Yoga and surfing are just as much a pair as peanut butter and jelly. Not only do both work your body physically and mentally, but also spiritually. This is why we are beginning to see some of the top dogs in surf, Laird Hamilton and Kelly Slater to name a few, venturing into the practice of yoga.
Laird Hamilton even noted in his interview with Men’s Journal that one workout in his thirty years of workout exploration has remained, the “series of yoga poses he does first thing most mornings”.
Though it may say a lot for yoga that these legendary surfers are beginning to practice it, the question still remains, “What can yoga do for you personally?” In this article we’re going to talk about the benefits of practicing yoga for surfing, what it can help with, and what you need to get started.
Benefits of Practicing Yoga for Surfing
Surfing can put quite a strain on your body. To add longevity to your surfing life, you must make sure that your body remains in the best shape possible. This means that you must find strength, flexibility, balance, and control.
While most people may think that the best way to practice surfing is to get out there and hit waves again and again, there are many ways to continue your practice outside of the water. This is where yoga helps. Some of the biggest benefits of yoga can include:
Releasing strain in your neck, shoulders, and back
Increase your overall flexibility
Increase strength in your core
Increase breath control
What Can Yoga Help With ?
Tightness In The Hips
There’s no question about it that many surfers have tight hips. Not only does a lot of this have to do with the choices we make in day-to-day life, like sitting in front of our computers for long periods of time or not stretching every day, but also the way we stand when we surf.
Surfers constantly have their hips and pelvis in a misaligned shape when they’re standing on their boards with their front feet turned out. Practicing yoga can help in accessing your hips’ full range of motion. In turn, accessing that range of motion can help to decrease risk of injury, make your pop-ups flow better, and reduce pain in your lower back.
Pain In the Back and Neck
As a surfer, you’ve probably experienced pain in your upper back and shoulders before. This is because the constant paddling motion can put tons of strain on those areas. It is very important that you have great mobility in your shoulders.
The unfortunate part is, most surfers don’t have the proper mobility in their shoulders and thoracic spine. This is why the act of paddling and the constant lift of the chest can put an incredible amount of strain on your upper back and neck muscles.
Yoga can help in warming up your shoulders by performing mobility exercises. It also helps to build strength in the parts of your shoulder that don’t get as much of a workout from paddling, especially when you incorporate exercises like planks to help balance out the muscles that aren’t getting the proper workout.
Just like your shoulders, it is necessary to work all of the muscles in your neck and upper back. Besides warming up and cooling down when you get in and out of the water, it can be very beneficial to perform different yoga poses such as Child’s Pose or Ragdoll.
Lastly, giving attention to the thoracic spine, or mid-back area, is very important. For surfing specifically, this can make your turning flow better, help you to react better to the dynamics of the waves, and help you in maintaining a more effective paddling motion. Poses like Half Twisted Lizard or Reclining Spinal Twist can be great for this type of workout.
Strength In the Core
Yoga can help in building strength in your core. By the core, we mean abs, obliques, lower back, pelvis, and hips. Having a strong core helps to stabilize your spine and help you to flex in a more balanced manner. Having a stronger core can help in many different ways:
Ridding yourself of lower back pain
Increasing your balance
Enhancing your pop-up ability
Increasing Your Balance
There is no question that having expert balance can make you a great surfer. Preparing yourself for the dynamics of the waves can help you to adapt to the unexpected changes that they have to offer.
In partnership with the University of Miami, Kiersten Mooney and her team at Yoga Journal have studied the characteristics of balance and created a sequence of poses to help increase balance. Some of these poses include Chair Pose, Mountain Pose, Tree Pose, and Eagle.
Improving your Breath
Lastly, there is breath control. We cannot stress the importance of having proper control over your breath. If you can learn to properly control your breath, you can greatly increase your stamina and endurance.
Practicing breath control and meditation within your yoga routine can help to increase your lung capacity when in the water, control excitement in your central nervous system, and increase your ability to focus.
What Do I Need To Get Started
Truly, the only thing you need to get started with yoga is willpower. You need to be able to set a routine for yourself and begin practicing each day to really see the benefits. With that being said, there are some pieces of equipment that you may want to consider picking up.
We would highly recommend purchasing a yoga mat, especially if you decide that you want to attend yoga classes and learn under an expert’s guidance. Investing in a good mat which is durable and grippy can really help with posture alignment and you can also practice yoga just about anywhere! A cork yoga is all natural and also perfect for beach practice as it is washable. If you don’t want to purchase a yoga mat yet, a travel mat or blanket should do just fine.
We would also recommend looking into getting some yoga props like blocks or bolsters. These can be very helpful in performing certain poses. Again, if you don’t want to purchase these items, you can find alternative items at home like hardcover books.
Yoga can help in addressing pain points that affect most surfers and also can help in greatly increasing the abilities of surfers in the long run. It is necessary to practice everyday to see the benefits, even if that is only 10 minutes a day. Good luck! Stay happy, healthy, and keep surfing!