Updated: Mar 30, 2020
Yoga complements surfing perfectly. It builds strength, increases flexibility and improves balance. It’s ideal for building core strength, stamina, mental focus and better breathing techniques. These are all key factors when out battling the ocean. Yoga teaches us to remain calm, be present and to return to our breath regardless of the outside circumstances. The mental focus and the breathing teqniques also reduce stress and anxiety, which come in handy in big waves or other hairy situations. For the true surfer and the true yogi there is a connection that goes beyond the physical body. An adult human body is made up of 60% water. Like the ocean's tides the human body is also affected by the cycle of the moons phases. One could even compare the rhythm of the ocean with the rhythm of the body. Physically yoga is a great way to stay in shape when the surf is flat, prevent injuries, warm up before paddling out and to stretch out the body after a long surf session.
Here I list the 5 most important poses every surfer should incorporate into there pre, post and lay day routines.
1. Adho Muka Svasana (Downward Facing Dog)
Downward Facing Dog is one of the most familiar poses in yoga and is a great pose that benefits the entire body. It lengthens and opens the shoulders and hamstring muscles, builds strength while toning the arms and legs, lengthens and straightens the spine helping to prevent and relieve back pain. An added bonus of this pose is that it relieves stress by helping to calm the nervous system.
Start in a table top position on all fours.
Make sure your knees are directly below your hips and your hands slightly forward in front of your shoulders while pressing your palms in to the floor. Palms should be shoulder width distance.
On an exhale, slowly start lifting your hips up and back towards the sky and continue pressing your palms into the ground.
With an exhalation push your quadriceps back and reach your heels towards the ground. Ensure the legs are active by slightly lifting the knee caps. Knees can bent, however, eventually you want staight legs.
Lift up through the forearms and slightly rotate the outer arms under and inwards.
Draw the shoulders up and back to allow the neck to stay long and follow the natural line of the spine. Try to hold for a minute, breathing into the rib cage.
2. Utkata Konasana (Goddess Pose with Eagle Arms)
Goddess pose builds strength in the quadriceps and core, whilst opening the hips and lengthening the inner thighs. Eagle pose is excellent for stretching out the upper back and shoulders; a must before and after long paddling sessions. These are the muscles that get the most work in the water and they are the ones that will feel tight the next day if not taken care of.
Step your feet approximately three feet apart. Turn your toes out approximately 45 degrees and spin your heels in.
On an exhale, bend your knees until your thighs are parallel to the ground. To protect your knees, make sure your knees are aligned directly above your ankles.
Lift your arms straight ahead to shoulder height, palms facing one another. Cross your right arm on top of the left and bend and hook your elbows. The backs of your hand or palms are pressing together.
On an inhale, lift your forearms up in line with your shoulders and, on an exhale, reach the forearms away from your face, broadening across your shoulders blades.
Engage your core by drawing your navel in towards your spine.
Make sure you have a slight tuck in your tail bone.
On an Inhale, straighten the legs a few inches, exhale, sit deeper as the hips lower toward thigh height.
Repeat the pulsing arms and legs simultaneously for 5 to 10 breaths. After the last one, slowly free the arms and straighten the legs. Repeat on the other side.
3. Eka Pada Rajakapotasana (One Legged King Pigeon Pose)
Flexibility is key to taking your surfing to the next level. It’s required in all aspects, from your take off and drop in, to pumping and cutbacks. If your hips aren’t open you’ll know it. One legged king pigeon pose is one of the deepest and most effective hip openers in yoga. It stretches the outer hips, thighs and the groin. This pose also increases blood flow and provides increased energy levels.
Start in plank pose, placing your hands directly below your shoulders.
Bring your right knee forward until it touches your right wrist, keep your right thigh parallel to the side of your mat.
Slowly inch your right shin and foot toward the midline of your body until your foot is directly below your left hip.
Straighten your left/back leg toward the back of your mat.
Keep your hips as level as possible to get the full effects of the pose.
As your hips continue to settle, press your fingertips firmly into the floor and lengthen the sides of your waist to help protect your lower back. Using your arms this way allows you to modify the intensity of the stretch.
Walk your hands forward, inhale deeply as you lengthen your torso, and exhale as you fold forward, lowering your elbows to the floor. Again, use your arms to adjust the weight you release into your hips. If the stretch feels too intense, lift away from the floor and use your arms to support more of your weight. If you have space to spare in your hips, lower your torso and let your weight settle onto the floor.
Hold this pose for 3-5 minutes, then repeat on your other leg.
4. Anahatasana (Heart Melting Pose)
Heart melting pose deeply opens the shoulders, the chest, the thoracic spine, neck and lower back whilst increasing respiratory function. The heart melting pose also relieves built up tensions naturally, creating length and space in the targeted areas. The perfect post surf pose to relieve tightness and tension. This will reduce stiffness and increase muscle endurance for those back to back surf sessions.
Start in a table top position on all fours. Make sure your knees are directly below your hips.
Walk your arms forward, lowering your chest and forehead toward the ground. Melt your heart towards the mat.
Rest your forehead or chin on the mat.
Draw your navel slightly in towards your spine to engage your core and protect your lower back.
If you want to go a little deeper, press into the palms, lift the forearms up off the ground and melt the back of the heart.
Breathe deeply into the shoulders, neck, spine, chest and lower back. Remain in the pose for 15-20 long breaths
5. Shalabhasana (Locust Pose)
Locust pose strengthens and tones the spine, glutes, backs of the arms and legs whilst stretching the shoulders, chest, belly, thighs and expanding the lungs. Locust pose is excellent for surfers who want to improve their paddling ability. Locust pose provides a gentle backbend which targetting the back muscles used when paddling for waves. Most of your strength in surfing comes from your back muscles which makes this pose a must in your pre surf warm up routine.
Lie on your belly, interlace your fingers behind you at your sacrum, rest you forehead on the floor
While exhaling, lift your head, upper torso, arms and legs away from the floor.
You should be resting on your belly, lower ribs and front pelvis.
Zip your legs together. Floint your feet and push strongly through the balls of your toes.
Squeeze together your inner palms and draw your interlaced hands toward the back of the room.
Repeat this pose 3 times and holding for 5-10 long breaths each time.