“I was a reasonably active guy in my twenties, but became more sedentary as I got into my 30’s and time went on, naturally putting on some weight. Life happened! It really came at me during this time – I changed jobs and got married, and exercise wasn’t at the forefront of my mind. Jump to about 10 years ago I had a major medical event that has changed me forever. Ironically, it’s also brought me to this point, here, doing this interview about yoga in my life.
I had a perforated bowel and my large intestine ruptured. Apart from the horrible experience that it was, for about 8 months after, there was nothing I could safely do to keep my core strength because there was a great danger of hernias and other complications. After my abdominal muscles recovered and I recovered mostly as a whole, I developed severe, chronic, tracheobronchitis and asthma. These breathing problems became progressively worse, and of course this was perpetuated the fact that my job had become even more sedentary, my breathing issues made if difficult to exercise, and in all honesty I didn’t have a clue how to deal with the weight that I had put on. Without any sort of focus or real discipline around how to take my physical health on, I was at a loss.
I tried running, which seemed to help, but it was an absolute roller coaster ride with my breathing. In the midst of all this I tried a myriad of other things, like going to a naturopathic doctor, changing my diet, and just about any Western medication you could dream up for breathing problems. It was a constant struggle.
Many years later, I came to the realization that I didn’t like running very much! I decided to check out a Crossfit gym that one of my wife’s co-workers recommended. The first time we went, I remember having no idea what I was looking at when I saw these people in the gym! But, we wanted to give it a try because we’ve tired to be open to new things. Life’s a journey and why not figure it out as you go?! We started doing the sessions and man, I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that the introductory ‘watered-down’ workouts completely and utterly destroyed me. Crossfit is very hard mentally and physically, so the two of those together made for a very intense experience. I didn’t know if I would be able to continue and get through it but I put my nose down and said, ‘Okay I’m doing this’, and started plugging away at it.
As I was getting better and my breathing was improving, there were, what seemed like silly things that were huge victories for me, like when I made it all the way up on a rope climb or started doing chin ups again. I watched people do these things all the time, but I felt like I won the lottery when I was able to get all the way up that rope the first time.
I finally started getting the Olympic lift movements down to where they felt powerful. To actually be in a position where I could do them felt great. I was losing weight, building muscle, and embracing a profound sense of accomplishment.
A little over a year into my Crossfit experience, the gym started offering yoga. As my wife and I tend to think, ‘hey, something new and interesting let’s give it a try!’ So, we did – and came more frequently, and then, whenever we could.
It absolutely destroyed us, all over again! I was holding my breath; not knowing how to breathe right, my hips and shoulders were like stones, I was falling into the wall because I couldn’t keep my balance, I was gasping for air…just to paint you a picture! But, we stuck with it, there was something that kept us coming back; we loved it.
Even within a month of doing it a couple times a week, I was seeing improvements in my ability to do the postures and syncing my breathing with them. Gradually, I noticed it starting to trickle over into my Crossfit work. My lifts started improving, I was able to breathe under load much better in metabolic conditioning, and I actually started getting past some of the plateaus I was once stuck at. I began having personal bests with movements that had a lot to do with hips, shoulders, and breath. It was pretty cool to get better at my Crossfit by taking a day or two away from the normal workouts and doing yoga.
Many Crossfit movements are meant to be explosive with compression to extension. Within these explosive types of movements, if you don’t breathe in the right place, you’re not going to do nearly as well as you could. Within the framework of yoga, because you’re extending and breathing, compressing and breathing, and you’re very aware of how breath relates to your pose, you all of a sudden notice it transferring here, off the mat.
At least it did for me. I became aware of when I needed to breathe, which made me more effective. For someone who has chronic asthma, I’m never going to be as free flowing with my cardio as these young Crossfit bucks, but now, I know how to breathe right, which has made all the difference.
To explain ‘flexibility’ to my Crossfit friends who don’t practice yoga, I’d tell them, ‘I never knew that I was doing a snatch, not with my muscles, but with my inflexibility’, which helps put it into perspective. I would go to extension, but my extension was at the limit of my flexibility. A couple months into doing yoga, I gained flexibility and quickly realized I wasn’t actually engaging my muscles in the proper way to complete the lift. And it dawned on me, I needed to catch properly and I needed to set properly; everything has to be in alignment. I finally understood what the coaches had been telling me for an entire year. Next thing I know, I was putting weight up over my head- confidently completing lifts at weights I’d been struggling with prior.
Looking back 10 years ago at the progressive decline my health was taking, to coming to Crossfit and trying to take my health back, and now supplementing it with something as amazing as yoga… it’s just been awesome. I don’t know a better way to say it. Yoga is all about the progression. In the few months I’ve been doing it, I’ve gotten further and further and further- in the stretches, in the poses, in my breathing, and really just in my overall practice. Even crow pose. Previously, I would just crumble. It literally felt like I was breaking, but I’m now able to get into it and hold the pose.
To look back now and see how far I’ve come- that sense of accomplishment continues to grow and yoga’s been a major part of my crazy journey to a better me overall. I fully expect as I continue on that I’ll learn more about my limits and how to get past them. I look forward to all that’s ahead.” – Rich Adams
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