I’ve spent the last 3 months practicing surfing and yoga…nothing else. Saying that I’ve spent the last 10 years practising surfing and yoga, and not a lot else! It is often heard that surfing and yoga are the perfect union and yes, I agree! This summer I have explored that marriage extensively.
Surfing can challenge us physically, mentally and emotionally whilst connecting us to something greater that ourselves and out of our control (the ocean). So too can yoga and through a dedicated practice the spiritual connection we develop is known in yoga philosophy as Atman-Brahman - Atman being the individual soul (us) and Brahman being all the energy in the cosmos or Universal consciousness (everything there is including us).
Both prepare and evolve the body and mind with complimentary movements and techniques, whilst training our focus, awareness and ability to move consciously. Both encourage the process of being present whilst working towards operating from our highest self. Both require the chitter chatter of the mind to be observed and ultimately quietened.
Unless you have been lucky enough to learn surfing as a child, it is possible you will face some major challenges when trying to balance your body on top of a moving surfboard on top of a moving wave. There are so many variables and inconsistencies from one wave to the next, not to mention the possible arrival of uncomfortable emotions such as anger, frustration and embarrassment thanks to our faithful friend the ego.
So the more we practice surf specific yoga, with the intention to develop as a surfer, the more we can direct the power of yoga towards our intention. Remember the goal is not necessarily the destination but acknowledging what we have learned about ourselves along the way - and breath awareness is KEY. Although more success in the water always helps with motivation of course!
Here’s my top 5 yoga asana to help increase stability, fluidity and balance in the water, with a speeded up video incorporating all 5. Stay tuned for more surf specific sequences featuring poses and that will help open the hips, stabilise the core and prepare for facing bigger challenges in the surf.
Strengthens core, opens the back of the legs, shoulder stabilising, works the external arm rotators, elbows and wrists - which all need to be firing for that crucial pop up.
Frog Pose (Bhekasana)
Works the core, shoulders and back, whilst encouraging a small backbend. Pretty much what we are doing when we lie on the surfboard but with an added intense stretch for knee extensors and hip flexors.
An arm balance to symbolise taking off and floating up and away from the surfboard - working the abdominals shoulders, arms, wrists and legs too. A lifted Drsthi (gaze) is uber important, if you look down, you go down and same applies to dropping into waves.
Half Moon (Ardha Chandrasana)
Creating balance through training the standing leg, which must be active along with the lifted leg. Several variations can be applied - starting off with a block, then moving to lifting the top arm, the gaze and finally the lower hand lifting. Remain clam by focussing on the breath.
Revolved Crescent Lunge (Parivrtta Anjaneyasana)
Creates flexibility in the rib cage, needed for turns; builds stability through strengthening the quadriceps and gluteus muscles and directly benefits surfing by stretching the psoas and hips.