Skill yoga
Source: Skill Yoga

Top Training Secrets – 6 Ways Yoga Will Improve Your CrossFit Performance

Find out why you need to incorporate yoga into your training.

More and more CrossFit® athletes, from Noah Ohlsen to Sara Sigmundsdottir, have introduced yoga into their training as a way to complement and improve performance, recovery and mindset. Find out why you should be doing the same.

HOW YOGA COMPLEMENTS CROSSFIT® TRAINING

The following reasons will help you to understand exactly how and why yoga is important for you. Whether you want to improve in one specific area, or improve across the board, get ready to take your training, performance and well-being to the next level.

CrossFit Athlete dumbbell snatch

6. Yoga Improves Balance

CrossFit® requires excellent balance, mobility and control through a wide array of different movements. Take an overhead walking lunge with heavy dumbbells for example.

The entire movement requires excellent balance for extended periods of time. The load must be carried through a smooth, stepping motion, whilst maintaining tight core strength and organised, careful breathing in order to keep the body tight and the weight overhead.

Yoga significantly improves balance in this very way. Poses are held for periods of time and the person flows between each pose with grace and control. Breathing must be measured at all times in order to balance your bodyweight. This physical movement demands and develops excellent balance across a wide range of movement patterns.

CrossFit® methodology places movement through the full range of motion before allowing any weight to be added. I.e. if an athlete cannot maintain an overhead position with both arms balanced and lunge, then they cannot be given the dumbbells to add load to the movement.

The extra bodily control that is gained from Skill Yoga allow movements such as the overhead walking lunge to be more easily balanced and executed.

5. Yoga is a Great Way to Improve Gymnastic Movements in CrossFit®

Handstand walks, for example, require thoracic flexibility, as well as shoulder, core and arm strength. Yoga improves these parts of your fitness. Even a simple, beginners pose such as the downward dog will enhance overhead mobility. As you progress into harder movements, flows and poses, so will your CrossFit® improve as well.

Shoulder strength and mobility is hugely important for the sport of fitness. Pull ups (in all variations), muscle ups, weightlifting and all inverted movements make decent shoulder health a pre-requisite for any ambitious CrossFit® athlete. Improving this aspect of fitness in an indirect way (through yoga) has huge benefits that easily transition into CrossFit, helping to reduce the risk of injury alongside enhancing your performance in the Box.

Skill Yoga Pose

Personally, I have noticed many other smaller ancillary benefits as well. One example is my hand placement for inverted movements such as handstand pushups and holds.

Before, I would kick up into position without thinking about my hands. Now, after starting Skill Yoga, I have found that I am much more conscious of how I place and move my hands, and this body consciousness expands everywhere.

This may seem like a minor detail, but I was told by Kari Pearce – 5th place finisher at the 2019 CrossFit Games – that she is highly conscious of her hand placement and always tries to “grip the floor” in order to achieve maximum sensory feedback from her hands.

Yoga has considerably improved my movement patterns and awareness of my own body, perfect for improving my CrossFit® training.

4. Yoga Enhances Flexibility and Mobility

One of the most profound results of Yoga is the improvement in flexibility and mobility that accompanies regular practice.

CrossFit Athlete Clean exercise

One study found that two Yoga sessions a week for 8 weeks will most likely help you to gain between 10cm and 33cm of additional forward bend length during the sit and reach test.

This test is a good indication of full body flexibility, as well as demonstrating mobility improvements in the shoulders, hamstrings and lower back. Posterior chain flexibility is essential for lifters and CrossFit® athletes, and Skill Yoga has proven itself as a way to help you achieve this aim.

A tight posterior chain will weaken both lifts and performance in the Box. Cleans, snatches, box jumps, squats (in all variations) will be improved by better posterior chain mobility. The more comfortable you feel in a position, the less imbalances will develop.

Skill Yoga Pose

I found Skill Yoga really improved my front rack mobility, and as a result my numbers went up. One of my sticking points was that I often imagined the bar falling forwards on heavier lifts, and this small psychological niggle stopped me focusing 100% on the lift at hand. Once this was fixed (a bonus effect from yoga, not one I was specifically working on), the increased focus added 7.5 kg to my PR. No changes in the strength aspect, simply the positive effect of the yoga!

3. Yoga Builds Strength

CrossFit athlete

Yoga, when performed in certain ways, can be a useful tool to develop and advance strength. One study found that Yoga can even help to improve your deadlift! I mentioned above the effect it had on my front squat, but yoga helps you use your body in completely new ways, utilising slower movements and isometric holds that are often overlooked in other disciplines.

There is no arguing with the effectiveness of the squat, bench and deadlift when it comes to increasing pure strength. However, yoga works wonders for improving strength under fatigue in gymnastic movements (add yoga into your training if you are still aiming for that first muscle up or pull up). More strenuous yoga sessions often incorporate difficult isometric poses that develop strength under fatigue. A great crossover into CrossFit®.

Skill Yoga Pose 2

Additionally, yoga improves all round strength in general, “from progressive overload to metabolic stress, a strong yoga practice will naturally engage these muscle building processes.” Think about the Chair Pose for example, “the biggest muscles in the body are in the legs, and the Chair Pose uses just about all of them. Holding a rock-solid Chair Pose will have you engaging your glutes, your quads and your core.” When principles of metabolic stress and progressive overload are applied, you have a great method for building full body strength in a natural and effective way.

2. Yoga leads to Better Breathing

Watch the top Games athletes such as Froning and it becomes clear that they are masters at controlling their own breathing, even during heavily fatigued conditions.

The 8x Games winner often uses his breathing as a way to regulate rest periods between sets and reps. Yoga centralises the role of breathing in relation to physical exercise, an aspect often overlooked in general CrossFit® programming. So, by reincorporating this facet of training and competing, you will give yourself an advantage over your competitors.

This is not mere speculation. If you can breathe deeply and understand the techniques properly, the result is more oxygen and energy. Workouts involving long sets of thrusters or burpees can be incredibly taxing (as you well know!). You should take every chance possible to improve your conditioning through simply altering the way you breathe and improve your performance on these kinds of conditioning workouts.

1. Yoga can Increase your Ability to Cope more Effectively with Variation

CrossFit® revolves around the concept of constantly varied exercise. Yoga will increase the scope of variation of your training, which is only a good thing considering all its additional benefits.

HOW CAN YOU FIT YOGA INTO YOUR ROUTINE?

The best way to do this is to make it work for you. If you can’t make time in the morning, then move it to the evening or vice versa. Start with a few sessions at a time that you know you will be able to do, then build it up from these. Consistency is the key here! Skill Yoga has a selection of great tools to help you build consistent and healthy yoga habits.

Another great way to fit your new yoga sessions in is to do them after your CrossFit® class. This is also an effective way to assist muscle recovery and reduce the effects of DOMS (delayed onset of muscle soreness). I enjoy the contrast of CrossFit® then yoga and find that it works well for me. You have the post-WOD high coupled with the calm and focused feeling that follows a good yoga session.

Often, a large number of CrossFit® athletes tend to find mobility a chore, and in a fast-paced and hectic life, it is often one of the first things to be sacrificed. Bringing mobility work into a new light, into the context of yoga, is a useful way to help you to become more disciplined about it and make it more enjoyable.

Add yoga into your CrossFit® training

OTHER BENEFITS OF YOGA

We have established that yoga will help you become a better CrossFit® athlete, but it can also help you outside the Box as well. Here are some of the other benefits of yoga that you will enjoy.

Better Mental Focus

It is widely documented that Yoga improves mental focus. Just as little as 20 minutes will improve attention. According to one study “The Acute Effects of Yoga on Executive Function”, “Cognitive performance after Yoga exercise was significantly superior” and it created shorter reaction times and increased accuracy.

Yoga Creates a Greater Sense of Calm

As discussed above, the important role of controlled breathing within Skill Yoga forces you to take control of your body and your breathing. This in turn focuses attention inwards and leads to a greater sense of stillness and calm. Contemporary society bombards us with a plethora of activities, technologies, imagined realities and responsibilities all bidding for our time and attention.

There are very few occasions for people to be silent, to focus inwardly and to listen to how they really feel and think, away from distraction and outer influence. Yoga is a great tool on the path towards achieving a greater sense of inner calm and control. This in turn will result in better decision making and a healthier body and mind.

“To learn to see- to accustom the eye to calmness, to patience, and to allow things to come up to it; to defer judgment, and to acquire the habit of approaching and grasping an individual case from all sides. This is the first preparatory schooling of intellectuality. One must not respond immediately to a stimulus; one must acquire a command of the obstructing and isolating instincts.” Friedrich Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols

Yoga can Decrease Heart Rate

According to research, Yoga can lead to a decreased heart rate. One study into the “Sarvangasana” pose (a head-down-body-up postural yoga exercise) found that “resting heart rate (HR) and left ventricular end-diastolic volume (LVEDV) were significantly reduced after practising this asana”.

SKILL YOGA

Yoga is incredibly varied, so you need a type of yoga that will help you become a better, healthier and happier CrossFit® athlete. Introducing… Skill Yoga. 

Skill Yoga is the first Yoga System created especially for Athletes. It is designed to leverage the newest scientific advances to help you evolve into the most complete athlete out there.

It will teach your body incredible new skills and help you to get strong and become more flexible (while avoiding boring stretching sessions). Additionally, you will notice significant mental changes like increased focus, happiness and a feeling of general chillness.

What I loved about it is that you can select the exact program that you want, based on your own goals. Another great point is that the coach algorithm learns from your feedback. The more you train, the more specific and effective the program becomes.

Even if you are a total beginner, the coach algorithm will program exactly what you need to progress in a way that will feel right and challenge you at exactly the right pace for you.

Skill Yoga offers the following three unique Programs. Each reframes yoga in a completely new way.

Functional Strength

This program is designed to help you get stronger and pack on muscle through the following methods.

  • Dynamic movements
  • Static holds
  • Pose progressions

Skills and Technique

If you want to push your skills and challenge your balance, coordination and physical learning abilities then this program is perfect for you. I loved challenging myself with increasingly harder poses and movements.

  • Learn advanced arm balances
  • Step-by-step movement progressions
  • Quickly progress to an advanced level

Athletic Mobility

A well-rounded course that will raise your game for other sporting disciplines.

  • Combines flexibility and strength
  • Increase active range of motion
  • Eliminate deficiencies in your body

In short, yoga is an excellent way to improve your mental wellbeing and movement, but Skill Yoga is the next level. Designed by athletes, for athletes, it will enable you to raise your game and increase strength, mobility, flexibility, movement patterns, breathing, bodily control. This will significantly help to improve your CrossFit® training, performances and results.

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