Yoga and surfing might seem like two completely different activities, however there is more of a connection between the two than you might think, and the benefits that yoga can have on surfing are pretty far-reaching.
Practicing yoga is a great way to keep you in shape when you can’t get in the water, and perfect for stretching out the body when you get out the water. However, the benefits of yoga for surfers go far beyond the physical aspects, teaching you to stay calm and focused in challenging situations, as well as teaching patience.
It should come at no surprise that many pro surfers use yoga to enhance their surf skills. So, let’s take a look at how yoga can up your surf game…
Surfing is a total body sport, you’re fighting against ocean waves, working your arms, shoulders, core, back, legs and feet. Yoga engages the whole body, activating both the large and small muscle groups, improving overall muscle tone. The increased strength, flexibility and mobility gained by practicing yoga enables you to maintain an arched back more easily, and develops shoulder mobility. A stiff back and limited shoulder mobility are real physical barriers to being able to paddle efficiently, leading to poor paddle speed and fast fatigue! Yoga assists in removing these physical barriers to paddling, this is key, and something beginner and intermediate surfers should work on as a fundamental foundation to becoming a better surfer.
So, if you want to increase your paddle strength and technique, practicing yoga on a regular basis is a must! It will help you to surf better, and for longer.
2. Catching a Wave
Mobility and range of motion in the shoulders, chest, and hip flexors is vital when it comes to surfing. However, it is a well-known fact that surfers often struggle with tight hips and stiffness in the back, neck, and shoulders. Yoga is an amazingly effective way to combat these problems, using body weight and opposing muscle groups to lengthen and stretch the muscles, reducing stiffness, and releasing tight tissue.
By increasing strength and flexibility in your back, you will also find it’s easier to catch a wave and prepare to transition to your feet. By arching your back and placing more weight to the back of the board, you are making it easier to take off in the critical section of the wave. This ability to arch the back is often lost as we grow up, this is especially noticeable if you start surfing later on in life. The whole use it or lose it principal really does come in to effect here, as the majority of us spend our days sat hunched over at a desk, teaching our bodies to do the exact opposite of what it needs to be doing for surfing. By holding poses, maintaining alignment, and moving through flows, yoga builds strength and flexibility in all the right places!
3. Popping Up
Beginner surfers often spend a lot of time and effort trying to forcibly jump to their feet. The surfers pop up should be an elegant transitional flow from lying to standing. It should be something that is built into your muscle memory, and carried out effortlessly, without any physical restrictions imposed by an inflexible body. When this is done properly, it sets you up for a good wave, however, if it’s done poorly, it will result in falling and frustration. In order to develop this successful pop up technique, it is essential to have a good degree of flexibility in your hips and ankles. If you can’t hold your board while the front foot is planted between both hands, then popping up will most likely be a jerky jump to your feet, resulting in an unstable transition, a lack of confidence during take off and, ultimately, more failed waves. Regularly practicing yoga will help you to overcome hip and ankle mobility issues, allowing you to have a more efficient and enjoyable surf!
When turning a surfboard you are using the whole upper body. You are moving your arms and head in the direction you want to go, allowing your lower body to follow. To do this requires an enormous amount of strength and flexibility in the entire body, and a particularly strong core, all of which can be cultivated through regular yoga practice. Give it a try and see your range of motion increase…you’ll find you have better control during manoeuvres in no time!
Balance is key to both yoga and surfing. It goes hand in hand with strength and flexibility, as, when the body uses all it’s muscles correctly, it is better equipped to correct itself when you begin to lose balance… and we all know how incredibly difficult it can be to balance on the board out in the water, especially for beginners. That’s where yoga comes in, as there are many ‘Asanas’, or physical postures, that challenge you to balance your body and mind, preparing you for your next surf.
Yoga teaches us to calm and focus the mind. Learning to concentrate during intense yoga poses is hugely beneficial for when you’re in the water. When you're breathing deeply, calming the mind, you can settle into a natural rhythm and find balance on the board, allowing you to just enjoy the moment. If you can find focus and clear your mind, you’ll progress more!
Breathing techniques, or ‘Pranayama’, are fundamental in the practice of yoga, as you match the movement to the breath. Using proper breathing techniques is especially helpful for surfers, as it is essential to be able to control the breath while being held under water during a wipeout, this can stop you from panicking and losing control in an unexpected situation.
8. Letting Go
Yoga teaches us a lot about letting go, or ‘Aparigraha’, one of the fundamental principles of yoga.
Allowing whatever is going to happen, happen. This is an important lesson for all surfers to learn, after all, the ocean is an environment with conditions that are completely out of our control.
Yoga connects the mind and body through movement and breath, reducing stress, relaxing the body. This mindset allows you to let go, and focus on the activity in hand.
In short, surfers who practice yoga will find that they are stronger, more flexible, able to manoeuvre better, have reduced stiffness, fewer injuries, and their bodies tend to recover a lot quicker. Try adding yoga to your fitness regime to deliver wave after wave after wave!
So, you've seen how your surfing will definitely benefit from yoga… Want to know more? Here’s a guide to essential yoga poses for surfers…
Why not give it a go? Join me for a Yoga For Surfers flow. Find out more or book here