CrossFit: The Yang to my Yin

I love yoga so it’s been a constant since I first started practicing in my 20’s.  But, I’m pretty convinced that I’ve remained healthy and strong through my 30’s by varying my training.  That’s not hard for me because I love movement. I have played basketball, soccer, softball, tennis, and touch football.When I need to clear my head, I usually lace up my running shoes.  I trained in a variety of martial arts including Tae Kwan Do, Tai Chi, and Kung Fu.   Once I went to a restaurant and saw a bellydancer and was absolutely mesmerized.  So, I took belly dancing classes and performed at restaurants myself!  When I moved to Australia four years ago, I joined an Ultimate Frisbee Team and ended up playing at Nationals.  But, when I first heard about CrossFit, I was pretty skeptical.  It seemed like a sport for adrenaline junkies.  It seemed like a cult. But, fast forward a few years and I met a guy at one of my yoga classes.  He was a dedicated yogi with a quiet and gracious manner and over time I noticed that he sometimes wore a CrossFit shirt to class.  I couldn’t square my image of CrossFit with my student, Steve.  So, I finally asked him about it.  It turned out that he was a CrossFit athlete and a Fitness Coach and he suggested that while I might not be ready for CrossFit, we could do some outdoor functional fitness training.  We began training once a week.  One day when it was too cold and wet to train outside, Steve suggested we might train at his gym, CrossFit 3000. My heart kind of sank. I imagined walking into a dark room full of big dudes fist bumping and grunting. Instead I walked into a converted warehouse with very few people and tons of natural light. There were a few really big dudes. I did feel out of my depth.  But, as Steve introduced me to the movements of CrossFit, I also felt a little curious.  There were so many skills involved.  I told Steve I didn’t like the whole CrossFit culture of relentless data gathering and the endless quest for PR’s. He told me I could just train and not worry about any of that so I did.  The coaches I met trained with precision and focus.  Grunting was pretty rare.  People laughed and joked frequently.  They seemed to take as much pleasure in other people’s success as their own.  Over time, Steve introduced Olympic Lifting.  It was not love at first sight.  I could not keep all the cleaning, jerking, push pressing, and snatching straight.   And that cold metal bar doesn’t want to hear your excuses. It just sits there on the ground, daring you to lift it.  But as I worked my way painstakingly through the techniques required to lift, I realised it was very much a mindfulness practice.  I had to slow down and observe.  I had to discard old patterns and electrify new movement pathways.  I had to keep showing up on the days that I had breakthroughs and days where I felt overwhelmed and uncoordinated. And a year and a half later I am more patient, more self-aware, and more resilient.  I have more mental and physical clarity.  I have developed a pace and intensity of training that works for me and CrossFit feels like an essential part of my yoga.  I guess I’m in the cult. Om.