5 Sports to Strengthen your Yoga Practice

Okay, so we know that each day, an increasing number of professional athletes of all sports are taking up yoga and including it in their regular fitness routine. The benefits of incorporating yoga into training go on and on, and are outside the scope of this article. Today, rather, we ask the question, “What if yoga is your passion?” Whether you see yoga as a sport, fitness routine, spiritual practice, self-care, of whatever, we’re exploring ways that sports can boost your yoga practice for a change! What else can you do to help you get the most out of your asanas? Here are 5 sports that strengthen your yoga practice.

1. Surfing & Upper Body Strength

While surfing, you will be constantly battling again the ocean’s tides. The consistent paddling motion will result in increased muscle tone overall, and especially a workout for your arms and shoulders. Build upper body strength while surfing and paddling to help you fly in crow pose (bakasana) and hold chaturanga dandasana for longer than a split-second flop to the ground (it’s a pose after all, not a transition!).

2. Swimming & Back Strength

Swimming in water takes the burden of the body off the joints since you’re weightless. Swimming can alleviate lower back issues as well as strengthen the back in general. Another benefit is the core will be strengthened as well. Enjoy a wider range of motion in back bends and more control in your practice in general. Handstand, here you come!

3. Volleyball & Core Strength

On the beach or on the court, all that spiking, digging, and blocking in the air engages the core and abdominal muscles in various ways as the body moves dynamically. Benefits of a strong and engaged core means better aligned handstands. You’ll have more control in inversions in general as you learn to keep your core engaged to lift and hold you up, instead of hoping somehow that you can kick up using momentum and then magically stop yourself when you’re vertical. It’s okay, we’re all there or we’ve all been there.

4. Gymnastics & Balance

We know how yoga helps gymnastics, but the reverse is true as well! Yogis with a background in gymnastics enjoy greater focus, balance, and flexibility when compared to yogis without a background in gymnastics (based solely on my personal observations and no actual scientific data). You can take up a gymnastics practice in the park or check out a gym that offers classes. You will be sure to experience added benefits to your practice in terms of your balance and focus in poses like ardha chandrasana (half moon pose) or virabhadrasana c (warrior III).

5. Running & Breathing

Running can have detrimental effects on your quads and hamstrings as far as yoga is concerned. You will get stronger legs but the side effects can negate these benefits if not practicing yoga regularly. Running can, however, benefit your practice by the effects it has on your breathing. When you’re running, you can focus on taking full, deep breaths into the belly, similar to an Ujjayi breath in yoga. Over time, your focus and stamina will increase as your breath gets stronger and more even, and this skill will translate over into your yoga practice. After all, if you’re not breathing smoothly and calmly in each pose (or consciously working towards it at the very least), you’re not doing yoga.



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Yoga and CrossFit: 6 Poses to Improve Your WOD

I was introduced to CrossFit about four years ago, while sitting in the class “Neuromusculoskeletal Diagnosis and Treatment.” It wasn’t much of an introduction - our instructor was actually just making a passing reference - but since I’d not heard of it before I asked a friend for clarification.  “It’s the workout the guys from 300 did,” my friend said.  Well THAT explains it, I thought.  Then later, after I’d started my Master’s degree classes, I was further exposed to the concepts of CrossFit and Olympic lifting. I joined our local gym (or “box”) last July and began teaching yoga there in October. [wp_ad_camp_1]


In the past several years CrossFit has exploded in popularity, with boxes popping up everywhere and the increasingly popular CrossFit Games claiming to crown “the fittest in the world.”  For those of you non-CrossFitters, March is of particular importance to CrossFit because during this month yearly, standardized “open” Workout of the Days (or “WODs”) are introduced and used to help athletes qualify for regional matches.  Last week’s workout, or “14.1” involved 10 minutes of as many rounds as possible of the following movements:

30 “Double Unders” (a jump rope move during which you jump once and the rope makes two revolutions)

15 Snatches (Olympic weight lifting move)

 CrossFit doesn’t have a particular muscle “focus;” there are no “arms” or “legs” days and that’s kind of the point. Muscular “confusion” is at the core of the CrossFit philosophy. Quite frankly, that made implementing yoga at our local box pretty easy. But, of course, there are problem areas for CrossFit athletes just like any other type of athlete.  Below are some of the poses I have found to be most beneficial for members in our box.


Downward Facing Dog

downdog Yoga pose Yogatraveltree

A classic move, when done correctly this pose can target commonly tight areas such as the hamstrings, back and latissimus dorsi (“lats”).  To get the full benefit of this pose in your shoulders, make sure you are keeping your shoulders down and retracted.



Eagle pose yoga crossfit yogatraveltree

This pose has several benefits for our athletes: it helps improve balance, the importance of which cannot be understand for some Olympic lifting moves (the snatch being one of them), and it also targets shoulder mobility.



pigeon pose yoga crossfit yogatraveltree

After a hard day deadlifting or squatting, nothing feels better than this pose for your hips and butt.



chair pose yoga crossfit yogatraveltree

This pose challenges the legs in a different way than any weight lifting move. It is also a good way to open the chest and improve squatting form.



bridge pose yoga crossfit yogatraveltree

This pose is present at the beginning and end of almost every yoga class we do at our box. It is a great way to warm up, work on core stability and engage the glutes. My favorite version of bridge is to add the single-leg component with a lift (both leg lifts and repetitive lifting of the hips are good challenges).



plow pose yoga crossfit yogatraveltree

In the words of Chris Traeger, this is literally the best thing I could think to do after pull-ups or back extensions.  It is an excellent way to both invert and improve low back flexibility.

And the list goes on.  Yoga doesn’t just offer the prospect of improving balance and flexibility for athletes, it also offers the opportunity to train proper breathing patterns, improve core stability and regain mental focus. In CrossFit, as in many other workout programs (I’m looking at you Insanity and P90X), it is easy to lose these fundamental principles in the rush of the workout.  So whether you’re a regular CrossFitter, a weekend lifter or just getting started on the weight machines, take time to come back to your yoga roots and your body will thank you for it.


Images via: @ndlanae, @Jbindrum, @annazoke, @hercreativespirit, @yogawithnikita, @primal_neenzzz