CrossFit and Yoga – Yin and Yang

CrossFit — By on December 26, 2011 10:23 am
CrossFit AllStar

KC Stallsmith, owner CrossFit AllStar

“Yin yang are not opposing forces (dualities), but complementary opposites that interact within a greater whole, as part of a dynamic system.” – Wikipedia

Prior to starting CrossFit, I practiced yoga for four years.  I finally gave it up as I wanted to find an exercise program that was a bit more strength oriented – enter CrossFit.   CrossFit has certainly provided strength, but I have been wondering if it might make more sense to try and combine the two disciplines.

To help me explore this, I sought out the advice of my friends Megan Combies and KC Stallsmith.  Megan is a CrossFit and Yoga coach in Santa Cruz, CA, and KC is the owner and a coach at CrossFit AllStar in Hawaii

Question to Megan: I would characterize CrossFit as “Loud and Intense” which is pretty much the opposite of how I view yoga (peaceful, mindful, and centered) – How can you integrate the two worlds?

At first glance Yoga and CrossFit are incredibly different. Just as you stated, CrossFit is loud, intense, and aggressive. Yoga on the other hand is about finding peace, being mindful and opening your heart. But when you look deeper at both of these disciplines you will find some commonalities and ways in which they complement each other. Being completely present, staying with your breath, being non-judgmental, being supportive, staying calm and focused, clear, balanced, strong, determined. The list goes on and as you may have noticed, the only real differences are the ego and competition. In yoga we try and release our ego and try not to compete with anyone whereas CrossFit builds the ego and creates competition. This is where I believe the two balance each other out the best. Yoga keeps you humble and grateful, CrossFit keeps you continually pushing your own limits, yoga teaches you to understand and honor your boundaries, and both build confidence to do what you may have never dreamed to be possible.

Question to KC:  Why did you decide to combine CrossFit and Yoga?

I was working as a CrossFit coach and surprised at the lack of mobility and stretching offered in most of the workouts I was asked to deliver. I started adding small bits of yoga and mobility at the end of my classes. Feeling that this was an important, and often neglected aspect of many CrossFit classes, I eventually did 100 hours of yoga teacher training in Hatha Yoga and a 100 hour Anusara Yoga Immersion. This was a gift I gave to myself to help myself understand more about my body and how I can give myself the gift of Yoga. Now as a Certified Yoga Teacher, Certified CrossFit Trainer and Affiliate owner, I am thrilled to humbly share the gift of yoga with others, especially CrossFitters who will experience the profound benefits of Yoga, that even go beyond the physical.

Question to Megan:  If CrossFit is your primary mode of exercise, how would you suggest adding in a yoga practice?

I am a firm believer that you cannot have one without the either. Research shows that the two types of individuals most prone to injury are individuals who are too flexible and individuals that are too tight. The first causes laxity in the joint, the latter causes problems such as loss of range of motion and pulling of the musculature on the skeletal structure causing improper alignment. With that said, I would recommend an individual supplement CrossFit with a yoga practice about twice a week. More for those who are naturally more rigid and tight as these individuals are more prone to injury.

Seeing as how most CrossFit box’s run their program as 3 days on and 1 day off, the rest days would be perfect for the yoga practice. Another option would be post WOD to help alleviate the tightness and soreness that occurs after. I would NOT recommend a yoga practice right before a WOD as research shows that after an intense session of stretching, you lose the ability to produce maximum force in your musculature for about an hour or so.

“Yoga is just plain good medicine for the CrossFit athlete, and you might even find it good for the soul.  Meditation and yoga WILL help your CrossFit performance along with all areas of your life.” – KC

What about you?  Do you combine yoga with another exercise program?

Related Posts:

Christmas Abbott – Finding Her Purpose with CrossFit 

CrossFit Training – Getting Fit for Life

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Tim Huntley , the former CEO of Ganymede Software, spends his time advising high tech start-ups, serving on the board for the Track and Field Athletes Association, and writing on his blog, An Entrepreneurial Life. Circle me on Google+.

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  • http://profiles.google.com/mjoulwan Melissa Joulwan

    I’ve just added yoga into my weekly mix, and I was struck by the similarity in “getting comfortable with being uncomfortable.” Just as CrossFit teaches me a lot about myself, so does yoga. With both practices, you cannot hide from your preconceptions of yourself and your abilities. Physically and emotionally, yoga and CrossFit are an excellent pair. Thanks for this awesome interview!

    • http://myathleticlife.com Tim Huntley

      Thanks Melissa – your recent writings on yoga were what planted the seed for this post.

  • Biodynamichawaii

    Way to go KC. Yoga can be a practice to deepen ones own body awareness while increasing strength, flexibility and endurance. It has been a great addition to my life.

  • Wayne hinton

    So excited to see this topic discussed. I started doing hot power yoga 6 months ago in addition to my Crossfit. I do a 5:30am class of yoga before Crossfit at 8am. The yoga is great preparation for a good hard WOD. I am already warmed up and limber but more important, I am already “in the moment” frame of mind. My WOD times and stamina have gotten much better thanks to the yoga. My box offers a free yoga class every week to all members.

  • Mallet

    Excellent – been doing Yoga since last year and Crossfit barely two months..

  • Ahimsa

    I am a Kripalu certified yoga teacher and my daughter is a CrossFitter! She suggested I talk to local CrossFit owners about offering yoga to their members at their locations. So here’s my concern. How old is too old to try CrossFit if one is in good health and lives an active lifestyle?

  • http://www.facebook.com/wdhpiano Wayne Hinton

    Ahimsa: I am 63 and have been doing crossfit for 4.5 years. The oldest competitor in the recent Reebok Crossfit Games was Jacinto Bonilla, who is 72. Like yoga, crossfit can be scaled to each individuals abilities whether limited by age, fitness level, or other limiting factors.

  • Dan

    I’m right there with you! I own Metacomet CrossFit & Yoga. I was a CrossFitter for 3 years prior to opening and Yoga even longer. Obviously certified in both as well. Great write up! Thanks!