yoga and crossfit: why both matter to your health and wellness by laura willson

yoga and crossfit: why both matter to your health and wellness

five years ago i was taking my usual run around my house – 9 miles, a relatively lighter run, as i was training for my upcoming season in cross country. i later decided to go to the gym and do some (to be honest, rather pathetic) lifting. i lifted on the occasion but hated it, so the effort put in was rather minimal.

the next day i woke up and couldn’t walk on my right leg. the next eight months i was on crutches for a serious stress fracture in my hip. my senior year of high school i couldn’t compete in any of my sports; it took one day to injure myself and almost three hundred to heal.

three years later i again was sidelined from exercising for two herniated discs that developed in my upper back. at this point i had become so frustrated that exercise - something that use to bring me so much joy - had now virtually become torture, and i was left with the feeling that i would never realize my body’s full potential. what was missing? flexibility, strength, recovery. “try yoga” someone told me.

pffft. alright.

as fate would have it, yoga quickly became a sanctuary for me. my body had become stiff and weak after years of running, and yoga showed me why strong and flexible muscles were necessary for feeling well-rounded as an athlete. yoga also taught me to become more aware of my body – it showed me the difference between pushing past boundaries versus pushing through pain, and why the latter is detrimental to one’s workout and overall health and wellness. there’s a saying no pain, no gain – the yoga equivalent is “listen to your body, it will always tell you what it needs”. yoga has a way of humbling the ego. one will step on their mat and say “yeah, kay, i can touch my toes” – well, yeah, but can you put your toes BEHIND YOUR HEAD? okay, that’s not really the point of yoga. the point is, the body needs to be strong, flexible, and properly aligned in order to work towards its maximum potential. the purpose is never to make yourself into human origami, the purpose is to work towards that every time you step on your mat and listen to the lessons your body tells you along the way. you don’t need to be flexible to “do” yoga, you need to be willing to face the limitations of your body and overcome them.

as i started doing crossfit, i gained a much deeper appreciation for the benefits of yoga. what’s beautiful about the two is how well they compliment each other – crossfit builds muscle through brute strength and power*; yoga masters the body through breathing techniques, flexibility, and controlled movements in challenging postures (*opinions on definitions may vary). where one lacks, the other fills those gaps. crossfit was crazy efficient at making me strong- which took a relatively short time, most delightfully. one of the best parts of doing crossfit has been experiencing the resilience of my body - how i can beat it to shit every day with brutal WODs (i see you fran) and feel like i’m on my deathbed, only to wake up and realize “damn, i do have biceps”. it has been amazing to feel completely defeated by movements so simple as pullups or pushups, only to come back days (well, maybe a week or two) later and nail them. this in turn elevated my yoga practice as i could then move into more challenging arm balances and transitional movements that require tons of strength and balance.

let me be clear – i don’t have a history of lifting weights. doing crossfit classes has been the most dedication i’ve had towards lifting anything slightly heavy. i truly believe having a yoga background facilitated my ascent to WOD stardom (just kidding just kidding). by doing yoga, i came to crossfit with flexible muscles and a broad range of mobility in my joints, which was highly useful in order to move efficiently into lifts. as yoga became supplementary to crossfit workouts, i realized how necessary it was to take time to recover and stretch my muscles. one reason being that it felt amazing to get deep into the muscle tissue and work out the stiffness and soreness, but also because it helped to recover faster and prevent injury from tough workouts.

in essence, yoga and crossfit (power house crossfit, to be clear) are two sides of the same coin, yin and yang, peanut butter and jelly, etcetera etcetera. they each benefit the other. so do yourself a giant favor and try yoga - i promise you won’t regret it. and for every person that hates yoga, i will do a fran.


-Laura Willson