Sunday, November 27, 2011

Power Yoga for CrossFit

A few weeks ago was my first foray into a yoga studio. Although our CrossFit gym has had yoga instructors come in to do classes at our box, I had never ventured into yogi territory before. After seeing a Google coupon for a Stillpoint Yoga Studio class package, I took the plunge and got a great deal. K and I ended up going to a "power yoga" session taught by Stillpoint's founder, Jack Forgosh. Besides sounding badd*ss, I didn't know what to expect from power yoga. Naturally, I googled it and found information on the reliable(?) site, "The term 'power yoga' came into common usage in themid 1990s, when several yoga teachers were looking for a way to make Ashtanga yoga more accessible to western students. Unlike Ashtanga, power yoga does not follow a series of poses. Therefore any power yoga class can vary widely from the next. What they have in common is an emphasis on strength and flexibility." Strength and flexibilty? Sign me up!

Shirt from Whole9.
The actual class had seven clients in a heated room that made for a steamroom effect that loosened us up like playdoh. (It also made for a sweaty, slippery mat; probably because I got it for $10 at Marshalls) The class lasted an hour, which is good because most other classes are 90 minutes and I'm not sure if I (or my slippery mat) could have lasted that long. Since I had a tiny bit of experience with some yoga moves, I caught on pretty quickly to the repeating movements. There were a few that I simply couldn't do "as prescribed" but I "scaled" by using a strap to hold on to my foot in order to get a good stretch. 

Lots of people think CrossFit is about strength, and while this may be true, I think it's about strength expressed through efficient movement. Correct positioning could make the difference between a failed lift and a PR. Therefore, the biggest reason I bought this package was for the opportunity to work on flexibilty. Much like our clients need the structure and supervision of CrossFit to workout, I wanted the structure and supervision of stretching. During the hour-long class, we moved quickly from positions like downward dog to warrior to eagle. Many positions involved stretching of the hamstrings (great for someone who sits at a desk during the day) and I found myself applying the yoga positions to CrossFit. Below are some examples:

Chair pose - lumbar curve engaged? SQUAT.

High plank to low plank poses - elbows in, slow lowering? PUSH UP.

Warrior pose - front knee over ankle? SPLIT JERK.

Corpse pose - laying down on ground? POST WOD COLLAPSE.

Some CrossFitters tend to beat down anything that isn't CrossFit, and while I don't see myself going to daily yoga classes, I do see the practicality on working out kinks and flexibility weaknesses. As much as I'd like to dedicate an hour each day to stretching, the reality is that very few people have the discipline to do that. Going once a week to power yoga won't work miracles, but it will keep me conscious of the fact that I have a lot to work on (namely shoulder, thoracic, and hip flexibility) and hopefully encourage me to create a routine. Jack is also great at giving verbal cues and making you realize what you should be feeling in each movement. If you're in the King of Prussia area, go check out Stillpoint.

Side note: Another great resource for stretching that's directly related to CrossFit is the MWOD (Mobility WOD) from Kelly Starrett. K-Star is the renowned CrossFit guru when it comes to all things PT and mobility related. If you are looking for a free resource for mobility and stretching, this is the site for you.

Is flexibility getting in the way of your CrossFitting?
What are your problem areas?

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