Yoga and CrossFit? Why both?
Written by: Luke Espe, 12 Labours CrossFit
As my elusive quest for fitness continues, I continue to look for new ways to improve not only my performance but my overall fitness. Fitness is a term that has a very different meaning to each person, and that definition might change over time. Mine has changed drastically over the years, and I am sure it will continue to change.
It started with “How much do you bench press?” to “What is your 40 time?” to “How fast can you do Fran?” to “What is your snatch?”
Those questions pretty much sum up my fitness journey in the past 15 years. Probably a pretty standard progression for a lot of people, but it has evolved into more of a “How do you feel?” type of question. More importantly the question I have for my clients is “How do you feel?”. CrossFit sometimes gets a bad rap of being this brute sport with screaming, throwing up, bloody hands and injury…but as we continue to grow this brand and awareness of the brands meaning, we want it to be known that this is a way to improve your lifestyle.
Improving your lifestyle is not accomplished by hitting a WOD twice a week as we all know. It is much more than that, and we continue to try and give you those other pieces of the puzzle. Nutrition, Goal Setting, excellent coaching, elegant programming, a supportive Community, and a huge piece that some of us are still missing is recovery. Not only physical recovery, but mental as well.
I am going to give you two perspectives on yoga, one from a coach and the other as an athlete, with some additions from our Yoga Instructors.
As a coach there is one main goal for each and every one of our clients…and that goal is progress, no matter how fast or slow it might be. This does not necessarily mean weight on the bar, or how fast you do a workout! There are a few things that can increase that rate of progress, which include the following.
Movement…are we getting into positions correctly and moving in a pattern that is conducive to progress, not injury. Getting into a perfect squat is not an easy thing…especially when the mobility of a client is hindering them from getting anywhere near a proper squat. Mobility is a term that means much more than just flexibility. It is having a proper mix of Flexibility, Stability, and Body Awareness.
“The benefits of yoga for athletes are immeasurable. Regardless of the sport, a regular yoga practice will improve an athletes' flexibility, strength and balance. It goes without saying that stretching is important, but yoga offers much more than that.” Meg Fredericks Cocco
Getting into a regular Yoga practice is going to help with all three of these pieces. Our hips and thoracic spines are so jacked up from sitting at a computer all day that something as primal as squatting up and down has become close to impossible for people to accomplish.
Not only that but we don’t have the body awareness to accomplish this correctly, even with every coaching cue we could possibly throw at you. This is not an easy fix, might actually be the hardest fix of all is getting someone to actually FEEL what you are trying to explain to them. Where yoga thrives, is the amount of body awareness you gain by getting into positions you have never been to before, holding those postures and breathing through them.
I’ve said it for awhile and I will continue to say it, but clients with a Yoga background are the absolute easiest clients to coach. Their mix of flexibility, stability and body awareness make coaching easy by eliminating those barriers to proper movement. Don't worry it is not only people with previous yoga experience, it includes clients that go into a yoga practice regularly see vast improvement based solely on the fact that they can achieve a better positions by that gained mobility, stability and body awareness.
The last piece is the mental game that plays a huge role in any fitness quest, and yes I said quest again, sounds much more epic that journey.
In the first 6 months of CrossFit, we see incredible progress...then after about 6 months of so we start to see that progress slowing down. (a whole other topic, aka beginner gains) That is a hard pill for some to swallow, and it becomes a more stressful situation than it should….we start comparing ourself to others, asking questions like “why am I not progressing as fast as him or her?” Believe me, I know for a fact this happens because I have been there. Yoga gives you a space to reflect, to let go and be mindful of your quest.
“We practice mindfulness and presence to ultimately improve the quality of performance in this game called life. The most elite athletes have a drive that is fueled from within.” - Katie Ficca
This is an extremely powerful piece to the puzzle, if not the most powerful. For those of you that attended the Twilight Asana, they spoke of a term called “Kritajna” which means Gratitude. Dig a little deeper into that and it is this notion of striving for more out of yourself, while being thankful and enjoying that process or as I prefer "Quest" HA! Sorry I have the attention span of a gold fish and I'll take any chance I got to throw a Van Damme reference in there.
At least that was interpretation, and it has helped me out tremendously.
Being present and enjoying what is happening in the present is more of a lifestyle change than a change to the way you train. This is a whole other post in itself and since this post is already long enough lets just leave it at that…but when this starts to happen, you will suddenly enjoy the process much more.
A lot of the athletes benefits can be found above, but one piece that helped me out as an athlete would be BREATHING.
Yoga put me into some scenarios where it was very difficult to breath…CrossFit does that too, but Yoga brings that awareness piece into the breathing. Awareness to breathing can be as simple as not freaking out during some burpees, to learning how to control and brace your breathe for a heavy Deadlift.
“Breathing with complete awareness, deeply during a yoga class in a variety of postures absolutely expands lung capacity- amazing to tap into when you are lifting and sucking in a breath, when you need a rhythm for more wall balls or to finish that last minute on the rower.” - Erin Jeeter
Learning how to breath properly, and more importantly being mindful of your breathe is invaluable, and the benefit can be seen in every aspect of fitness, not only CrossFit or lifting weights.
To sum this up, I would like to again just put emphasis on the process. The process is more than just working out, its more than just eating right, and its more than just stretching. Respecting the process and more importantly enjoying that process is the key. Try a yoga class, give yourself a space to be mindful of the process and feel the benefits.
Thanks to our yoga instructors for the contributions to this and helping write the article, you can find their schedules below!
*This article is from 12 Labours CrossFit.