We Need Yoga, not just “Mobility”

I was watching a video yesterday of some of the most elite CrossFit athletes taking a Power Yoga class. It made me so happy to see it. They were focusing on breath and I could tell they were feeling the poses. These athletes are super strong and have amazing abilities. And their movement positions are faultless. The amazing thing about CrossFit is that is encompasses any fitness modality that you can think of. And while they do become extremely proficient in some sports, they cannot possibly be proficient in all.

CrossFit athletes do "mobility", which is a functional form of stretching. This includes warming exercises, soft tissue manipulation (foam rolling, lacrosse ball,…), stretching, and often assisted stretching with bands and other props. I think its an amazing set of tools to have. But I sense that most don’t do actual "yoga".

Mobility includes yoga poses done in specific ways for their benefit. But they are not really doing yoga. I think CrossFit’rs and other athletes would benefit greatly from yoga. As a yoga teacher and CrossFit’r, I could easily tell when their positions were out of yoga alignment. I work with bodies all the time and can see issues quickly. I can picture the muscles that were causing them problems and was identifying in my own mind how I could help.

Believe me, I admire these athletes so much. I’m their biggest fans. They do things that I can’t even fathom. They can do a workout in 2 minutes that takes me 10 minutes. Their aerobic capacity and strength is through the roof. I have no doubt in my mind that a regular yoga practice would help them immensely. When I watched these athletes, I saw limitations in their flexibility. Tight hamstrings and glues are among the most obvious, but shoulders, thoracic spine, and other areas are issues too. If they could open these areas, they would feel better about themselves and likely improve performance.

But its not just flexibility. Yoga requires a huge amount of specific strength. When I watched the Fittest Man on Earth struggle with crow pose (bakasana) and an L-sit lift (Brahmacharyasana), I was shocked. When I saw Sara Sigmundsdottir with a fairly flaccid Warrior 3, it made me wonder. I could see not only tightness in hamstrings and glutes, but I saw weakness. What if they could be stronger in those poses? What would it do for them?

For me, it does a lot. I am a much more capable, well-rounded athlete because of yoga. Yoga is super amazing for overall well-being. But it also helps with sleep, hormonal regulation, and the breath. All of these are supremely important to athletes. Then add on recovery, rehabilitation, and injury prevention and you have a winner!

Give yoga a try! Not just one try, but several before you decide if you like it or not. And be sure to visit several teachers. Every teacher has a bias and their own style. So its important to visit different ones.

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