Yoga for Surfers
June 15, 2016 | 0 Comment
Surfing and yoga are two words you probably weren't used to hearing in the same sentence a few years ago. However, these two activities have more in common than you have probably imagined. By ignoring the skeptics of many experienced surfers, Kirsten Swales, a professional yoga teacher and passionate surfer herself, claims that yoga and surfing go together like “the ocean and the sand” and have amazing benefits for one another.
Because it is very hard to convince Surfers, especially males (this is just an observation and no gender discrimination) that yoga is just as challenging as surfing and could even improve surfing skills, Kirsten recommends her special surf-yoga sequence, called “Yin-Yasa for Surfers”. Her classes may vary in sequencing, but always include her “Top Five” core postures (asanas) which target all the muscles used whilst out in the surf. Her classes prove that yoga is not just stretching and meditating, Kirsten says that these asanas improve a surfer’s strength, flexibility and breathing, as well as help them to perform more confidently and with more stability out on their boards. A great combination of challenging and relaxing.
Of course our surf instructor, Indra who have been surfing since they were little kids, were not so easy to convince that they could still improve their surfing skills by practicing yoga. They were however open enough to try it out for themselves before their morning surf sessions. In the beginning they weren’t taking it too seriously and still joking around, but after the first two asanas of Kirsten’s sequence they got some sweat going on and had to use their concentration and strength for the performances of the postures instead of making fun of it. Afterwards they even admitted that they could feel the yoga practice in their muscles and that it was quite challenging; well they couldn’t even hide it anyway because they were covered in sweat J. Also, Indra said that he sees now how yoga can be beneficial for surfing because he found the awareness of his breathing very helpful in his further surfs.
We are lucky to have Kirsten sharing with us a detailed description on how to perform the asanas correctly on our blog. Just like Indra, give it a try as well and you may discover the many analogies between yoga and surfing, and be just as pleasantly surprised as they were.
- Downward dog: Adho Mukha Svanasana
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. Added goodie is that it relieves stress by helping to calm the nervous system.
- Begin in extended child’s pose, arms out straight at a suitable length.
- As you inhale, keep the arms straight as you lift up into an all fours position.
- Roll those shoulders back and down, feeling the scapula coming together.
- Exhale and tuck the toes under, lifting out of your wrists push back. Raising your hips to the ceiling, keeping your knees bent as you work on lengthening and straightening out the spine. Inviting the heels to the ground at the end of the exhalation. You should be looking like an upside down “V”.
- Inhale to come back to all fours position.
- Exhale as you ease back into extended child’s pose, releasing and letting go of the posture.
- Repeat 3 – 5 times.
- Plank Pose — Uttihita Chatarunga Dandasana
Tones the abdominal muscles while also strengthening the arms and spine.
- Following your Downward Dog come back into an all fours position. Wrists directly under your shoulders, knees and feet hip width apart.
- Gaze is down between your hands to help keep your spine lengthened, no crunching through the back of the neck.
- As you exhale draw your abdominal muscles back towards your spine (and up if you know how to do so).
- Tuck your toes and lift your knees off the ground, bringing the whole back side of your body into one beautiful straight line.
- Think about keeping your thighs lifted, contracting those pelvic floor and abdominal muscles to protect the lower spine and broaden out through the shoulders and collar bones.
- Hold the pose while breathing smoothly for five breaths, or longer to build up stamina. But only as long as the breath remains smooth and non-forced.
- Exhale to come out of the posture coming back down to all fours and releasing out back to extended child’s pose.
- Cobra – Bhujanasana
Think of your paddle out, we need lots of mid and upper back strength and flexibility when surfing. Cobra nails that.
- Begin face down on your mat, resting your forehead on the ground.
- Place the hands beneath the shoulders.
- Big inhalation to the centre of your chest.
- Exhale as you slightly contract the lower abdomen, activate the legs, connect your pubis bone to your mat.
- Inhale as you begin to move into the posture. Pelvic floor is activated to support the lower spine, activate and lengthen through the back, peel your torso off the floor, keeping the chin slightly tucked (no neck crunching, neck crunching bad). All the lift should be coming from using your lower back muscles, the hands are just for support, so no pushing through them to get more lift.
- Exhale lowering your chest back to the floor, releasing from the posture.
- Warrior II – Virabhadrasana II
The stance of Warrior II is very similar to the stance we use as we stand up on our boards. On the mat it can help us with our concentration and balance, it also helps to stretch and strengthen the legs, hips, groin and shoulders. Develops stamina and strength.
- Begin in Samasthiti at the top of your mat.
- Turn as you step your right foot back to a comfortable distance. Hips are now facing the long edge of your mat (keep bringing your awareness back to these guys throughout the posture, they tend to want to face the front. Any pinching in the knee, adjust the right foot, usually forward).
- Left foot becomes your “lateral” stable leg, keep leg activated and strong.
- Turn right foot out 90 degrees, heel usually inline with the arch of the left foot.
- Inhale as you raise your arms overhead.
- Exhaling releasing them down to shoulder height as you simultaneously bend your right knee, coming down into your lunge. Gaze focused beyond your right middle finger.
- Quick peek down to ensure you can see your right big toe, if not your right knee has extended too far over your right ankle. Either ease up a bit, or widen your stance.
- Inhale to come out, activating the pelvic floor, raising the arms overhead.
- Exhaling lowering the arms alongside your body and straightening out that right leg.
- Repeat 3 – 5 times, then onto the left and repeat again.
- One Legged King Pigeon Pose - Eka Pada Rajakapotasana
Why: One of THE best hip openers we do in yoga. Awesome for all that time we spend sitting on our board looking forward to the next wave. It also stretches the thighs, groin and psoa muscles while releasing the chest and shoulders.
- Begin in an all fours position
- Bring your right knee up between your hands, placing the ankle near your left wrist. Extend your left leg out so the top of your foot and knee cap are resting on your mat.
- Work on squaring those hips towards the front of your mat, balancing your weight evenly between the left and right side..
- Flex you right foot.
- With every inhale think of lengthening your spine through the crown of the head to create space in the spine. Gaze down softly.
- With every exhalation release gently further into the posture if it is available to you, using your hands to walk yourself down.
- Stay in the posture for up to one minute.
- To come out tuck those left toes under, lift the knee and press back into Downward Dog.
- Repeat on the other side.
We hope you have fun trying out “Yoga for Surfers” and also found some useful tips to take away from this. Hopefully we were able to convince some more yoga skeptics, just like Indra was, that it is a proper physical exercise and very healthy for the body.
If you are interested in learning more about the similarities in yoga and surfing, feel free to read further on Kirsten's blog: http://www.urbanremedies.com/yoga-for-surfers/ or visit Serenity Eco Guesthouse for their amazing yoga classes. It is a very spiritual place and definitely worth checking out, especially because they have a 10% discount for all guests staying at the Surfer's House or the Pool Villa.
Enjoy Life & Namaste!
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