Something I've noticed as I've carved out a career as an aggressively mediocre masters CrossFitter is just how important and effective the right recovery strategies can be. There are lots of resources online that talk about recovery, and of course you can call on any of our coaches for solid advice. Today I want to share something that has really helped me: yin yoga.
A few weeks back, we had a special guest Zoom appearance by Bryanne Blumenreder. Bryanne is a yoga instructor who took a few of us through a one-hour yin yoga class. I had never heard of yin yoga before then. Yin yoga? Does that mean there's a yang yoga out there too? (Turns out there is.)
If you've ever been to a yoga class or done a yoga home video, odds are it was ashtanga yoga. That's the practice with all the combo moves: upward dog to downward dog, to warrior one, to warrior two, back to downward dog, all in a smooth flow matching your breath to the movement. Ashtanga yoga can be great to build strength and flexibility. And without question it's a workout in itself. Yin yoga is very different. While after an ashtanga class, you're likely to be dripping sweat and wondering where it all went wrong, after a yin practice, you're much more likely to be relaxed, chilled, and, dare I say it, glad you did it.
In yin yoga, poses are held for a much longer time. The focus is not on building strength or stamina, but on sinking into the pose, breathing, and letting your body relax and open up. There's less focus on flow between combinations of movements and more focus on individual movements and exploring how they feel.
It's always surprising to me when I see how much tension I carry in my body. That is often the default state, and I don't even realize it until I take time to focus on really releasing it. Let me show you what I mean. Right now, actively relax your shoulders and neck. Unless you're already a cool customer, I suspect your shoulders just dropped about a quarter inch and you felt tension leave your neck. That's what we're walking around with all the time. And that's what yin yoga works on.
I find it especially helpful with hip mobility. Spend three minutes per side in pigeon pose, for example, and you can't help but come out more mobile. I think it's best used on the days when you're feeling a little beat up by your workouts. I did a whole mess of air squats and lunges recently, and my glutes and quads were pretty sore. A 40-minute yin yoga session made a massive difference right away.
Two cautions: One, I wouldn't do this prior to a workout. Lengthening the muscles and stretching the connective tissues for extended periods of time can impact performance when you need power and resiliency. it's best suited to post-wod or rest days. Two, if you're new to this practice, holding stretches for two or three minutes at a time can be a lot to ask of your body. Don't be afraid to try a shorter routine, or to come out of the stretches when you need to, even if it's before the teacher says to. Come out, take a few breaths, and get back in. Or don't. This is about relaxation and positivity. No one has ever PR'd a yin yoga session.
if you've ever done a RomWod after class, you got a little taste of what yin yoga is like. If RomWod is the lovechild of CrossFit and yoga, yin yoga is the lovechild of RomWod and meditation.
There are lots of online yin yoga videos to choose from. Boho Beautiful is one of the big providers, and you can find them on YouTube.
Hope you found this useful. I can see it being really handy when we finally get back into the box and start moving barbells for the first time in months.
In the meantime, let me know if you have any questions. I'm at firstname.lastname@example.org. Namaste, y'all.