It’s important for me to stay in shape because I want to be...well, healthy. Plus, it is my job. To me healthy means being strong, balanced and able. I want my body to allow me to do stuff without pain and of course not end up getting injured while doing the things I like to do. Having over 26 years in the everything-body-business I have studied and practiced dozens of fitness ideas and models.
One thing that is constant is that there is always some new trend that comes along. I always feel it is important for me to take a close look at these latest and greatest forms of exercise. Today two of the chart toppers are Yoga and CrossFit. Having extensive training in both (as well as treating injuries to devotees of each), I found many common denominators with these two activities and thought it would be fun to share the similarities.
First prepare your wallet for a serious workout to become a properly ensemble Yogi. Yoga has Lululemon and - those other brands - but believe me when Isay the eyes around the room are looking to see if you’ve come properly labeled with your horseshoe shaped merit badge. Now the Lululemon founder has not quite come out and said “You cannot practice yoga without wearing MY clothes“, but somehow that’s what everyone seems to be hearing. One exception is hot yoga, where both the men and women reduce their investment to a bikini. Not always pretty.
CrossFit goers have their own way of assembling a fashion statement. Skull and cross bone garb is often seen layered over an array of protective gear. Other choices are sports team, alma mater, fraternity/sorority, pro-meat insignia or even your old torn, worn, otherwise rag tee shirt and sweats. Also very acceptable are body hugging, sweat wicking, neon laced Under Armour. In all, more cost effective not to mention lesscrossfitshirt scrutinizing then Yoga.
Arriving at a yoga studio begins with friendly smiles and idle chitchat as one stands eagerly awaiting permission to enter the room. When the doors open the battle begins to stake claim on a space just large enough to unroll your 68”x24” yoga mat. These mats come in an array of colors, materials, patterns, lengths, widths, corners and thicknesses. Of course tactically placed brand logos are displayed for further surveillance and scrutinization. Then there’s the ever-vast array of sleeves to house and transport these mats while not serving underfoot. This signature piece of luggage also transports other essentials such as a towel, Kambucha, prayer cards, Prius keys and eye pillows, as well as the essential eco-friendly solvents which assure your mats remains odor, germ, bacteria, sweat, and off-gassing free.
When you show up at a CrossFit “box” the mats are provided. (Phew!) These mats are quite thick- way beefier than any yoga mat. Perhaps the mats are that way as to absorb the excess sweat, dirt, tears, blood, snot, scabs, and spilled Muscle Milk. Other surfaces such as concrete, asphalt, dirt, grass, and carpet also come at no extra charge. For added protection get yourself knee, elbow, wrist, ankle, calve, bicep, and yes, chest and shoulder wraps so you may further stress a range of body parts to the depths you never thought possible. Your body gets shrink wrapped, much like squeezing a tube of toothpaste in the middle so the rest of the tube gets all swollen. Think Michelin man! Accessories come in an array of styles that are loud with color-popping shades and statements sure to express the CrossFitter in everyone.
Battle Cries or Mantras
Yogis ohm, chant and use lots of words that end in “asana”. Leaving you asking, ‘What dis asana???” And of course there is breathing- you will learn to breath in ways you never thought possible. You know the class is over when you hear Namaste. Cross Fit has “AARRRRGGGHHH!” “FUCK!” “3,2,1 GO!” “ONE MORE!” and my favorite, when it is all done, “Nice work today, buddy.”
Yoga finishes with savasana, or, lying on your back with your eyes closed as you contemplate your practice. Yogis are often told to set their intention for the day. I often wonder what people are thinking at this moment and imagine it is a spiritual wish of doing their part in making the world a more harmonious place to live, or quite possibly they are just thinking about driving straight to Lululemon to purchase that new body-shaping sports bra in this season’s eye-catching color of neon lime that their neighbor was wearing. CrossFit often ends in this position as well, although not voluntarily. The athlete’s eyes are usually squeezed shut from pain and exhaustion and thoughts are more typically something like, “Why the hell did I just do that to myself.” By the way, the translation of savasana is “corpse pose”. Coincidence?
Yoga has ‘chair pose’ and CrossFit has ‘overhead squat’. Same thing to me except for the fact that in Cross Fit you actually stand up and squat back down over and over again, usually with a little too much weight in your hands, while with yoga, you just hang out and breathe and suffer in the deep squat stillness. CrossFit has ‘burpees’, a nauseating exercise that has you bend over, put your hands on the floor, jump back into a push-up position, do a push up, and then return to standing in the reverse order. Oh yeah, jump as high as you can in between. Yoga calls this vinyasa, which means “series of movements synchronized with the breath.” There is the option of a ‘down dog’ and ‘up dog’ snuck in there with no vertical leap required. Either way, you will of course, be breathing.
Warrior sounds very CrossFit-ish but yoga is the proud owner of this pose. Basically you spread your legs in a lunge position, either hold your hands over your head, out to the side, or in front of you, while standing on one leg instead of two – one warrior was not enough in yoga, so you get three. Pulling, pushing, reaching, twisting, lifting, balancing as long as you can, and, you guessed it- breathing are all added to the equation. CrossFit loves warrior too, except they just call this a lunge. You warm up with lunges, twist with lunges, walk doing lunges, walk backward lunging, side lunging, jump lunging, hell, you even hold ridiculously heavy cast iron balls with handles, (called kettlebells) while doing all of this lunging. Remember that yoga has three warriors? In CrossFit warrior three is called Romanian Dead Lift AND you get to pick up a big heavy ball. I think that is a cool rivalry. In the red corner Warrior 3, in the blue corner The Romanian Dead Lift!
Yoga has the forward bend. CrossFit has a straight leg dead lift. Yoga has plank. CrossFit has plank. Harmony at last! Yoga has boat pose, where you balance on your butt in a V shape and for some reason is held rigid for a looooong time. CrossFit has hollow rock, which is basically boat pose except you roll back on your shoulders and return as if rigor mortis has settled in. Breathing is suggested but not essential for either.
So here we are left with the irony and juxtaposition of these two creative and useful means of health, fitness and mental discipline. What to do? How to choose?
Yoga practice is tranquil, in a small room on an even smaller mat, encouraging inner presence, while life is dynamic, spacious and demanding. Then there is CrossFit, where we pull, push, jump, roll, and move in every possible direction, trying to keep up with the clock and fellow CrossFitters, often with disregard to the voice that tells us to stop, take it easy, and breathe. Part of Yoga’s appeal is that you ARE stuck on that mat with nowhere to go, just you, no distractions, unlike the real world, which is full of disruptions and has a constantly responsive environment, like CrossFit. What is uniquely wonderful is that both Yoga and CrossFit create an environment of meeting demands and overriding your imagined limitations.
So my advice to you is to give them both a try! I did, and have found great value learning how to take what I learned in the ‘box’ and take it to the ‘studio’, and vice versa.
My goal as a Structural Integration and Movement Professional is to teach my clients to adapt. Period. Whether the intent is to calm or excite the nervous system, the most important lesson is to have the tools to know when and how to do just that. Adapt! Roll up your mat, jump on a box, and swing from a bar. Put down the kettle bell, lay on the floor, relax, and breathe. Yes, I said breathe!