Let me tell you about my first yoga experience at an affiliate gym: I walked into the box on a packed Saturday morning and was surprised to find a petite yogi practicing handstands in the corner. With her arms filled with mala beads and head wrapped in a Kundalini yoga turban, I was not expecting my first foray into yoga at a box to be led by this heady little figure. As we sat down to begin our yoga practice together, the teacher began to chant hysterically while moving her body in a possessed pattern of movements. We spent 30 minutes in seated meditation, followed by a few standing poses, and I walked out of that class feeling a bit disappointed. My body still craved movement and sweat, and my mind was clouded with confusion. If I felt like that – and I should add I am a yoga teacher myself – I only wondered what my fellow athletes were thinking.
It’s no secret that CrossFit® has a specific type of client base. Although all athletes don’t look the same, workout the same, or move the same – there is a consistent expectation for how you want to feel when you walk out of the box. This doesn’t disappear with the addition of programs like yoga. So hiring the right teacher is instrumental in the success of your program at your box. This is in no way intended to say that yoga teachers must be the same as your coaches. This is to say, however, that if you want to add yoga into the mix at your box, there are a few key things you want to look for. You want someone with a firm grasp on anatomy, an understanding of the mechanics of the WOD you’re doing, and an ability to help your members apply the teachings to their WODs and daily life. Put simply: you want someone who knows how to teach to the affiliate gym crowd.
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So what do you need to look for when hiring the “right” kind of yoga teacher? First and foremost, audition the person, getting a taste for their style, their energy, their tempo and their cadence. And while you do so, ask yourself these questions:
1) Does the flow feel safe and make sense for the body?
2) Does the teacher have an understanding for how the practice complements the day’s WOD?
3) Does he/she make the material approachable for non-yogis?
4) Has this person taken a CrossFit® class before?
That last question may seem like an outlier, but I think it’s hugely important that your yoga instructor knows what the heart of your business is about and understands the drive that makes people work so hard. They really need to understand the intensity that people love about WODs.
I teach a couple classes a week at a local box, and I love every second of it. I am grateful that my yoga training was heavily focused on anatomy/alignment and proper mechanics. Plus with my style more targeted towards helping the athlete become more powerful – it appeals to the community. If I taught the way I teach at a traditional yoga studio, my classes would probably be quite small. Before each class I check in with the day’s WOD and tailor the sequence to the movements being performed, making sure the class complements what’s being worked on. I also ensure my verbal cues reinforce safe alignment for the WODs.
I’m not saying that the philosophical aspect, the breathing component or the other eight-limbs of yoga should be ignored in a class at a box. However, I would argue that bringing yoga to your athletes successfully requires you and your yoga instructor to be adaptable and make the class feel accessible to a group of people who would probably not attend a typical yoga class at a studio.
Adding a yoga program to your daily curriculum is an amazing way for your members to become more flexible, increase their range of motion, get stronger and avoid injuries, all while beginning to incorporate a mind/body/spirit practice into their daily workout. And in the end – don’t we all just want to be happier, stronger and more equipped to tackle life?
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