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My CrossFit Yoga Journey

By June 1, 2017 No Comments

Yoga has been my solace in my daily “go go go’ world.  It found me almost a decade ago when I questioned every aspect of myself.  I found a great appreciation for understanding the concept of breath with movement, which is perhaps the most important aspect of Yoga. Breath must follow each pose and by doing so you’re giving yourself the opportunity to find what we lack and furthermore take for granted. That is, vital life force.  Breath is our only separation from death and as raw and real as this sounds, it is in fact truth.

Prior to finding my love for Yoga, I dabbled in everything, I trained for half marathons and practiced running miles and found love in this.  For those that are advent runners, you know it’s typical to hear “find your stride”, or “if you can talk while you’re running, that’s the pace you should stick with”.  Bootcamps were especially the hardest to endure, pushups, sit ups, squats, and sprints. “Go! Push harder!” This certainly worked my muscles.

For the last 7 years, I deviled in a Yoga practice that included extreme heat, 21 and 2 lovely Yoga poses and all done in a 90 minute sequence.  This was the HARDEST yet the most rewarding practice for me.  It challenged me in ways unimaginable and I practiced stillness, breath, and meditation.  Yoga opened a side of myself I left dormant, and really a side we all tend to cast away.  Our minds are as powerful as we make it, for what we think we become. I learnt how to shut down the thoughts that lurked, and the ones that only wanted to distract me away from my stillness. I learnt to fight them with breath and I will forever be grateful for this learning.

Fortunately, I found myself at a crossroads, (some people may feel a crossroad is a negative aspect, but it is a moment of change therefore it should be seen as positive beginnings) as the Yoga studio I frequented went under, and soon so did I. I felt as though a piece of me was missing and I mourned not having that comfort I yearned for.  However, this all changed one day upon my daily drives near good ole Orfus road. I decided a coffee break was a good idea, (was it ever!) and as I approached the coffeeshop, you all know which Tims I’m talking about, I noted a really awesome looking grey building with red garage doors, the sign read, All in One Strength and Conditioning/CrossFit AIO. Hmmmm, I wondered. What was even more appealing was what I witnessed: a collection of sweaty bodies, running up and down the street, and around the building.  I thought ok universe, I get it, is this what’s next?

The first person of contact was  a lovely lady by the name of Shelly.  We all know that welcoming smile. She brought me into my first CrossFit class.  You bet I was intimidated!  But if we decided to refrain from doing the things that we innately would love to do then in essence we will never truly live.  So I pushed and I learnt and I squatted and I fell, yes, I said fell, on my knees, as if my glutes were saying, “it’s about time you activated me.”  When we fall we are given the opportunity to decide — Do I stay down? Feel defeated or do I get back up again? I got back up and decided not to mourn anymore because I found a space I knew I could commit to.

CrossFit Meets A Yogi.  

First let me start off by saying that Yoga, is not far off from the concepts learnt in CrossFit. Let me explain.  You can’t get better at anything without taking the time to learn proper form and technique.  CrossFit and Yoga match very well on these terms.  Each CrossFit class is guided.  You can’t do any movement without the guidance of your coach.  Can I just add one thing here? The AIO coaches are incredibly informative and experts at each movement.  More so, they have fun in the process and motivate you to do better.  They tell you when to scale back if need be.  Ultimately, you get an instantaneous trust factor with the coaches, because, darn it, they know their stuff!

The first few classes are focused on learning proper form as this will enhance your technique and with time you can begin to lift weight. You can’t get to a goal without working backward.  Therefore, patience and a clear understanding are essential.  It will take time to get to lift a weight you desire, or run faster, or to do a pull up without a band.  All these skills take practice. That goes with anything you choose to fulfill.

Patience is the willingness to live in the present moment which will allow you to perform at your greatest potential.  Therefore, don’t rush.  You are gaining an exercise experience.  However, we are also gaining tools that will in essence, make us a better person outside of our practice.  With patience and practice, we become stronger and happier versions of our present selves.

In CrossFit, we work all the muscles groups with an emphasis on building strength. Add the metabolic aspect and you are in a place where I guarantee, you will feel challenged.  Yes, you will also hit a wall on this journey.  A barrier so intense.  However, we are designed to persevere, push a little more, and believe you me, you will find that stored energy and it will get you to the next level.

Yogi Turned CrossFitter Teaches Yoga

The first few months of teaching was all over the place.  For one, I thought it would be a great idea to do more of a restorative class since we push quite hard in our CrossFit classes. I’ve been practicing silencing the mind for several years, an ongoing practice till this day. I realized CrossFit yogi’s tend to be a little more type A– meaning they harbour a competitive spirit, are outgoing, and constantly moving. With CrossFit Yoga, my vision is to create an experience where we get the opportunity to delve inward, while at the same time gaining a deep awareness of the breath and sequence challenging poses that anyone can do.

It is important to remember breathwork is a sacred practice, one which will not only provide fresh blood and oxygen to your entire body, but it will also provide practice for the mind which is the most important. The classes are aimed to be challenging, meaning the first few minutes we begin with breath work.  This consists of being aware of breath, inhaling and exhaling profoundly. We also use visualization as a tool to deter thoughts from lingering and use these breathing methods to prep for the warm up component. Warm up will always consist of several vinyasa flow poses, moving the body in a rhythm to which heat will circulate throughout the body. Some poses, while they may seem challenging, can be accommodated if there is limited range of motion in specific areas of the body.  I’ve noticed limited range of motion in the shoulders, neck and full extension of the knee due to tight hamstrings.  All these parts are consistently used in our CrossFit practice.

The most challenging component of this practice consists of back strengthening poses.  What a lovely way to work on the spine. I know I’ve said this once and I will repeat myself until my face turns blue, a healthy spine consists of a healthy life. These poses are geared toward maintaining proper alignment, good posture, with the premise of maintaining the natural curvature of the spine. These poses will mend lower back issues and will in fact allow you to lift more since we also work on building the muscles along the entire spine. We end with a lovely cool down, or a “sweet surrender” as I always say. Corpse pose is an active pose, one which will allow the body to heal, rejuvenate and allow blood to restore in the areas we worked on.

When you marry your CrossFit practice with Yoga you are providing a balance which is essential and one which consists of muscle conditioning, while gaining flexibility and increasing range of motion.  I am blessed to teach a practice that soars in every cell of my being.  And while YES, I am a yogi, you are too! We all have the power to shut down the mind and focus on breath with movement, we all have the ability to be still and be aware of the senses that make this human experience real. I started not knowing and now I choose to share my passion for Yoga.  It is the secret to a healthy life.

May the universe bless each and every one of you.

Give you breath the highest honour.

Namaste,

Yogi Jess