Stay in CrossFit long enough, and you will probably here of GOWOD or ROMWOD. These are two apps that you can download to your phone that focus on helping you optimize your athletic performance through mobility work and stretching. The creators found that people in CrossFit or high-intensity exercise programs are missing certain things from their fitness routine that a program like Yoga could provide. We held our first Yoga class in a while this Tuesday, and while taking the class, I realized what exactly those things were.
I am a subscriber to both ROMWOD and GOWOD, and I have seen good results when it comes to flexibility from using both programs. But just like you can do CrossFit at home, I realized Tuesday the benefits of taking Yoga a class instead of using an app. Yoga has many transfers to CrossFit. I am sure that someone who is an avid yogi could see a similar transfer of programs, but I can only speak from a CrossFitters perspective.
The three things that I think are the biggest takeaways from a Yoga class for a CrossFitter may surprise you, stretching is not one of them. Although stretching and gaining a better range of motion is the obvious benefit, it is the one thing that you can get from the apps, but the three takeaways as a CrossFitter I got from our class on Tuesday were to Slow Down, Core & Balance and Mental Toughness.
Slowing down was the thing I had the hardest time with. In CrossFit, we go fast. Most workouts are based around the clock trying to finish a task as quickly as we can or in a given time do as many reps as possible. In Yoga, it’s about slowing down and moving with a purpose. In athletics, the thought is to train for speed because it is always easier to teach a sprinter to pace than it is to coach a long distancer to sprint. In a Yoga class, a good teacher will keep you at the desired pace and will strive for perfection in your movement, just like we do in our classes at BayWay CrossFit.
Core and Balance are what I would consider Yoga’s physical skills. Balance is a skill developed through our CrossFit program, but in Yoga, it’s developed in stillness while working towards alignment. In CrossFit, we use dynamic movements like single-leg squats and snatches to help us create balance, but holding still while standing on one foot forces your brain to work with all parts of your body to stay in alignment from your shoulders to your toes.
Core strength is vital in all aspects of life, but especially important when someone is trying to create a force as often as we do in CrossFit. CrossFitters build their core mostly through exercises that involve the transfer of energy through our core; we call these “Core to Extremity.” This is done through movements like kipping pullups or power cleans. In Yoga, the focus is on static and isolating core movements. Although we incorporate these into our program, it is the base of core work in Yoga. Some yoga classes will have core-specific sections, but a good teacher will always bring you back to your core in all poses. From keeping active shoulders, bracing the midline, or reaching through your toes, the core is continually working to hold your body still and allowing you to reach deeper into each pose.
Toughness is not something that comes to mind when thinking of Yoga as someone who has done CrossFit for the last ten years, but Mental Toughness is something that can be developed through practicing Yoga. Holding a pose seems easy in theory and on paper, but the actual practice of it is very challenging. Muscles start to burn and become uncomfortable, but you are taught to focus your breath and work through it, reaching deeper into the pose. Learning to breathe and hold still are some of the hardest things we can do as humans. From the moment you open your eyes until you close them, most of us never stop moving and breathing a natural thing, so we never stop to think about how we are doing it and how we can do it better.
A yoga class is an excellent addition to any CrossFit program. Yes, it is the complete opposite when it comes to theory, but it can help you build the Ten General Physical Skills that are crucial to your success as a CrossFitter.