On the Mat…My First Exposure to Yoga

By Geoff Rand

It was a cold Saturday in late February.  A light wind whispered through the bare tree branches.  I walked into the Box like many times before, ready for the team WOD.  I thought I was ready for the yoga class that followed.  It was just going to be some sitting cross-legged on a mat with some light stretching, right?  No sweat.  I can handle that…  I was wrong. 

We lost a good man that day…

I had seen that CrossFit Frederick had a new yoga instructor, Gabby, running classes on Saturdays at 10:15 AM.  Over the years I had heard several people at the Box say “I wish they had yoga here.”  Many were really excited to hear that yoga was coming to CFF.  I figured a yoga class was like what they showed on TV, a bunch of people sitting quietly on their mats doing some gentle stretching.  At the time, my shoulder was really sore and I figured some easy stretches would be good for it.

We cleaned up after the team WOD; I downed a quick shake and unrolled my mat.  We had a good turn out for the first yoga class, about 15-18 of us.  Gabby got right into it.  I don’t remember the first stretches we did, but I’ll never forget the core work that came next.  Leg raises… A lot of them.  All the way up to 90 degrees and 45-degree and 15-degree holds.  A slew of expletives were expelled from our mouths as we gasped for air, abs on fire.  Gabby cracked a smile.  Not a wicked “Amanda” smile, but more of a “who are these people?” smile.  I guess CrossFit types blurting out 4-letter words aren’t her normal clientele.  She offered the encouragement that we were almost done…  Almost done with the core exercises, that is.

We moved right into the next series of movements.  I came to learn that this was “the flow”, meaning there is no stopping, just transitioning from one series of poses to the next.  We did many Chaturangas, a sort of push up movement, and upward and downward dogs, variations of pikes and planks.  The repetition gives you plenty of time to get comfortable with the poses, and that was good because they were all foreign to me.  I lost track of time, but I guessed we had been there awhile by the growing pool of sweat on my mat.  But we weren’t done just yet.

Lunges, twists; balancing on one leg.  I can’t remember how many times I had to use my arm to brace my fall.  I felt like I was miserably failing a roadside sobriety test.  The poses gradually increased in difficulty, but there was always a way to scale it to your ability, and you could take a break if you felt you needed to.

Next up, the crow pose where you press your hands to the ground while leaning forward and balancing, resting your knees on your triceps, with your feet off the ground.  I wasn’t expecting to be able to do it, but I tried.  The fact that my arms were slick with sweat did not make this any easier.  My knees wanted to slide down my arms.  I was shaking, waiting for the face plant, but it never came.  A brief victory.  For a moment, I considered joining the circus.

But somewhere during all of this, a friend hit his wall.  He was completely drained and spent the rest of the class sprawled out on his mat.  Man down.

Man Down

Man Down

We continued on with a few more poses, and then transitioned into more of a slower-paced series of stretches.  Child’s pose, corpse pose, things that were more in line with what I had expected yoga to be.  By the end, I was tired and relaxed, but feeling energized.  It is a difficult sensation to put into words.

I returned for several weeks after that, and I’m still attending Gabby’s classes, as my schedule permits.  Each week there are familiar poses mixed in with new challenges.  Every class is different.  What’s cool about her classes is that you can join in no matter what your skill level or experience is with yoga.  Just starting out?  Use some yoga blocks to help support yourself as your flexibility improves.  Intermediate or advanced yogis can try inversions and balances of increased difficulty.

Gabby often makes reference to “your practice”, and practice is how you get better.  After a few weeks, I’m starting to maintain better balance.  My headstands are steady and I’m controlled rising up and lowering out of them.  My handstands will require more work, however.

Even though yoga turned out to be something very different from what I expected, I enjoy it.  I think it compliments our daily WODs nicely.  Yoga helps improve balance and increases flexibility.  And, with the pace of the flow, it certainly is a workout.  Gabby offers words of encouragement during her classes and reminds you to be in tune with your breathing.  It is fun, challenging, relaxing, and energizing all at once.

So bring your mat to her next Saturday session and experience Gabby’s Power Vinyasa Flow and see if you can put the feeling you feel into words.  Please pre-register via the Mind Body program.

By the way, Gabby is now “one of those CrossFit types” and you might see her WOD-ing beside you during various sessions throughout the week.  She’s still smiling, but I haven’t heard her blurt out any 4-letter words yet.

UPDATE:  Gabby has since modified her yoga sessions slightly from what is depicted above.  Since she started doing the Saturday team WODs with us, she realized an intense yoga session might be a little too much for people who just did that WOD.  She has changed her program to have a bit more of a restorative concentration, "focusing on breathing, stretching and a little flow in the beginning to get your heart rate up."  It is suitable for those staying on after the team WOD and those who may have just gotten out of bed.  In the session I attended a couple weeks ago, she tailored it to target the areas that just got blasted during the team WOD.  I think it is a great change.  Gabby is always seeking feedback on her sessions, so contact her through Facebook should you have any questions or suggestions.