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CrossFit is all about community, and so is yoga.
For the past five months I’ve been teaching a regular Sunday yoga class at San Francisco CrossFit. After years of teaching in traditional yoga studio settings, this has been an exciting new challenge and a welcome change. I began training at SFCF in June of 2012 just after taking my first classes at CrossFit H20 in Medford, MA — owned by my best friends, Jaffney Roode and Benjamin Frank. I was instantly hooked on the intensity, speed, and explosive energy of CrossFit workouts. I quickly discovered that my background as a yoga practitioner provided me with the general mobility, positional awareness, focus, breath, and presence needed to stay on track with such a training program. CrossFit and yoga go together like fresh donuts and really good coffee, literally. Coffee, donuts, yoga, and CrossFit have become a regular occurrence on Sundays at SFCF.
Here are 10 reasons why I believe yoga can help you grow as an athlete, reach your goals, and continue to excel beyond your wildest expectations.
1) Yoga improves your range of motion and general mobility
Most of the classical poses in yoga support the same concepts of creating torque, finding a braced neutral spinal position, and always working from core to extremity.
Are your heels coming off the ground in your overhead squat? Is it impossible for you to do a handstand because your shoulders are so tight? How are your pistols? Can you get down there? Practicing basic yoga poses like downward facing dog, warrior two, and pigeon (just to name a few) help reinforce external rotation of the hip and shoulder necessary for many basic movements of CrossFit. Performing these yoga shapes consistently helps improve your overall mobility. Greg Glassman did say that all Crossfitters should be able to do the splits. This could be your future.
2) Yoga helps you focus
Have you ever had to complete 150 wall balls? That target is your “drishti” or point of focus where your gaze rests. In classical yoga there is a strong emphasis on creating a focal point that doesn’t move so you stay consistent while you’re moving. This technique of setting a steady focus helps tremendously with Olympic lifting, double unders, high box jumps, and toes to bar, just to name a few.
3) Yoga teaches you how to breathe more efficiently
CrossFit is primarily about moving fast with intensity, but in order to cultivate speed you must also cultivate rest.
After my first “Yoga for the Crossfit Athlete” class at San Francisco CrossFit, the Supple Leopard himself, Dr. Kelly Starrett asked me how it went. I replied, “It was awesome. The athletes move really well…but they breathe like shit.” Vinyasa Yoga is a practice of linking movement to breath, so you move through postural transitions using your inhale and exhale. This pattern of breath awareness seamlessly transfers to a long burpee workout where the timing of breath and rhythm is essential to staying on point. Yoga also helps you learn how to breathe deeply into your diaphragm, which directly translates into your ability to produce more power and sustain movements for longer durations.
4) Yoga develops your ability to balance
Balance is one of the Ten General Physical Skills highlighted in Greg Glassman’s definition of CrossFit. It’s necessary for most of the movements you see in a classic CrossFit workout. Practicing yoga poses such as Tree, Eagle, Dancer’s, or Half Moon help you achieve the stability needed to perform high rep or do cartwheels on a balance beam at the Sac Town Throwdown (not that I’ve ever done that). If you’re lucky, this balance thing trickles into your real life outside the gym and suddenly you’ve landed your dream job, relationship, home, and you have time for your CrossFit and yoga addiction. Lucky you!