01 May Yoga for Surfers
Living and teaching yoga on my paradise island, Nusa Lembongan, I find myself surrounded by surf chicks and dudes almost every day.
There are yoga and surfing retreats popping up all around the world these days, which just serves to highlight the popularity of this fabulous new combo. Brazilian big-wave surfer Alex Martins credits his daily ashtanga practice with enabling him to ride waves as tall as a six-story building. While world champion surfer Kelly Slater practices yoga regularly as cross training and can touch the top of his head to his heels in a fabulous king pigeon pose.
Yoga for Surfers – benefits for both the yogi and the surfer
Surfers need deep focus and optimum shape to attain their in-water goals. Big wave riders, for example, need great mental skills to overcome fear and very fast physical responses. A yoga routine can provide huge benefits to a surfer, including more focus, confidence, strength, balance, energy, endurance, vitality, flexibility, longevity and, ultimately performance. It increases their skills on their boards, allows them to recover more quickly after a tough day on the water and prevent or minimize the risk of injuries. Then by applying pranayama techniques they can help to improve their patience and ability to stay calm when a huge wave finally comes their way for them to debut their talents on.
From both a physical and spiritual perspective, surfing and yoga work together for a clearer mind and a stronger body, with awesome mutual benefits.
Both yoga and surfing can be done in a group, but both are equally enjoyable, and perhaps more so even when done in solitude and silence. When I see the surfers walking home from a day on the water, I notice that they wear the very same look that I have after a ridiculously challenging vinyasa flow class. It’s that look of sheer exhaustion sprinkled with absolute contentment with that very moment in life.
Both disciplines require strength of mind and body, absolute flexibility, and a lot of balance and core strength. They both attract like-minded people – devotees who feel at one with nature, with the world around them, People who are devoted to looking, and feeling strong and vibrant. How often do you meet a boring yogi or surfer after all? Each of these people follow their dreams every single day, the yogi grabbing their mat and working their way through a flow or yin practice or mastering their meditation, the surfer scanning the tidal charts, getting up as the sunrises to catch the earliest wave possible, sitting for hour after hour just waiting for that perfect wave. Both disciplines require such steely determination and patience.
Magic of Mindfulness
Yoga and surfing meet on the mental and spiritual planes, too. They both require you to keep present, that feeling of mindfulness, and being aware of everything around you and within you in each given moment. This heightened focus and presence that’s needed to ride a wave—a constantly spontaneous movement—is often described by surfers as just the sort of mystical experience yogis have talked about for thousands of years – not knowing or remembering where exactly you and the wave start and end.
The presence you develop in a yoga practice serves surfers well during the tedious moments, too, since more time is usually spent waiting and paddling than actually riding a wave. The yogic technique of observing the breath can transform the long lulls between sets of waves into a focused meditation. And the simple act of staying with mentally or physically challenging sensations during poses can train you to fight off frustration when surfing overcrowded waves.
Waves of Energy
In yoga, we observe and even move the unseen waves of energy within us, known as prana, or “life force.” In surfing, we feel the physical wave energy that we’re tapping in to during yoga practice. Whether or not you learn to surf, the metaphor is an apt one for leading a yogic life. The saying speaks to a key yogic teaching about the mind: While you may not be able to calm your mind into an absolute state of stillness, you can learn to relate to the endless waves of thought in a more free and skillful way in order to surf them (literally or metaphorically) with grace and composure.
Surfing can teach yogis to accept both the good and the bad waves by seeing them as changeable, and impermanent. We all have ongoing waves of thoughts, experiences, and emotions—waves of joy and sadness, waves of love and fear. That’s a natural part of our beautiful journey called life.
In surfing you come to learn that even the less than perfect waves are composed of the same substance, the same salt water, as the perfect ones. After years of practice the skilled surfer comes to realize that even the stormy, or the average waves can still be enjoyed. It is a mental shift. It is the same with yoga, some days your body calls for a fast and furious vinyasa flow and some days your body just cannot fathom how it would achieve that and instead takes pleasure in a simple restorative practice, or sitting still in meditation, or a delicious yin yoga class. The pleasure that you derive from your practice, that fabulous mental high, remains the same whatever happens in your day. Your ability to choose mindfulness, to be present, to choose happiness, to remain calm in amongst the storm is a challenge that is worth meeting day after day, no matter what the external conditions are.
Fine tuning your breath
The benefits of an efficient breathing technique can be enormous for a successful surfer.
Surfers can use the breathe as a meditation while they wait patiently in the water for the next set of waves, not to mention to manage the breathe during the duck diving/free-diving that every surfer encounters often. A large amount of time is spent sitting by as the tides change, and the flow of energy within the ocean moves back and forth. This offers the ideal opportunity for those yogi-surfer wannabes to practice coming to their breath first of all, and then moving into a higher level within their practice and taking it to the higher plane that is meditation.
Personally, I can’t think of a better place in which to find a moment to meditate, to practice gratitude and mindfulness. Sat on a surf board floating in the middle of a beautiful tropical ocean, the sense of peace and tranquility surrounding you in that very moment opens itself up to be appreciated, to be embraced, and worshipped! Blissful surfing meditation days 🙂
Knowing how to adjust your breath while you sit back patiently and wait out a particular wave with a passionate, determined, yet calm focus and union of mind and body will help any surfer out there to be able to perform at their highest level in their sport. The breath allows you to take each moment one breath at a time, live life spontaneously yet allowing you to be mentally and physically prepared to take every opportunity that is presented to you.
Yoga for Surfers at Serenity Yoga Lembongan
We offer several fixed classes a week on our daily drop in schedule, which are just perfect for the surfer! Yin yoga to stretch out the muscles and connective tissue throughout the whole length of the body, helping you to get straight back out on the waves the very next day. Ocean Lovers is the perfect blend of yin yoga and hatha flow which focuses our energy on stretching and strengthening our muscles, working on our alignment and core strength in line with our breathe, and then slowing things down to take us into our yin tissues with some longer and deeper holds bringing us to a place of absolute zen!
Watch this space for our new Yoga for Surfers flexible yoga class schedule. We will be watching the waves and tides and organizing yoga classes specifically for the surfers to come and stretch out after a big day out on the water. The perfect time to release the muscles and tissue and set yourself up in preparation for that next set of waves that come through. We will make announcements on a weekly basis of class times on our Facebook Page, Instagram and our website.