Yoga for CrossFit - Backbends & Deadlifts

You’ll likely know the locust pose (salabhasana) as ‘superman’ as part of your warm-up, arch to hollow for example. Did you know that this pose is also a brilliant way to build strength in the back with a view to preparing the body for the deadlift, one of the fundamental lifts of CrossFit?

At first glance, the pose looks quite simple, but don’t be fooled – correct alignment and muscular engagement are key, and this takes practice. Locust pose opens the chest, shoulders and neck while also working the abs and promoting mobility in the lumbar spine, the lower back.

Image courtesy of yogaanatomy.net

Image courtesy of yogaanatomy.net

Now, back to the deadlift – in this lift, the hips extend under load while maintaining the integrity of the spine. To achieve this, the spinal erectors and the quadratus lumborum (among others) have to get to work. To perform this movement safely, the curve of the lumbar spine needs to be maintained. Failure to do so is a common reason for injury resulting from incorrectly performed deadlifts.

In the locust pose, we practice the action of lifting the upper back without creating strain in the lower back, which will help lengthen and strengthen the muscles involved in this movement and also improve your awareness of targeted muscular engagement in these areas. There are a number of variations to the locust pose, including some that will help promote overhead mobility – something most of us struggle with! My Yoga for Sports classes are suitable for all levels, complete beginners welcome. Check my schedule for class times and locations, see ya on the mat!

Locust or Superman? You decide!

Locust or Superman? You decide!

Could the diaphragm be a game changer for your core strength?

The Diaphragm

The Diaphragm

When we talk about core strength, we don’t typically mention the diaphragm, the primary muscle of respiration – yet it is located right at the centre of the abdomen. The diaphragm is a dome-shaped sheet of muscle and tendon and separates the chest (or thorax) from the belly. In very simple terms - the diaphragm contracts during inhalation, which causes air to be drawn into the lungs, and relaxes during the outbreath which forces the air back out again.

Now, what does the diaphragm have to do with core strength? For starters, it attaches to a number of stabilisers, such as the ribs, sternum and (lumbar) spine. In terms of surrounding muscles, imagine your abdomen like a pressurised container – with the pelvic floor being the bottom, the deep abdominals and back muscles forming the sides, and the diaphragm acting as the lid on top. If any of these components don’t work optimally, the container will start to lose pressure and weaken the base – your core.
The diaphragm also connects to the thoracic and lumbar erectors, the QL (the ‘back muscle’) as well as the psoas (main hip flexor) – all of these are involved in moving the spine, and giving it stability. Conversely, this means that impaired function of any of these muscles will lead to a knock-on effect.

Energising pranayamas (control of breath) such as bhastrika or kapalabhati, strengthen the diaphragm and are an excellent way to round off a yoga asana (yoga poses) sequence for core strength.