Archive for October 11, 2010

Bandhas and Barbells

Posted in Articles on October 11, 2010 by oldcountrystrong

This is article I’ve wanted to write for a while, information I’d been dying to share. I recently went on a yoga retreat after a 2 month hiatus where I was too busy to squeeze yoga practices into my life. My life was full of CrossFit, barbell, box jumps, and steak, and it was hard to fit that one more thing in. I’m sure we’ve all felt like that. I have been practicing yoga for nearly 10 years. Yoga was attractive to me at first in an athletic sense— poses of strength, building a core. Recently I’d been using yoga to work on length and build focus, as supplement to the strengthening and muscle building I’d been doing in CrossFit. This trip taught me there was much more to draw from.

The trip was illuminating. Switching gears so quickly, I’d forgotten how similar yoga fundamentals are to the fundamentals under the bar bell. I guess I should have realized this, as both activities are thousands of years old. Ancient Chinese texts reveal soldiers being required to past lifting tests. Greek sculptures depict men lifting stones and other heavy objects. Likewise, ancient seals were found in Pakistan showing what many believe are precursors to yoga dating back to 3300 BC. That is some old shit.

This stone sits in a Greek museum. It weighs 143kg and dates back to the 6th century B.C.

Inscription: “Bybon son of Pholos tossed this over his head with one arm.”

The Bandhas

The whole weekend my mind was a-buzz with cross-over. What can I use? What can I glean from this? In yoga, there is a focus on Pranayama which put simply means breathing. When you really want to get heady you can say Pranayama is a word combining the two words Prana meaning “life force” and Yama meaning “regulate”. To regulate your life force. Pretty. Rad.

One way to control your breath is through what yogis call the Bandhas. Bandha is Sanskrit for “lock”. There are 3 main locks in the core of the body: Jalandhara at the throat, Uddiyana at the abdomen, and Mula Bandha at the pelvic floor. Activating these locks traps that breath, or LIFE FORCE, and stabilizes you. This is not unlike what we do under the barbell when we set. When you lock the Bandhas and trap air in the belly it provides that set you need in your back for heavy weight.

Midline Stability

Yoga isn’t all about the spiritual big wheel turnin’ seven chakra energy trappin’ stuff you see when it’s spoofed on TV. Yoga practice is based on some really solid thinking about stability and how the body moves and functions in space. Modern yoga is mostly based on the Hatha style, which is a combo word Ha meaning sun and Tha meaning moon. The translation of the word itself evokes balance. Where these opposing forces meet, spiraling up through the spine, is all-important Shushumna, which in Sanskrit is “Most gracious channel”. As, you may have already guessed, it is just a yoga-fancy way to describe mid-line stability. But what I liked about it was the visualization of push and pull, right and left, front and back, and even dark and light, and under barbell weight, I find that visualization powerful.


There was a big focus on meditation. Being present in that moment. There are a thousand poses between the poses… Sitting there, trying to clear your mind and focus on one thing, one mantra, for what seems like forever. But what I’ve always struggled with are those voices starting to seep into your head as your feet start to fall asleep and it gets uncomfortable, “Move, just move. Just move a little….” Inner voices telling you to stop.

Sound familiar? How about that voice half way through the second round in Fran, saying “Slow down. Hop off the bar. Just for a second…” Meditation and mantra focus are totally leveragable for what we do in the gym. Not just the mind-clearing you do before 3-2-1-Go. Mantra and meditation are tools. Mid-WOD. When it gets hard. When it sucks. Be present in that moment. That’s where lines are drawn: the difference between good and better, fast and faster, heavy and heavier.

In the end, I found I can use aspects of yoga more than I was using it. There are a lot of connections between these two long-standing practices— yoga and lifting— practices that civilizations have spent hundreds of years refining. We’ve been running and jumping and stretching and carrying stuff around since the beginning of our human existence. What was once about survival is now about what we carry out of the gym with us. My yoga teacher says that there is a reason it’s called “practice”. We’re practicing for life outside them gym.


Posted by: Carrie
Pictures by: Z