Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Peace, Love & No Holds Barred!

Sometimes doing yoga makes me feel like this happy lady.

But on occasion, right in the middle of a Warrior Pose I'll feel like this:

As one woman put it, "yoga makes me wanna knock the next girl right out of her down dog!" Are we all totally nuts? Maybe yoga exposes us as nutters but CrossFit utilizes the crazy?! What's going on?

  1. Most CrossFitters are Type-A personalities. 
  2. Many CrossFitters start to feel violent at the mere thought of doing a gentle yoga class but giddy at the thought of doing "Lumberjack 20" (anyone want a weight vest?!). 
  3. Most CrossFitters neglect their post-WOD stretches regularly.
  4. EVERY CrossFitter would be better if they addressed their flexibility more regularly. 
One working yogic theory is that the hips (more specifically the psoas) store strong emotions like anger and grief and those emotions are released during hip-opening poses. OK, so maybe some of us have some things we're repressing but dammit, now is not the time! So what is it about a relaxing hatha yoga class that makes us feel mean while a regular organized stretch session won't?
Another idea is that we're too tightly wound for full mind-body relaxation! We just cannot stand to be alone with all of our thoughts. An intensely active meditation like a WOD can focus all that scattered energy onto a single task resulting in short-term mental "relaxation". But sit us quietly in a softly lit room with ALL of our thoughts and holy Mother look out for our angry inner-child! 
(I had to fit this guy in SOME how!)

Then again maybe it is just that yoga is too slow! After all, you do WODs for TIME!  Taking your time is unheard of. "I have to HOLD this pose? For HOW long?! There's no power in that, it's just annoying!"

Maybe doing yoga makes you mad because it's really hard but you don't think that it should be. Maybe doing yoga makes you mad because while you're struggling to hold that pose that less-fit-looking guy looks like he's in his bliss. Right or wrong that pisses off your inner athlete (it's okay, this is an honest space). Maybe doing yoga makes you mad because it requires that you get to know yourself. Maybe you're finding it difficult to hold a pose as your muscles quiver and your thoughts start to clash. I mean, yeah maybe you have some stored anger in your hips but I'll wager that your grey-matter is playing a bigger role.

Let's compare the back squat and Warrior I (Virabhadra). To do a back squat, you take the bar across your shoulders and step away from the rack. You stand still for a moment. Then you "block" by taking a deep breath, bracing your abdominals and pulling your belly button down into your pelvis. Then you move through the squat to full depth and then back up to standing where now you breathe again.  To do Warrior I, you stand still in Mountain pose, then you exhale to step wide and raise your arms straight overhead and in line with your ears. With each exhale you adjust a little more until you are fully in Warrior I pose. Now the work begins as you hold this pose and breathe fully and steadily for one minute. 

Do you see that? 
Stand and breathe. Hold breath to move. Stand and breathe. versus 
Move and breathe. Breathe steadily but hold pose. Move and breathe.
They complement and balance each other. So now your challenge is to find the parallels between the fitness (CrossFit) and the flexibility (yoga) in your own practice.

It is just as hard to hold a pose at the edge of your comfort zone as it is to push the limits of your back squat ability. The difference is that if you miss the lift you can assign blame (even a little) to the bar. If you can't hold the pose there ain't no one to blame but yourself. I mean, are you serious? You can back squat 180 pounds but you can't hold a simple little lunge? 

See, that's tough to hear.

What I'm hoping is that the next time you do any yoga you can think to approach each pose like it's a max lift. Instead of doing a set of five lifts you'll instead hold a pose for five breaths. 

Come on, you're a type-A, take-no-prisoners CrossFitter! Don't you dare tell me that you can't!

Now go crush it!


  1. Great blog (found it through SINS fb), I'll be sure to follow it regularly. I do boxing and weightlifting, but have decided to delve back into yoga as well. I went to weekly classes for a bit over a year, but then found it hard to do it on my own, to find the right state of mind to do it in my room, and it got left out.
    "You can back squat 180 pounds but you can't hold a simple little lunge?" just about sums it up perfectly.
    I'm extremely flexible, but a proper (effortless looking, the right balance between relaxation and power) downward dog or warrior stance feels so much harder then doing the splits or something similarly passive stretching.

  2. Hi Katariina! Im with you, trying to find the right state of mind in my room is really difficult. Ill get distracted and think, Hmm, I should really vacuum!

    I find floor poses to feel like they take up more room & I'll stop sooner. Maybe try to start with just a couple simple standing poses if you're relegated to a smaller space. That may help you ease back into getting excited about it again regardless of space!

    Hmm...now you've got me thinking, thanks! :-)
    Keep me updated on what you find that works!