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CrossFit and Yoga

Yoga Class

 Hear me out, don’t run away screaming: “Yoga is for soccer moms and guys who want me to sit in circle playing bongos”. The truth is, it’s not. Yoga may have gotten that rap over the past few years, but to be cliche “Don’t knock it till you try it.”. Chances are you may be already doing some yoga moves in your Mobility work, Pigeon Stretch (aka Pigeon Pose), child’s pose, cobra stretches and so on all have their roots in Yoga.

There’s a wide variety of Yoga methods out there and you’ll want to find one that meets your particular interest. Personally, I have no interest in Bikram Yoga, otherwise known as “Hot Yoga” (see below for more information), but that may be right up you’re alley. Here’s a quick list of five of the more popular types of Yoga and their purpose & benefits.

Hatha Yoga

Hatha originated in India in the 15th century. This type of yoga is slow-paced, gentle, and focused on breathing and meditation.

Purpose: To introduce beginners to yoga with basic poses and relaxation techniques

Benefits: Relieves stress, provides physical exercise, and improves breathing

Is It For You?: Beginners and people wanting to learn the basics of yoga

Vinyasa Yoga

Much like Hatha, Vinyasa covers basic poses and breath-synchronized movement. This variety of Hatha yoga emphasizes on the Sun Salutation, a series of 12 poses where movement is matched to the breath.

Purpose: To link the breath with movement and to build lean muscle mass throughout the body

Benefits: Helps improve strength and flexibility, tones the abdominal muscles, and reduces the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes

Is It For You?: Beginners and advanced yogis alike seeking to strengthen their bodies

Ashtanga Yoga

Ashtanga yoga metaphorically focuses on eight limbs. Considered a form of power yoga, Ashtanga is fast-paced and intense with lunges and push-ups.

Purpose: To help improve one’s spiritual self

Benefits: Relieves stress, improves coordination, and helps with weight loss

Is It For You?: Fit people looking to maintain strength and stamina, and those who want to get in touch with their spiritual side

Iyengar Yoga

Iyengar covers all eight aspects of Ashtanga yoga and focuses on bodily alignment. Different props like straps, blankets, and blocks are used to assist in strengthening the body. Standing poses are emphasized, and are often held for long periods of time.

Purpose: To strengthen and bring the body into alignment

Benefits: Helps improve balance, speeds up recovery from an injury, and builds up body strength

Is It For You?: Beginners who want to learn the correct alignments in each pose and those with injuries, balance issues, and chronic medical conditions like arthritis

Bikram (“Hot” Yoga)

Also known as hot yoga, Bikram is practiced in a 95 to 100 degree room. It’s typically a series of 26 poses that allows for a loosening of tight muscles and sweating.

Purpose: To flush out toxins and to deeply stretch the muscles

Benefits: Speeds up recovery from an injury, enhances flexibility, and cleanses the body

Good for: Beginners and advanced yogis alike who want to push themselves and those with physical injuries

Benefits of Yoga

  • Body Awareness

    Knowing where your body is in space and how it’s oriented is not only good for your day to day health and well-being, but it also becomes extremely important in Olympic level lifts. When your coach tells you to “Stick your butt out when you squat!” or “Keep your shins vertical!” knowing how that feels and being aware of that will be critical to actually getting in the right position to perform the lift. I come from a martial arts background prior to starting CrossFit, one thing that was always stressed there was “spreading the floor apart with your feet” just like CrossFitters do in squats or snatches. That bit came easy to me because I already KNEW what it felt like to be in that proper position. Body awareness matters.

  • Strength/Core Strengh

    Yoga isn’t going to up your back squat PR by 50lbs, but it will help you develop strength and muscle endurance. Some of the positions that you hold are quite challenging and will leave you sore the next day just like a good WoD.

  • Flexibility

    This seems to be a given, but notice how much Yoga movements reflect the mobility movements you are more than likely already doing pre and/or post WoD. These exercises will help to stretch out your muscular system and become more flexible.

Where to Do It

Yoga studios are fairly popular in most areas. I’d start by Googling for ones near you. Also, some CrossFit gyms are even starting to offer Yoga classes as well. If you currently aren’t at a CrossFit gym and you workout somewhere like the YMCA or a Gold’s Gym, chances are they have Yoga classes for free (for gym members) or for a small fee per class.

Should You Do It?

Absolutely. As a CrossFit athlete I feel it’s important to strengthen your whole body through a variety of means, but also strengthen yourself mentally by means of relaxation. I try to hit a Yoga class on my CrossFit rest days. (It does help that my wife is a Yoga instructor). But the bottom line is that you’ll gain benefits in mobility and flexibility that you might not gain/gain as quickly by only doing CrossFit