Planning out my classes was always my favorite part of teaching yoga. Over the weekend, I’d write out what my goals were for the class and how to get them there. The experience was a lot like planning a choreography. Which movements will bring us closer to our goal and how can we get there gracefully?
As I’ve paired my personal yoga practice with my Crossfit training, I rely on the same approach. I practice about 10 to 15 minutes of yoga every morning. Usually, that’s via ROMWOD, but other days I’m in the mood for something designed for me, by me. On those days, I’ll take a look at the workout for the day and tailor my yoga practice to what’s going to prepare me best for what’s to come.
Pinpoint what muscles you’re using
When I open my box’s app for the day to check the WOD, I immediately start thinking of which muscles are sore, which will be sore, and which are going to need some extra care to make sure they’re ready for the workout. The muscles I feel most in the snatch, for instance, are very different from the ones that I’m focusing on during a heavy deadlift day. For workouts focused around things like squats, wall balls, or squat snatch, I may focus more on hip mobility and hip openers since I know I’ll be using those muscles the most. For box jumps, wall balls, and burpees? I’m definitely going to want to get some good quad stretches in. Bench press or the clean and jerk? I definitely want to make sure my chest muscles feel open and my shoulders are warm.
Make use of peak poses
One of the most useful tools I learned during my yoga teacher training was the concept of a “peak pose.” Choosing a peak pose for your class is the idea that you’ll have one primary pose that you’re working towards throughout the entire flow. For example, if my peak pose is a tree pose, there’s a few different elements I’ll want to hone in on to warm up my or my students’ bodies before moving into that final pose. Tree pose is a balance pose that requires open hips, an engaged core, and focus. That means I may spend extra time on other hip openers, core-centric movements, and single leg poses to encourage balance throughout the entire flow. It sets the foundation for success when you reach that final position.
When planning my personal yoga routines in preparation for a Crossfit class, I’ll take a look at the main “pose” or movement for that day. If the primary task is working on power cleans, for example, I’ll pick a peak pose that opens my shoulders and chest, like camel. From there, I’ll build the rest of my practice around the camel pose through incorporating a variety of chest openers (cobra, bridge, humble warrior) and shoulder warm-ups (thread the needle, eagle pose, locust) before I finally enter into my big backbend at the end.
Flip your perspective through orientation
There are so many ways to strengthen, stretch, and warm-up a muscle group. While it’s helpful to pinpoint the specific muscle groups that each movement works, it’s equally helpful to consider orientation in warm-ups and stretching. For example, when I think of the box jump movement, there’s a three different parts: the squat to prepare for the jump, the full extension as I jump, and landing, once again, in a squat.
Picturing the squat in your mind, try flipping it on its side or 180 degrees. A squat, upside down, is a lot like happy baby pose. At a 90 degree angle? There’s quite a few elements of puppy dog or child’s pose. Likewise, on the jump, your whole body is extended like mountain pose. You can also narrow that down just to your legs and consider doing a seated forward fold with toes both pointed and flexed or a standing forward fold with some movement, like bending the knees or coming to flat back. It will work similar muscle groups without the same intensity, allowing you to warm up with a very specific range of motion.
Write it down
I almost always write down the poses I want to practice before starting my yoga routine, even if it’s just for myself. I’m not someone who’s naturally skilled at improvising (even going all the way back to my clarinet-playing days in elementary school), so writing down what I’d like to do in a rough order helps keep me organized and focused. If I don’t do that, my mind starts to wander about what I should do next. It works for some, and not for others. At the very least, when starting, writing down the flow can help you with evaluating what works, what doesn’t, and what transitions need to be modified.
If something doesn’t feel good, change it up. That can mean moving on to a different pose or using props, like blocks, to make it feel better for you body. I don’t even like to consider certain poses as “full” poses since I think it really varies depending on each person’s body, body type, fitness level, and plain ol’ desire to do something that day. Sometimes I really want to move into a really deep, more intense version of a pose, such as a bind in warrior II or wheel pose. Other days, it doesn’t feel good, so I modify. As a yoga practitioner – and, especially, yoga teacher – it’s important to practice what you preach. If you judge yourself for not being able to do a certain pose, how can a student feel comfortable with his or her own limitations?
Whether or not you practice yoga or Crossfit, these elements can be useful for learning how to better incorporate different movements that feel good for your body on a daily basis. Mobility is critical for day-to-day living, not just heavy lifting in the gym. Proactively stretching and moving your body can transfer to so many different things and, when done with intention, help create a more mindful day.