For the past two years, I’ve been a yoga instructor at a CrossFit affiliate in Northern Virginia. I came to CrossFit for many of the same reasons that I see people stepping into our affiliate today — building strength through a workout that would take your breath away. As a yogi, I’ve seen how CrossFit can improve fitness, but as a teacher I believe yoga has helped me become a stronger CrossFitter.
Students who come to my classes each week are looking for something that will actually return them to their breath to counter CrossFit’s high-intensity workouts. CrossFit challenges athletes by constantly varying functional movements at a high intensity. What my students seek in yoga is a need for rest and recovery. I encourage athletes to take a rest day by practicing asana and pranayama.
Yoga can help counter a lot of the soreness that you feel after a hard Metcon, (for non-CrossFitters, metabolic conditioning). One of the biggest complaints I hear from students is that they have lower back pain and tight hips. Taking time after you peel yourself off the floor at the end of your workout of the day to do simple stretches can help you recover and create benefits for a longer, healthier life. Let yoga be the yin to your CrossFit yang. Here are my tips for CrossFitters looking to start a yoga practice:
1. Learn Sanskrit.
No, not literally, but take time to understand what some of the basic yoga poses are so you can attend class. This can be as simple as Downward Facing Dog. Yoga poses can be no more foreign to you then the terms written on the whiteboard when you first started CrossFit. Remember when you had to ask what the difference between a DL (deadlift) and PP (push press) were? Just like workouts of the day (WODs), the more you go, the easier it becomes to understand basic movements.
2. Be inflexible.
You claim you can't do yoga because you lack mobility or can’t touch your toes. Most of us couldn't do a pull up or even a handstand when we start CrossFitting, but does this stop you from going to CrossFit? Working on flexibility is important in maintaining healthy joints with a full range of motion. Start simply after a WOD by cooling down with simple seated stretches. Sitting in Paschimottanasana with your knees bent can help you stretch and you’ll be able to touch your toes!
If you’ve ever done a WOD, you already know how “in the moment” you can get during a hard workout. This is one of the reasons CrossFit becomes so addictive. WODs can help us release our to-do lists. Take this practice of meditation from the rubber flooring to the rubber mat; sit, be still, and breathe. Even taking time out for five minutes a day or week can make you a better and more focused athlete.
4. “Roll Out” and stretch.
Rolling out (as CrossFitters like to call it) is a form of self-myofascial release, or SMR, that can help release tense knots or sore spots. While this is a great form of massage for the muscles, it shouldn't replace a stretching routine or coming to a regular yoga class. The foam roller can enhance a post-work out cool down and create many benefits for balance and strength, but don't make it your only method of stretching.
5. Do something other than CrossFit and yoga.
Your fitness practice should be something you enjoy rather than something you dread. By constantly challenging yourself to do different physical activities you can set new goals. So... go play outside with your kids, wakeboard, run, hike or bike.