For many dedicated CrossFit athletes, injuries are simply part of the active life. While strains and sprains are common in the athletic world, your high-intensity workouts don’t have to put you at risk.
The key to a safe and healthy relationship with your favorite sport is balance. And, the best way to achieve this balance is through a regular yoga practice.
While many CrossFit athletes shy away from yoga, this mind-body exercise offers much more than a little Zen. In fact, yoga can help improve an athlete’s performance and prevent frustrating injuries. Let’s learn how a little balance can go a long way.
Yoga: a crossfit athlete’s secret weapon
If you don’t think yoga has a place in your training routine, think again.
Yoga is one of the most powerful cross-training exercises for athletes of all kinds. Sadly, many athletes see yoga as a waste of time, or they are unsure of how it could be useful for them. When they finally step onto the mat to try it, it’s often because of injury or training burnout.
While yoga is an amazing rehabilitation practice, the best way to use yoga as an athlete is preventatively. Yoga offers a challenging and transformative workout that improves athletic ability while protecting against injuries.
While most sports involve working the same muscle groups or skills over and over, yoga offers a whole-body experience that can transform your strength, balance, flexibility, stability, and power. Yoga improves the body’s ability to recover from intense training and improves the body’s reaction to stress. This low impact practice offers the perfect balance to high-intensity CrossFit training programs.
How does yoga help crossfit athletes stay healthy and injury-free?
Yoga increases core strength
A strong core is crucial for all athletes to avoid injury. When the core is weak or unbalanced, the muscles of the back are at a higher risk of overcompensating for the weak core. The result? Strained muscles, low back pain, and an unwanted time-out from your training routine.
Thankfully, yoga is one of the best ways to prevent these issues. Most yoga poses are focused on building core strength through slow transitional movements, isometric contractions, and resistance.
Yoga reduces inflammation
Inflammation is one of the body’s responses to stress and injury. After a WOD, inflammation can linger and lead to pain, swelling, or general discomfort. With regular heavy training, inflammation can become a constant problem and leave the body vulnerable to new injuries.
Studies show that yoga can reduce inflammation after strenuous exercise. Incorporating low-impact yoga with high-intensity training days with may help the body heal and recover faster while preventing injuries.
Yoga improves balance
Balance training is hard work. If you’ve ever stepped foot in a yoga class, you’ve likely experienced how much balance and stamina are required to maintain a steady posture or control your slow movements. If you’re completely new to yoga, you can experience this for yourself by trying “tree pose.”
Tree pose and many other yoga sequences help to train the body for better balance. This is extremely helpful in preventing injuries as many athletes lack the balance training they need to perform better in their sport. Athletes who practice yoga regularly can reduce their risk of falls, trips, dizziness, and injuries. To stay balanced from head to toe, incorporate yoga into your training at least weekly.
Yoga prevents muscular imbalance
Many sports involve the same repetitive motions or focus on building strength in only a few key areas. While the same large muscle groups are overused and stressed, others are forgotten and weakened. This repetition causes unbalanced strength and poor body mechanics that lead to injury over time.
One of the most common injuries due to training imbalances is low back strain. Thankfully, research shows that yoga helps to manage the pain and dysfunction of low back strain while also helping the body stay strong and balanced in all muscle groups.
Yoga increases flexibility
When most people think of yoga, they think of flexibility – and for good reason! Yoga is one of the best exercises for increasing the body’s flexibility and range of motion.
In addition to improving your performance in nearly any sport, increased flexibility and range of motion helps to reduce muscle tension, tears, sprains, and general pain associated with training. Regular yoga practice helps you relieve this tension naturally, all while improving your CrossFit skills.
Yoga improves breathing
Effective breathing is a necessity for all athletes. Whether you’re a bodybuilder or a cyclist, your body will train and perform better when you’re getting the most out of every breath.
Through both pranayama practice (breath work) and the focus on breathing during the movement practices, yoga gives your lungs a workout. Yoga inherently teaches you to breathe more effectively. Off the mat, this breathwork translates into better endurance, improved muscle function, and enhanced performance. Better breathing can also help athletes recover from minor stressors and injuries quicker.
Yoga sharpens focus and mental stamina
Being a great athlete requires a strong body and a strong mind. Unlike the active energy of heavy physical training, yoga challenges us to commit to focus, clarity, and quiet. Many poses require stillness along with strength.
This shift in training not only helps to keep athletes mentally strong but helps prevent injuries due to lack of focus or overwhelm. Yoga also teaches us to listen to our bodies. Improved mindfulness can prevent the physical damage caused by overtraining.
How can crossfit athletes use yoga to prevent injuries?
Yoga is an extremely versatile practice with a range of styles that can be customized to the needs of each athlete. Unlike the typically robust movement practices and workouts for CrossFit enthusiasts, yoga offers a refined, focused training on smaller movements and stability. Yoga also helps to loosen stiff muscles and maintain flexibility after intense training sessions.
So, what are the best types of yoga practices for CrossFit athletes?
Ashtanga yoga is considered the most intensive, rigorous style of yoga – which makes it a great match for action-loving CrossFit athletes. Ashtanga yoga is particularly helpful for increasing muscular strength, skeletal stability, and power focus.
Yin yoga, or restorative yoga, is a slow, mindful balance to loud and intense CrossFit sessions. Yin yoga is generally less active than other yoga styles, but highly focused on releasing deep muscle tightness and fascial constrictions. Yin yoga is best for athletes who need extra help with flexibility, stress relief, injury management, or anyone on recovery days.
Bikram yoga is a specific set of 26 yoga postures, practiced in a room is set to 105 degrees Fahrenheit. This style of yoga is aimed at boosting strength and flexibility. Bikram yoga may be a good match for athletes who want to gain extra flexibility while taking on the heat.
For best results with any yoga style, practice yoga after a WOD or on rest days as there can be a reduction in the muscle’s ability to exert maximum force shortly after intense stretching.
Prevent Athletic Injuries with Yoga
As a CrossFit athlete, you live for a challenge and you strive for the best. Why let injuries stand in your way of reaching your goals? Yoga is a safe and effective way to enhance your sports performance while protecting your body from injury and stress.
Ready to train even better by making yoga a key element of your routine? Start off on the right foot by starting with the right gear. Shop our collection of high-performance cork yoga mats for athletes. How does your fitness routine feature yoga? Please share your experiences in the comments below.