Yoga is not for everyone for countless reasons. For some, it’s a lack of time, others a lack of desire or understanding of what yoga is. Some find it’s not a cost they can justify. Or if there is only x amount of hours in a week to workout, yoga is not how one of those hours should be spent. If you’re not interested you’re not interested, but for those who aren’t sure what it is, or who have never tried yoga, we thought we’d fill you in.
GAIN Mobility was created with CrossFit in mind. As a yoga teacher, a CrossFit coach and a Personal Trainer at GAIN Fitness Norwich it was hard not to notice how the way people move was holding them back from their full potential in CrossFit classes. And more alarmingly, it was putting them on a fast track to injury. This got me, and other coaches a little worried. We always encourage members to stretch at the end of class, but is 5 minutes enough to undo years of sitting at a desk? Or years of endurance sports such as long distance running? Carrying children on one hip? Or even years of building muscle in a ‘regular’ gym? The list goes on, and the answer is probably no. 5 minutes stretching at the end of class probably won’t do much to change or improve any ones range of movement.
GAIN Mobility’s Fitness Yoga classes take into consideration the common struggles of the everyday CrossFitter, such as the struggle with overhead mobility. There are so many factors that can cause this but unfortunately, a lot of us spend most of our days at a desk causing our range of movement to suffer. It also helps terrorise our squat, rendering us unable to squat to full depth, or causes pain when we do.
The wonderful thing about CrossFit is that we are able to train around most injuries, and we are able to rest the afflicted ailment. But when the injury recovers it’s likely to reoccur, due to the fact our mobility may well be the same or even less due to not keeping mobile during our recovery period.
Yoga, or what we consider yoga today, was designed thousands of years ago with the goal of being able to sit comfortably for hours on end to practice meditation. No joke. The postures we practice were designed to increase the muscular endurance and flexibility required to sit and meditate for hours (or even days). Have you ever tried sitting on the floor cross-legged with no support, with a straight back for more than half an hour? It starts to burn.
So straight away our basic yoga postures look to improve our core strength, our hip mobility, our ankle mobility and the position of our spine to name a few. All of these directly improve our ability to perform well and avoid injury from CrossFit.
Having always come at yoga from a strictly ‘fitness’ perspective, I trundled off to Nepal do a second and third teaching qualification in hope to gain some spiritual insight into the practice. Having always been a bit of a sceptic I was pretty disgruntled that from day one we were expected to chant and sing mantras. Little did I know that these would become such an ingrained part of my day that without them I felt a little lost. There was a huge focus on meditation and mindfulness throughout both the different styles of yoga I went to Nepal to learn about. Never once did I expect these aspects to affect my Fitness Yoga practice. Nor did I think it would help CrossFit in any way. It turns out I was wrong.
For those of you who haven’t done yoga before, may I use this opportunity to tell you yoga is hard! I was asked a few weeks ago if any calories were burnt during a yoga class. If you’re unsure, come along and try it. (That GAIN Fitness members now books into the Wednesday night class that’s included in her membership, every week without fail). It does depend on the style of yoga you practice, but you can burn a lot of calories in just 45 minutes. We’ve had members in class with a heart rate of 165bpm, we’ve left puddles of sweat on the mats, we’ve been out of breath, shaking with effort and feeling the deepest burn, in muscles we weren’t aware we had. It’s been announced mid class that “Yoga is harder than CrossFit” before, so there you have it. Yoga is challenging, and yoga in Nepal was just as challenging, so much so that during one particularly gruelling class our Guru announced almost flippantly, “pain is temporary.” This very quickly became something like a mantra to me. During holds that were uncomfortable and challenging I’d repeat to myself (in my head) “pain is temporary, pain is temporary, pain is temporary”. Then before I knew it, the hold was over and I’d achieved holding that posture much longer than I would’ve without the mantra. Just by reminding myself that the pain was soon to be over, that the pain was making me stronger, better, fitter, more mobile and so on. Strangely enough, when I got back from a month in Nepal, my first CrossFit class hurt, a lot, and this little mantra got me through that work out and has continued to help with many since. I’m not claiming that you have to use this mantra to make yourself better at CrossFit, but what yoga does offer you when practiced, is a calm patient and resilient mind. This will enable you to push harder into a workout, hold on for a bit longer, lift a little heavier and take yourself away from the pain of what you’re actually doing.
Being more aware of our thoughts and how they affect our actions is a huge part of why we meditate. If during a workout you tell yourself “I cannot lift this barbell it’s too heavy”, or “if I do another burpee my lungs will definitely explode.” The odds are you’ll stop, you will spends seconds or minutes trying to recover before talking yourself into getting down on the floor again, or attempting to lift that barbell.
What meditation can help with is making you more aware of what you’re thinking, it helps you quieten your mind, enabling you to just get on and get work done. Your mind will give up over and over but your body can always carry on. The two elements of yoga (the postures and meditation) combined with CrossFit seem to be getting results in both gym and in the yoga studio. Squats are becoming deeper, recovery is speeding up, and we’re gaining strength both physically and mentally.
And this is what yoga is all about.
Alex Howarth, owner of GAIN Mobility, Fitness, Astanga, Hatha and Vinyasa teacher. Lover of meditation and writing. Even if I can't spell.