In the wellness world, people tend to find their niche and then they will defend that training modality with the ferocity of a lioness! It’s rare to find crossover amongst training styles: with Yoga and Crossfit being two of the most fiercely defended. This is a huge shame, as students and athletes miss out on increasing their quality of life and the sheer enjoyment of practicing to their full potential. There are two essential topics that must be addressed when it comes to Cross-Fitters using yoga to improve their performance:
A) There are different styles of yoga and yoga teacher. Not doing the research, picking the wrong style, having a terrible experience and then bad mouthing yoga forever isn’t yoga’s fault... it’s yours.
B) Being truly terrible and feeling wildly humbled at the end of a class doesn’t make it a bad thing. In fact it may just be the best thing you have ever done for your athletic performance.
Throughout London, the UK and most of the Western World, people practice different styles of Vinyasa. This is a relatively fast-paced yoga practice, requiring beginners to flow around a mat, memorise thousands of poses and transitions, and is heavily dominant on the anterior upper body (entirely unsuited for Cross-fitters or other athletes). However, HATHA yoga, is less common in gyms, but is a true Godsend for those who love the barbell & rower!
Yoga Journal describes Hatha yoga as “a path towards creating balance and uniting opposites... develop a balance of strength and flexibility... connecting the mind, body and breath”. Most people would recognise Hatha yoga as having to hold a posture for a few minutes, while concentrating on your breath and alignment (it’s the one that most Westerners find really f*!?ing hard).
How Hatha helps Cross-fitters
Hatha yoga in most gyms and studios will concentrate on hitting a pose, near to the end range of motion (ROM), while under load (high lunge, wheel pose, side plank), leading to greatly increased mobility and strength through the entire ROM. If you pair these isometric holds with concentrated breathing, you will create a body & mind that is bulletproof from injuries.
A collection of studies collated by Progenex (a respected supplement and fitness business) has identified five leading causes of injury to CrossFit athletes. Here's how Hatha will help to elimite each one!
1. Training volume and intensity
The vast majority of beginner and intermediate athletes will over-train without knowing their bodies limitations, even being linked with Exertional Rhabdomyolysis (ER) - breakdown of muscle tissue. (The Journal of Sports Medicine) Attending a Hatha class or even viewing one online, will force rest and recovery into your training schedule. You literally save yourself from yourself.
2. Poor muscular strength and endurance
Humans train their strengths & ignore their weaknesses: FACT. When put into a properly aligned posture and held for 1-3 minutes, there is nowhere for the weak muscles to hide. When we move fast, our body can cheat, but when everything is slowed right down, all the usual suspects are forced to work: vastus medialis oblique in a lunge, anterior serratus in a push up, rhomboids in a locust pose, gluteus medius in goddess pose. These are some of the true stabilising muscles that will make all gymnastics and Olympic lifting more efficient and powerful. Increasing muscular endurance will aid your ability to flush lactic acid and hydrogen ions, so you can go stronger for longer.
3. Muscular imbalances
We spend the vast majority of our lives in a seated position, leaning over a computer or other workplace implement. This leads to conditions such as upper and lower cross syndrome. Essentially tight pectorals, anterior deltoids, latissimus dorsi, biceps and hip flexors. Partnered with weak spinal extensors, glutes, rhomboids and transverse abdominus. All of this leads to pain (Journal of Rheumatology) and an inability to extend the hips, spine and shoulders. Upper Cross Syndrome is a huge inhibiting factor in all overhead lifting and gymnastics. A full practice of back ending and hip openers will counter this, by opening the tight muscles and gently strengthening the weaknesses. Conversely, lots of Vinyasa will actually increase the danger of upper cross syndrome!
4. Mobility limitations
Mobility is a mix of flexibility and joint stability. Effectively the ability to contract a muscle at the end range of motion. Everything we have listed above will lead to greater mobility.
5. Mental Fortitude
... finally we can talk about mental fortitude. Simply existing in a proper down dog or front splits, while not fidgeting and breathing into the tension until it disappears, is a secret weapon that very few athletes have at their disposal. That ability to tap into your deep calm will come to you when you are entering the pain cave!
This article was written for Warrior Addict by the awesome Dylan Salamon: Warrior Addict Brand Warrior, yoga teacher, triathlete, competitive rugby player, personal trainer, crossfit and powerlifting coach! For more about Dyl, check out his page here
We would like to give credit to T Nation and Coachmag for the images used in this article.