Yoga and Crossfit: A journey into integration
Reposted from CrossFit Pallas Blog
By Lex Enrico Santi, LCSW, MFA
I began my yoga practice when I was fearful, and I began CrossFit when I was depressed. Reflecting on this, I realize that there is something to the intersection of these seemingly opposite practices. As a yoga instructor in a community of CrossFitters, I embarked on a journey to blend the two practices together, creating a holistic system that interweaves body and mind awareness. I believe that if this system were studied and mapped out, it could form the basis of a new religion. In this essay, I will document the genesis of my separate journeys and how bringing them together has become my passion.
In 2009, I discovered yoga in my living room in Saint Louis. My back pain, which had become chronic after completing my second master's degree in six years, led me to seek medical advice. The x-ray showed arthritis, which at the age of 28, terrified me. When I asked what to do about it, the doctor recommended yoga. The Buddhist teaching that no one should receive a spiritual teaching before they are ready for it rang true to me. I was ready for yoga that day.
What followed were months of struggling on the floor of my living room with the Rodney Yee, Yoga Burn DVD. This challenging video became my new religion. It was only months later that I felt brave enough to enter a yoga studio and practice with others. Despite my fears of judgment and self-doubt, I persisted, and my body responded. I've always had a natural propensity towards flexibility, as evidenced by pictures of my youth in full lotus pose, chasing my sister on carpeted floors with knee-over-knee wobbles. As I progressed in my practice, I delved into the advanced teachings, workshops, and philosophical aspects of yoga.
CrossFit entered my life in 2012, after I moved back to Ithaca. As someone who was facing a crippling moment in my life, yoga had run its course. The loss of a child or embryo can be incomprehensible, and all the flexibility in the world could not prepare me for that experience. I needed strength, and CrossFit provided a way to build my body into a more solid form. The challenge of CrossFit demanded that I pay attention to everything around me, a stark contrast to the inward focus of yoga. As someone who had lost the strength portion of the relationship with his body, I found that there was a humbling quality to CrossFit that required me to be present in the moment. Although I was envious of those with a background in high-intensity interval training, I persisted, and my body responded.
The work I face now is blending these two paths. The mindfulness of yoga and the flexibility it provides, combined with the strength and force that CrossFit requires, are not mutually exclusive. As I continue to work with both practices, I am more convinced that it is my path to help others in both worlds. Blending the two practices creates a holistic system that interweaves body and mind awareness, forming the basis of a new religion.