crossfit & yoga: the odd couple

You know that one, perhaps random thing that you think is so beyond cool that you could spend hours googling it, browsing from site to site, and never get bored? For many of you reading this (my dad Pat included), that thing may be CrossFit. For me, it’s the spine. Yep, I am self-admittedly a huge nerd about the spine. I find the vertebral column and the role it plays in guiding movement and overall health fascinating, and could go on and on about this at parties, if other people found it half as interesting as I do. My nerdy spinal obsession coincides well with my love for yoga, as most yoga poses are concerned with maintaining the health and movement of the spinal column. So when my dad told me Rob was leading a workshop on mid-line stabilization this weekend, I was pumped. My dad was also doing the WOD beforehand, so I woke up Saturday and not thinking twice, went along. 
When I got to the gym, I think there may have been some mild surprise to see me there. Someone even asked me “Isn’t doing CrossFit un-yogic??” While asked as a joke yesterday, this question does raise an interesting point: why would someone want to combine CrossFit and yoga in their training regimen? If you look at the extremes of these two forms of exercise typically seen in the media (think CrossFit Games and contortionist-like poses you see splattered on the cover of yoga magazines), these two could not seem more opposite. However, looking past the extreme stereotypes, CrossFit and yoga have more in common than you would initially think, and are in fact excellent complements. 
Any functional movement you perform during a CrossFit workout is eventually going to be limited by your range of motion. Pushing yourself beyond your natural ROM will compromise form and could eventually lead to an injury. Therefore, the ability to tune into your body in the physical sense and pay attention to position in each movement is absolutely vital for performing CrossFit exercises effectively and efficiently. Yoga practice places significant emphasis on body awareness, or noticing the connection of your body’s movement through space. Awareness on alignment allows you to notice your limits, and reach your natural ROM and then stretch your muscles there, gradually increasing flexibility, so that you can effectively squat deeper while still maintaining good position. 
Yoga asana (i.e., the physical poses) also utilizes many of the mid-line stabilization principles that Rob discussed. Mid-line stabilization is a critical factor in determining your overall level of fitness. Focusing on improving both mid-line stability and core strength through yoga can potentially open you up to numerous benefits, including better posture, good position, and increased power in movement extending from core to extremities, among others. Just as I could talk about the spine forever, I could go on and on about the benefits of yoga. Bottom line is that yoga helps Crossfitters move efficiently and with greater ease, which ultimately means feeling good. And who doesn’t want to feel good? 
While this is a brief introduction to a couple of the reasons why yoga is a great addition to any Crossfitters’ schedule, I plan on writing a couple more blogs going into the specifics a little more. I am very excited to be teaching at CFDR next weekend, and hope to see some of you there! Oh, and to answer the question, I found doing the WOD yesterday to actually be a very yogic experience. Just as some of you may consider certain yoga postures not possible to achieve in the normal human body (mostly referring to the contortionist “yoga models” mentioned earlier), I never thought I would be able to do 90 pull-ups (albeit with a band – scaling back is totally legit in yoga too). Uncovering possibility of movement is exactly what Crossfit and yoga are all about, and one of the underlying reasons the two complement each other so well.  

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