An increasing amount of surfers are turning to yoga to aid them in the water, with many parallels being drawn between the two. Both put you directly into the moment, requiring focus, balance, strength; calming the mind and enlivening the senses. And if you practice yoga and turn to surfing, you’ll be delighted at how the ocean brings a whole new dimension to your yoga practice. (More on the spiritual side of yoga and surfing here)
Riding your first green wave, a perfect combination of focus, balance and strength, with everything else in the world fallen away and as you glide along for those few glorious moments, is what hooks us all into surfing in the first place. You emerge from the ocean feeling happy, fulfilled, and more connected to everything.
Whilst your mind might be ecstatic at your surf session, your body might not be. Paddling, popping up and turning can cause tension in parts of the body, and it’s important to stretch and hone these muscles (and balancing skills) so you stay supple and prevent injury.
All the greatest surfers have started to incorporate yoga into their surfing routine, and here we rounded up the best poses to enhance your surfing performance. Hey, if it’s good enough for Kelly Slater…
Here are our 7 best poses to make you a better surfer.
*****A note on breathing: Hold each pose for 5 long, deep breaths. Focusing on breathing will help your surf in lots of ways, and is a great gauge for timing your poses ********
1: Downward Facing Dog.
One of the most recognisable yoga poses, this pose strengthens and stretches the spine, shoulders, hands, arms, hamstrings and calfs. So basically all your surfing muscles! Having your heart higher than your head increases circulation and calms the nervous system. And you get to look like a triangle. Sweet.
Start on all fours with knees directly in line with your hips and wrists just in front of your shoulders. Exhale and push up and back with your butt in the air, (higher than you think!) and bend your knees as much as you need to achieve a straight line from your wrists to your pelvis. Try to straighten your legs and reach your heels to the ground. Hold for 5 deep breaths.
Have a micro bend in your arms to keep your shoulders broad, neck soft and gaze between your knees. Middle fingers should point straight forward, and feet are hip width apart.
2: Upward Facing Dog.
A great way to practice your paddling form and pop-ups, and will stop your lower back getting sore after a long session. It evenly extends the spine, whilst stretching out your entire front side - hip flexors, abdomen, and chest, and strengthens your wrists, forearms and mid-back for more fluid pop-ups.
Lie on your front with your hands under your shoulders. Inhale as you straighten your arms and your chest will rise up. Press onto the tops of your feet to the point that your thighs lift off the ground. Keep looking up and your elbows in.
Don’t have your shoulders by your ears, and bend your arms if your lower back is tight. Keep those thighs lifted too.
3: Chaturanga Dedasana or 4 Limbed Staff Pose
Thought yoga was just stretching? Think again, this pose is a great work-out for the whole upper body. It strengthens chest, back, triceps, core and glutes, and will aid your pop-ups a lot.
Start in a traditional plank pose, then lower your arms ninety degrees and hold. Don’t forget to breathe, and extend your heels towards the ground to get the most from this challenging pose. Make sure your whole body is in a straight line, adjusting your hips as necessary. Got it? Now straighten those arms to return to the original position.
Keep your elbows in, this is a yoga push up rather than a traditional one. Keep your neck neutral by looking a foot or so (30-ish cm) from your hands.
4: Boat Pose:
Good balance stems from a strong core and ability to focus, and this is the pose to strengthen both of these. Boat Pose strengthens your abs, improves balance, strengthens and lengthens the spine and hip flexors, and stretches hamstrings.
From a sitting position on the floor, raise your legs so you resemble a “V”, with arms parallel to the floor and fingers pointing out front by your knees. You may want to start with the modified boat pose which has knees bent, straightening as you progress. Breathe deeply and focus on a point past your legs to prevent wobbling.
Keep your back straight - it’s better to have bent knees and a straight back as this is what works your abs. It’s fine to shake with the effort, but make sure you can breathe properly at all times, if you’re struggling then take it down a notch.
5: Eagle Pose
This is a great pose for instant relief in the upper back and shoulders, and keeps those knots at bay. It lengthens and strengthens the latisimus dorsi, deltoid, and trapezius muscles, improving your paddling and stopping soreness after a long session. Do before and after your surfs, whenever you can really! Add the legs for extra balancing kudos.
ARMS: Put your arms out in front, bend the elbows so your hands point up and wrap your right arm over the left, bringing both hands to the centre and touching the palms (right fingers on left palm). You’ll feel a more intense stretch on the right side. Switch arms to stretch the left side too.
LEGS: For the legs, wrap the opposite leg to the upper arm (left leg in our example) over the other leg, like your desperate for the bathroom. Continue to wrap your foot round the calf, then sink down into a one-legged squat, about 60 degrees.
This is an intense stretch for those with tight shoulders, so go in slow. You’re aiming for upper arms to be parallel to the floor. As always, deep breathing with relax your muscles into the pose and stretch them out. Focus on a still point to keep your balance when adding the leg component.
6: Locust Pose
Every surfer practices this pose during the paddle and pop-up. Strengthening the entire back side of the body, including backs of the arms and legs, this pose also works on your core and opens your diaphragm and chest (great for increasing lung capacity). Stronger paddle muscles make for faster paddles, which means more waves are caught - winning!
Lying on your front with your arms by your sides and palms down, simultaneously raise your chest and legs (yes thighs too), keeping your gaze forward. Raise your arms so they remain parallel to the floor, and try to keep your legs hip width apart and straight-ish.
Elongate your torso so you don’t compress your lower back, and keep your hands stretched towards the back of the room to work your arms too.
7:Warrior II Pose
This pose should look familiar - it’s similar to the initial stance on your surfboard and so is awesome to practice. It improves balance, opens up the chest, fires up the hips and groin areas, and strengthens the legs.
From a standing position, step back as far as you can with just one leg. Bend the front leg till your knee is directly above the ankle (no further!) with the back leg straight and heel on the floor. Reach out to the side with both arms, palms down and look over your front fingers. Hold for 5 breaths, then switch sides.
Check your front heel is in line with the arch of your back foot, which should be perpendicular to your front (like a “T”). Get the most out of this pose by having your front thigh parallel to the floor - you may need to increase your stance to achieve this. Open the hips by trying to align them as much as you can to the side, but don’t let your front knee bend in. Really stretch your arms away from each other to maximise the extension. It should be a lot harder now!
So there you have it, 7 poses to make you a better surfer. Practice these poses before a surf trip, after a session and any other time you fancy to get you paddling, popping and riding those waves!
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