One Yogini’s story of combining CrossFit and Yoga

Koundinyasana and Kettlebells. Bakasana and Burpees. Downward Dog and Deadlifts. These are a few of my favorite things. I discovered blissful balance in my life by coupling a duo as striking and seemingly unlikely as Cameron Diaz and Benji Madden: Yoga and CrossFit

On a dare I took my first CrossFit class two years ago, expecting to detest what I perceived to be a masochistic fitness trend – the antithesis of Yoga. I simply wanted to prove that I could endure it and then never look back.

I did not anticipate ending my first class sprawled out on the floor, panting and swearing …yet smiling. I certainly didn’t anticipate signing up for membership that very day, promising three new Facebook friends I’d be back tomorrow.

CrossFit had me at my first hang power clean. For a while, I hid my new love like a shameful secret as if I was cheating on yoga, which I had been practicing loyally for many years.

However, after a few weeks my new CrossFit friends began to ask me how I developed my strong core and enviable mobility. Simultaneously, my fellow yogis noted my enhanced strength with arm balances and heightened endurance throughout challenging classes. And, I realized that I had become happier and more confident overall. It was soon time to confess and share the love: Yoga and Crossfit are my perfect Yin/Yang. One offers me grace, the other grit.

Jessica Kelly in astavakra pose


While the benefits of Yoga for CrossFit are pretty obvious, CrossFit is equally an incredible complement to Yoga. So, my lovely Yogis, here are 10 reasons to crush on CrossFit:

    1. Better Balance
      While yoga is playful and challenging, it is also calm and reflective. Yoga helps us to soften and be vulnerable. I turn to my mat to give gratitude and seek solace. It flips my world upside down leaving me raw with a keen sense of self-awareness and beautiful fluidity.CrossFit training is playful as well, but it’s mercifully loud and mind-numbing. It prods us to get out of our heads, channel aggression, and dig deep because child’s pose isn’t an option here. In each class, you’re faced with the struggle to quit or to endure. CrossFit compels me to assert my tenacity.
    2. Venture in Variety
      “If you think adventure is dangerous, try routine it’s lethal.” – Paulo Coelho
      CrossFit is defined as ‘constantly varied functional movements performed at relatively high intensity’. Each class is a different adventure aimed to amplify physical and mental acuity—and ultimately your performance in other activities—like Yoga. It’s about embracing and dealing with the unknown. Running, rowing, pull ups, push ups, weight lifting, burpees — you show up never knowing what you’re gonna get, other than the fortitude to zenfully hold chaturanga for days and the backbone to handle whatever life throws at you.
    3. Get Britty “We are supposed to like a bit of grit in our oyster. That’s how you get a pearl, after all.” – James LovegroveGrit – the perseverance of effort to overcome obstacles in the pursuit of long-term goals – plays a crucial role in achieving success. No other workout builds such indomitable spirit as CrossFit. Your lulus will get dirty, your hands will develop callouses, but nothing compares to the confidence garnered after finishing a grueling workout with your dusty friends (who are offering words of encouragement between their own gasps for air). CrossFIt is the grit, Yoga, the oyster…we are pearls in progress.
    4. Kick Ass
      As a yogi you have developed many ‘strengths’ that lend so well to CrossFit.

      • bodily awareness
      • core stability
      • mobility
      • flexibility
      • breath and focus

      Your years of bakasana, utkatasana, and navasana will have you fiercely and calmly squatting lt in no time…and have other CrossFitters wanting to know your secret.

    5. Fall on your Ass
      “Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” – ConfuciusWhen was the last time you risked falling, besides attempting a cool arm balance? I don’t mean a literal fall. I’m talking about the practice of daring to be a beginner and embrace the frustration of possible failure so you can experience the triumph of growth through persistence. It’s been two years and I’m still trying to do a muscle up. The exuberant memory of sticking my first handstand after years of practice keeps me at it.
    6. Gain an Ass
      My family lovingly nicknamed me ‘chicken butt’ as a kid. Many years of yoga has bestowed toned arms upon me; but the J-Lo booty, not so much. While I’m still working on shaping my apple bottom, that old nickname has finally been retired.
    7. Connect to Community
      “CrossFit: The only sport where the loudest cheers are for the last one to finish.” — UnknownSupportive, social, charitable, driven, fun people who are striving to be the best versions of themselves and encourage others to do the same – sound familiar?
    8. Accept Accountability
      Times and scores are written on a big white board next to your name after each class. You keep your own score, and your goal is not to be better than anyone other than who you were yesterday.
    9. Try again Tomorrow
      Each evening the white board is erased giving you another chance at greatness tomorrow.
    10. Be the best You
      The essence of both Yoga and CrossFit is striving to evolve into better humans together – class by class, day by day. It’s about leaving the studio and box a more capable, compassionate and confident person than you arrived, and emulating that being in everything you do, everywhere you go. It doesn’t matter if you fail to stick a handstand or blow an attempt to break a personal record. It matters that you don’t quit – that you relentlessly dare to defy boundaries so that your courage becomes contagious. You show up to witness, cheer on and to be inspired by others doing the same. Your effort and your presence, not how much you can back squat or if you can touch your toes, means something.

Advice to the new CrossFitter

by health/fitness expert, Dan Wells
Using crossfit to train for yoga
CrossFit is designed to make you the most effective person you can be: physically and emotionally. But it’s tough! Really tough. Start by commending yourself for selecting the hard road.  Then embrace it and enjoy the ride.  At the start, it’s very important to do whatever it takes to nail down proper form and technique before progressing to more difficult weights and movements. Swallow your pride and scale your workouts to focus on constantly improving technique. This, in addition to thoroughly warming up, will keep you injury-free and make you a better athlete in the long run.  Lastly, “embrace the suck.” Every time that little voice inside your head tells you to quit, get excited because ‘he’ represents an opportunity that doesn’t come by often. It’s a chance to become stronger.  Keep moving your body and expand your comfort zone. That new-found confidence will spread to all things—both in and outside the box.

Dancing Shiva on Crossfit Weights

Curious about CrossFit? Here’s how to start:

    • Seek recommendations on where to go from friends, friends of friends, or employees from local athletic retail shops.
    • Play the field to find the place that resonates best with you. Just like with Yoga, there are plenty of options to choose from so there’s no reason to give up or settle after the first class you attend. Be open to ‘dating’ a few. Most CrossFit Boxes offer a complimentary first class and/or a monthly free community class. This is a great way to get a sense of their people and programming.
    • Learn the language. CrossFitters seem to speak in code. When in doubt, just ask anyone in class to decipher. Three terms to know you before you go:
    • It’s not a Gym, it’s a Box = a bare bones, no-frills, no mirrors, no fancy machines, no cucumber-chilled-
      damp-towels-to-wipe-your-sweaty-face, space.
    • WOD = workout of the day.
    • Burpee = one of the most dreaded standard movements that will evoke tears at mere mention. Explosively: drop from standing > squat > bottom of push up (chest, hips, legs touch ground) > low plank > quickly jump feet to hands > jump up off ground, clap hands over head. Repeat a trillion times.
    • Be mindful.  As with any fitness activity, injury can occur, and with care, injury can be avoided. Above anything else, be patient.
    • Heed Dan Wells’ expert advice
    • A good coach will scale your activity/movement according to your current level of experience and ability.  Have a continuous open dialogue with your coach: ask questions, discuss injuries, voice concerns, share goals.
    • Never quit.  That said, don’t ever hesitate to scale down, take a few breaths, or modify movements…just don’t stop until you’re finished.  Ask your coach for help.
    • Most importantly, have fun!  Swear words may escape your lips that you didn’t even know you knew, but if you don’t break at least one smile throughout class, try another Box or coach, or realize CrossFit isn’t your cup of Kombucha.  And, that’s okay too; you still get points for bravely trying something new!