If you do Crossfit, you should be doing Yoga. Not to realign your ‘Chakras’ or to become at one with the Universe, but to increase you flexibility, improve your balance, co-ordination, breathing and body awareness.
When you’re sat at the bottom of an overhead squat, almost every single muscle in your body is being pushed to its limits, not just in terms of strength, but also its range of motion. Your ankles, knees, hips, back, shoulders, wrists and even your neck are being forced into this strange position. To get a successful lift, all of these body parts need to be strong enough, flexible enough and coordinated enough to hold that barbell above your head in the correct alignment.
What about one of the simplest lifts we do: the Deadlift. It’s just standing up, we can do that, we all do it every day. However, the engagement of the Hamstrings and the straightening of the Lumbar and Thoracic Spine required all come from your ability to hold your body in an extended state. Rounding your back due to inflexibility as you lift will remove strength and begin to pull on the wrong muscles, ultimately limiting how much you will be able to lift.
Increasing your flexibility & balance
Practising yoga 2-3 times per week will have a dramatic impact on your mobility. Many stretches that are commonly used in Crossfit warm ups or cool downs, such as Childs Pose (Balasana), Pigeon Pose (Kapotasana) and Staff Pose (Dandasana) have come from Yoga. But doing a full practice will use a variety of Dynamic and Static movements to encourage your body into all sorts of weird and wonderful positions, activating muscles you don’t even know you have. Yoga involves many moves that mimic Crossfit Poses, such as squats, isolation moves if you’re struggling with a certain area of flexibility, such as pyramid for hamstrings, and full body moves like Downward Dog designed to engage as many muscles as possible.
Which brings me to my next point, practising Yoga will teach you to notice what the edge of your left foot is doing while your arms are up in the air and your right leg is bending over itself. Similar to the overhead squat, you need to be constantly aware of all your body parts, checking they are in alignment, that your muscles are engaging and not just collapsing into the easiest position. But, during Yoga you will be in a much more controlled environment without the risk of a barbell dropping on your head. By honing this skill, you can spend less time worrying if your feet are in the correct position, and more time focusing on increasing that weight.
Sport of Fitness
Crossfit is, as it always was, the Sport of Fitness. It is all encompassing Functional movement. “Cardiorespiratory endurance, stamina, strength, power, speed, flexibility, agility, accuracy, balance, and coordination: you’re as good as your weakest link” (Greg Glassman, Founder of Crossfit). If you can Lift 100kg above your head, but cannot touch your toes, there is an imbalance that needs to be corrected. By varying your training to include mobility work you are widening your skill set, which will ultimately benefit all of your fitness pursuits, balancing out your body and improving one of the most common weak links found in Crossfit, with benefits outside of the box as well.
Yoga is hard. Ask anyone who has tried a yoga class, it wasn’t quite as easy as they expected. Just like Crossfit, it is a sport that is demanding both physically and mentally, moving into and holding poses will cause you to sweat, shake and, sometimes, fall. Core (sorry, trunk) strength is the foundation of yoga, and is necessary for the basic Vinyasa (standard short yoga sequence used in every practice), all the way to the more advanced inversion moves, e.g. forearm stand or scorpion. You have to leave your ego at the door and always remember to keep breathing.
As a way of increasing mobility, nothing comes close to Yoga. Techniques such as Foam Rolling can be done every day for hours with little or no improvement, but just 10-20 minutes of yoga per day will begin to give you results within a week. There is no age limitation, just ask Ryan Giggs, and no one is ever ‘too inflexible’ to start yoga. Every pose has many levels of Scaling to allow even the stiffest lifter to get started, and more advanced variations for those who want a challenge.
As part of Crossfit Varangians Active Rest Thursday, we have a Yoga class at 6am and 6pm. Practising even just once a week for many members has already shown improvements in many areas of their Crossfit training. If you put in the time, you will reap the benefits. If it’s good enough for Annie Thorsdittor, it’s good enough for me. Namaste b*tches.