are squatting for the same higher purpose.
My introduction to CrossFit was pure kismet. A friend needed a workout buddy, there was a magical-online-coupon-deal that made it worth my while, and the gym was in my old neck-of-the-woods; I couldn’t refuse. Then I walked into the garage of CrossFit Mount Laurel to weights dropping, music pumping, and scores on the wall… needless to say, I was out of my element.
But the voice inside said, “Remember that crap you learned about not judging others upon first glance? Rachel, it’s not crap; it’s the yogic way to live a balanced, respectful life. Yeah, yeah…”
YAMA – Ahimsa: Non-violence or non-injury, kindness towards all living things, the belief that all living things are connected.
After talking to myself, my intro-group was put through some basic training with PVC pipe and then a workout of burpees, wallballs and box jumps that I thought might kill me. But, unlike the warnings I was given about the aggression I would find in “the box,” not once was I yelled at, made to feel inadequate, or pushed beyond my limits. The Strapping Young Trainer—Tommy—watched us closely and even provided some personalized advice when I told him about an old hip injury. The greatest thing, however, happened afterward. Everyone was smiling! They were out of breath, yes; but feeling utterly awesome. The room was filled with people learning something new about themselves, and they loved it.
NIYAMA – Svadhyaya: Self-education or education of the self, leading to introspection and a greater awakening of the soul.
Suddenly, across the box where the seasoned CrossFitters were doing the actual WOD, words of encouragement came flying in our direction. I was given six high-fives, and by the end, I’d made three promises to come back the next day.
NIYAMA – Santosha: Satisfaction with what one has; contentment.
Now, I know what you’re saying: I see you putting yoga in the CrossFit, but how does one get CrossFit in the yoga? Strapping Young Trainer Tommy and Spunky Fit Trainer Maggie mentioned wanting a yoga class. Enter Rachel, the CrossFitting Yoga Teacher. I’ll admit, my heart sank at those first small classes, but I had to trust that the proof would be in the pudding once they were willing to do as I did on my first day: leave pre-existing fears at the door.
NIYAMA – Ishvarapranidhana: Surrender of the ego, giving focus to the quality of intention that we bring to our actions.
The marriage of yoga and CrossFit revealed itself during a class consisting of just four fellas (two of which were new to yoga) along with myself. A class where we all could have succumbed to our self-conscious moments, but instead laughed, found focus and finished up with a blissful relaxation. Later that week, two of those fine gentlemen shared how they looked up yoga poses to do at home between classes, because they were feeling the difference. Let’s just say, I walked with a little more bounce in my step that day.
Several months have passed, and I can see the benefit of this fitness matrimony in my students and myself. The flexibility, focus and balance offered by incorporating yoga more regularly makes all the difference in the WOD. Think about the ease with which you guide your body through a Power Snatch after practicing your breath in a Sun Salutation. Balance becomes second nature no matter how much weight you add when you master Natarajasana, Dancer Pose. And I can assure you that NO ONE will complain about adding that final yoga pose, Savanasa, into their weekly (preferably daily) routine.
Together, CrossFit and yoga are the perfect pair; complementing each other in their differences while maintaining similar purpose:
NIYAMA – Tapas: Self-discipline, desire, motivation, dedication.