I will admit up front that I have never been to a CrossFit gym. Before you start hurling barbells at me, give me a chance to explain why yoga could be so great for you, in addition to your CrossFit routine.
As CrossFitters, or anyone who does regular lifting, I admire you. There was a time once when I desperately wanted to be one of you, and I still wish I could step into a gym and do a tenth of what you can. While my chronic health issues dictate a much gentler routine for my body, there are some universal benefits of yoga that are good for anyone, whether you have an existing exercise routine or not.
I’ve been doing yoga for more than five years now, but I still wouldn’t call myself a “yogi.” I haven’t ever pulled off a headstand (see above), and I can’t swing some of those elaborate balance poses that look like only Cirque du Soleil pros could manage them. But I have gained enormous health benefits from my years of being a dedicated yoga amateur, and I think you would see some pretty great effects, too.
The best part is that you don’t have to be flexible, you don’t have to be an expert, you don’t have to go to a yoga class, and you don’t have to wear yoga pants. Basically, every excuse that you could have is no reason not to try yoga. I know, because I used to throw out every reason in the book. But I know now that it doesn’t matter if you can’t touch your toes, because after years of doing yoga, while I’m a lot more flexible than I used to be, I still can’t bend over and reach them. Yoga isn’t about perfection, but here’s why I think it could take your CrossFit lifestyle to the next level:
When you’re lifting heavy things, and putting yourself through the total body workout that CrossFit provides, you’re essentially powering your machine from your core. Sure, many different workout programs target “core strength,” but I can’t imagine one where it’s more necessary than CrossFit, especially if you’re lifting things half your size (or more!). Whether you’re doing a basic cat, bridge, or upward facing dog pose, or any of the various other yoga asanas, you’re going to need core strength. If you do yoga on a regular basis, you’re going to improve core strength. For CrossFitters, this is a win/win.
Lifting heavy things and participating in intensive workouts can often mean there’s more probability for injury, but your muscles and entire body will be less injury prone when it’s flexible. As someone who has dealt with flexibility issues in the form of fibromyalgia and arthritis, I can tell you that my muscles and joints come about as stiff as they get. A regular yoga routine has improved my flexibility so much that I can roll out of bed each morning and forget that I even have fibromyalgia at all. If I fall out of my routine, I go back to my aching, creaking, sore self who feels about 40 years older than I am. When you add yoga in to your CrossFit routine, you’re actually just empowering your body to take itself further into the realm of strength training and power lifting.
Who doesn’t need some extra stress relief? But beyond that, yoga helps to train your mind to focus, to be calm(er), to get in tune with every muscle in your body. With that kind of communication between your brain and your body, your workout routine can’t help but improve, not to mention multiple other areas of your life. A fair amount of yoga focuses on learning how to breathe, and while we all know how to breathe, there are effective and ineffective ways to go about it. Just think about how much better your WOD times could be with the ability to utilize oxygen better during workouts, extending your tolerance and longevity? By being more tuned into your muscles, you could improve your lifting form, as well as your ability to lift (heavier) things.
The benefits of yoga don’t show up overnight, but even with regular participation just a few times a week, you could see some dramatic improvements in your overall fitness, not to mention your whole body wellness. Yoga has also been shown to improve sleep quality, mental health, and even chronic disorders of the digestive system, like IBS, just to name a few.
Aimee McNew, MNT, Certified Nutritionist