Surfing is not an easy sport, and not being well-prepared pre-, and post-surf can result in robot-like walking and all in all awkward general stiffness. The most common body parts to suffer from the enjoyment of surfing are the back, hips, neck and shoulders. To alleviate the post-surf pain and to make your next surfing experience easier, enter yoga, the humble yet fashionable salvation of many ailments.
As with yoga in general, surfers’ yoga works best when done regularly. It is better to do a little on a lot of days rather than do a lot just once every rainy season. If possible, aim to practise yoga 3-4 times a week, if only for 30 mins at a time. Alternatively, you can do 10 minutes daily, which will give you plenty of benefits. Not only will it ease your muscles, but it will also improve your stamina, suppleness and balance on the board.
Aside from the physical ease it brings, the most important aspect of yoga for surfers might be improved breathing. While most people tend to take shallow breaths through the mouth, yoga puts focus on taking complete breaths through the nose and filling the lungs. Complete breathing lowers stress and brings mental focus, making dealing with big waves and hairy situations easier. Deep breaths help increase lung capacity for situations when you might be pushed down under the waves, alleviate fear regarding surfing and the waves.
While doing any yoga poses is beneficial for surfers, there are some specific asanas that will make you a snappier, more balanced and less tense surfer.
YOGA POSES FOR SURFERS
Upward facing dog (Urdvha Mukhanasana)
Urdvha Mukhasana is pretty self-explanatory, as the pose is basically the same as when getting up on the surf board. It helps increase the spine’s flexibility while opening the chest, shoulders and throat. It stretches the intercostal muscles between each rib, which can increase your lung capacity. Updog will help you with your popups and decrease soreness after surfing.
High and Low plank (Chaturanga dandasana)
High plank strengthens the core and triceps, low plank aka chaturanga helps improve popups while also strengthening and toning the core, triceps and arms.
Warrior 2 (Viravadrhasana 2)
Similar to surfing stance, this pose is very comprehensive. It strengthens and stretches the legs, groin, hips and shoulders, and opens the chest and lungs. Warrior 2 helps with balance, increasing mental clarity and concentration while energising the limbs. Once you get comfortable with warrior 2, it will make you feel strong and balanced.
Extended side angle (Utthita Parsvakonasana)
Extended side angle, along with trikonasana, stretches the body, opens hip joints, stretches the groins, and releases the shoulders and neck. There is an option for a bind with the hands which brings more opening to the chest, or
High and Low Lunge (Anjaneyasana)
High lunge gives you balance, strengthens the legs, releases tension in the shoulders when hands are interlaced behind the back. Low lunge is good for stretching the quadriceps and the groin. Different alignments yield different results, so play around to find your sweet spot.
Garudasana stretches upper back and shoulders, strengthens latisimus dorsi, deltoid and trapezius, and helps in paddling. The arm variation can be utilised in several different poses, ie. forward fold.
Malasana opens hip flexors, strengthens calves and back, prevents cramps in hips. Malasana is a resting pose that can be used as a base for twists and crow pose (bakasana).
One Legged Pigeon/Half Pigeon (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana)
Half pigeon is one of the biggest hip opening poses. Besides the hips, it is a great stretch also for the thighs, the groin and the psoa muscle. Moreover, it also releases tension in the chest and shoulders. This pose increases blood flow and once you can relax into the pose, it brings wonderful release.
Seated forward bend (Pachimottanasana)
Pachimottanasana stretches the entire backside of the body from the head through the spine all the way to the heels, creating space between each vertebrae. Folding forward releases tension in the hamstrings.
Locust is a great stretch for the whole backside of your body, also the backs of the legs and arms. Its’ back bend helps with paddling and ducking on the waves, and it strengthens the back muscles while opening the chest.
BONUS POSE: Boat (paripurna navasana)
I don't have a picture of my favourite asana, the boat, so bear with me with the description. Navasana is a great core strengthening and balancing pose. It will make your abs burn, and forces you to focus on your breathing. You can gradually build your stamina by doing different variations of the pose.
HOW TO Boat: Sit on your sitting bones, with your back straight and knees bent with your feet flat on the floor. Lift your feet off the floor, and start straightening your legs. If you can straighten your legs in 45-degree angle, you can start lowering them. Hold the pose, breathe, tuck your belly in, and lower your back onto the floor, your feet hovering just a few inches off the ground. If you want more challenge, straighten your arms behind your head. You can also do a side modification, where you roll to one side from low boat, with your limbs off the ground. You can also move from low boat to high boat to back to low, giving yourself a nice crunch and burn in your belly.
These poses should be enough to get you started in becoming a more supple surfer and improving your balance and stamina. Give them a go!
These pictures were taken with the lovely Jodie from the excellent To the Sea Retreat. I was lucky to share waves, take her classes, teach her and brainstorm sequences in lovely Portugal in May. If you ever want to combine yoga and surfing, delicious foods and good times without having to plan anything, let To the Sea take care of you - maybe I'll even see you there!