10 Best Yoga Poses for Surfers
Posted by Jack Albritton on August 14, 2014
What have professional surfers like 11 time World Champion Kelly Slater, women’s pioneer Rochelle Ballard and the king of Pipeline Gerry Lopez known for years about surfing?
All three of them have practiced yoga for years and it’s not only helped them to be successful in the water but it’s also a big factor in the longevity of their careers.
How are surfing and yoga related?
Yoga complements surfing perfectly as it builds strength, flexibility and balance. All of these are key when out in the water. Specifically it’s great for building core strength, stamina, mental focus and better breathing techniques. The mental focus and the breathing help to reduce stress, which can come in very handy in big waves or other hairy situations. For the true surfer or the true yogi there is a connection with each that goes beyond the physical. 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.
Why should surfers do yoga?
Learning how to breathe properly might be the biggest benefit surfers will get from practicing yoga. Most people breathe through their mouths taking short and shallow breaths. In yoga you want to breathe through your nose filling your entire lungs. This can be very beneficial in alleviating fear in big surf as well as giving you the lung capacity to handle being held down by the waves. When the breath is calm and controlled it can go a long way in preventing panic in a bad situation. What many consider mystical about yoga is really a science that has been around for some 5000 years. It is said that if one can control the breath, one can control the mind. If we can control the mind we come closer to controlling the body.
Besides being a great form of exercise which strengthens your surfing it also has similar effects as a massage. Your muscles are constantly contracting while in the water and benefit greatly from yoga, as it lengthens the muscles and really helps to unwind all those knots that you can accumulate while surfing. We are going to share with you the 10 best yoga poses for surfers but want to caution that this is not an instructional article. You should learn how to do these poses correctly with a qualified yoga instructor. Alignment of the poses is very important and doing them incorrectly can result in injury. If you can’t find an instructor in your area there are many quality instructional DVD’s out there. Then again you could always come learn to surf and do yoga in Costa Rica.
Downward Facing Dog is probably the most familiar pose in the West and is a good pose for the entire body. It is the finishing pose in a sequence called the Sun Salutation. It stretches the shoulders and calf muscles, builds strength while toning the arms and legs, lengthens and straightens the spine helping to prevent and relieve back pain. A bonus effect of this pose is that it relieves stress by helping to calm the nervous system.
Eagle pose is excellent for stretching out the upper back and shoulders and is 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. This pose strengthens the latisimus dorsi, deltoid, and trapezius muscles which will help your paddling in the long run.
The garland pose is a really great stretch for the lower half of the body. It helps to open up the hip flexors and helps to stretch and strengthen the back of the lower legs as well as the back and neck muscles. This is an especially good pose to prevent cramps in your hips while in the water from sitting on the board for long periods of time. It is also a great exercise for toning the legs.
Chaturanga Dandasana is great for the whole upper body. For those who think yoga is just stretching you will definitely feel a workout from this one. This is a pose that will help you a lot with your popups, making them stronger and faster. This balancing pose will improve your strength and tone the back, triceps and core.
Warrior II is similar to the stance surfers use as they stand up on their board. There is a lot going on in this pose and it really benefits the entire body. It strengthens and stretches the legs, hips, groin and shoulders. It helps with balance while building concentration and balance. When you start to get comfortable in this pose you will notice that it can energize your whole body as well as increase stamina and concentration.
The one legged king pigeon pose stretches the thighs, the groin and the psoa muscles while opening and releasing the chest and shoulders. But where you are going to really feel this pose the most is in the hips. This is one of the deepest and most effective hip openers in yoga. It counteracts the forward bending posture used in surfing. One legged king pigeon pose also increases blood flow and provides a good energy boost.
You can probably guess from the photo why upward facing dog is so good for surfers. It is basically the same motion as when you are getting up on your surfboard. It elongates and helps increase flexibility in the spine. It also opens up your chest, shoulders and throat while providing a gentle stretch on the front of your thighs. Practice this pose for a bit and you will find your popups much more fluid and will experience less muscle soreness in your lower back after a long session.
Boat pose is a great pose for strengthening the core/ abs with a bit of balance thrown in. This is a good pose to hone your focus as it is essential to breathe deeply to hold this pose for a sufficient amount of time to feel it burn. Concentrating on the deep breath is the best way for clearing the mind of clutter and focusing on the task at hand. Most people begin with a modified boat pose when the legs are perpendicular to the mat. As you strength increases you can gradually straighten your legs to create more difficulty.
Locust pose is excellent for surfers! It strengthens and tones the entire back part of the body including the back of the arms and legs. It also strengthens and tightens the core and helps to expand the lungs. Locust pose provides a gentle backbend which helps with the arching of the back experienced when paddling for waves. It also stretches the shoulders and the chest. Most of your strength in surfing comes from your back muscles which makes this pose a must in your yoga routine.
The happy baby pose looks exactly like you might expect from the name. It releases tight hips, hamstrings and back muscles while also stretching the spine. This pose helps to relax the mind and is good for relieving neck and back pain. Do this pose towards the end of your practice as a great way to decompress back and hips.
Incorporating Yoga into your Surf Routine
Once you start incorporating yoga into your before and after surf routine you will quite likely find that you don’t have those aches, pains and knots the next day. If you do they definitely will not be as bad. When you have practiced for a while you are going to see similarities in surfing and yoga as they are both about tapping into a flow of energy. Yoga taps more into the energy created from your body through the breath and asanas/poses while surfing taps into the flow and rhythm of the ocean.
Instead of trying to alter or force either flow we try to get in sync with that flow. As mentioned earlier, try and get some professional instruction in the beginning to show you the correct positioning and alignment of these positions. While I consider these the 10 best yoga poses for surfers I would highly encourage you to explore and try other poses. If you have classes in your area try various styles and see which one suits you best. Tapping into yoga will help your surfing now and keep your body in the condition to keep surfing for life.