Last weekend marked the annual celebrations of International Surf Day on Saturday 20th of June followed by World Yoga Day on Sunday 21st June. With serendipity (and my calendar) pointing out another similarity between yoga and surfing, I thought I would merge the two, do some research, and write a little about how yoga can help your surfing. This information here is relatively introductory, so if you have ever heard about yoga's benefits for surfing, or always wanted to try it, read on.
What is yoga?
In short, yoga is a discipline that incorporates controlled breathing, specific body poses and some meditation to in order to improve physical and mental health. Yoga poses can help the body build strength, flexibility and balance, whilst the breathing and meditation calms the mind, trains it to focus and builds awareness.
For some people, the word yoga conjures up thoughts of superhumanly strong and flexible people, contorting their body in bizarre ways whilst balancing on one hand. Whilst some yoga poses take time and dedication to master (as with many pursuits, including surfing), much of what yoga encompasses is very attainable for most people.
How yoga can help your surfing
The emphasis on strength, flexibility and balance has clear links to some of the benefits of surfing, and practicing yoga enables you to work on these whilst out of the water. Additionally, one of the most commonly cited benefits of yoga is the ability to help prevent, or reduce recovery time from injuries.
Gerry Lopez, Rob Machado and Kelly Slater are just a few names from the surfing celebrity circles that are well known to practice yoga. I would consider the many decades of top quality wave riding by these guys, and the inclusion of yoga as a key element in their respective health and fitness regimes, to be no coincidence.
Some practitioners, including Taylor Knox, believe that the breathing exercises help develop lung capacity and mental toughness, which helps with those long hold downs in big surf.
It will also help outside of surfing
Of course, the benefits of yoga will also spill over into other parts of your life too, which provides and even greater incentive to give it a go. Speaking from personal experience, I definitely feel that the breathing exercises and meditative elements of yoga help me deal with stress of daily life and generally make me feel more relaxed, which can only be a good thing.
Where to start
My suggestion is always to practice with a trained professional who can keep an eye on you and ensure you are getting the most benefit from a yoga session, and not risking an injury. Many gyms offer yoga classes as part of their membership, and independent yoga studios, some even specializing in yoga on stand up paddle boards, are increasingly common. A quick search on Google should help you find your local yogi.
For those of you who have practiced some yoga and are interested in what poses could help your surfing, here is a quick list of my favourite yoga poses for surfing, and why:
Downward-facing dog (Adho Mukha Svanasasana) – Stretches legs, back and arms, for a revitalizing all body warm up and prepares the arms for paddling.
Tree (Vrksasana) – helps balance and focus, while strengthening and stabilizing ankles, calves and thighs, for making late drops
Warrior one (Ahdo Mukha Svanasana) – Strengthens quads, hamstrings, calves and ankles for driving out of bottom turns.
Extended triangle pose (Utthita Trikonasana) – Stretches and strengthens the legs, whilst opening up the chest, shoulders, back and torso, for opening up and ripping around front-side turns.
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