The ancient practice of yoga has grown deep roots in the surfing community. Both physical and spiritual, surf and yoga work together for a clearer mind and a stronger body, with high mutual benefits.Yoga's origins go back to millennia ago, in India. This possibly pre-Vedic tradition combines the power of mind and body, aiming to create a perfect balance which opens the path to nirvana and illumination. But what does this deep, inward activity have to do with outdoors, and sometimes extreme, surfing? Apparently, everything.
Surfers need deep focus and optimum shape to attain their in-water goals. A good example of this are big wave riders, who need great mental skills to overcome fear and very fast physical response. A yoga routine can provide huge benefits to a surfer, among which more focus, confidence, balance, energy, endurance, vitality, flexibility, longevity and, ultimately, performance.
It also helps to strengthen key points to the surfing practice, like arms, legs, back and wrists, minimizing the risk of injuries and improving recovery after a surf session.
What is not so talked about, however, is that surfing also benefits yoga practitioners. Riding a wave is a highly spiritual moment which presents itself as an outward experience of the yoga and meditation practices.
It also allows yogis and yoginis to take physical and balance skills acquired through yoga to a whole new level. The yoga stretches and techniques could be done before and after the surf session. Yoga helps paddling and standing up faster.
Now that you now the deep bonds that connect surfing and yoga, you can dedicate yourself to it at home or in the line-up, before you go into the water.
Here are some of the best yoga poses for surfers:
The Padmasana, or "Lotus Pose"
The Padmasana is mostly a meditation pose. It is a sitting pose, with legs crossed one over the other and each foot placed on the opposite thigh. This asana requires constant practice, but once achieved calms the brain and stretches the ankles and knees.
The Adho Mukha Svanasana, or "Downward-Facing Dog"
"Downward-Facing Dog" is a rejuvenating stretch that strengthens the wrists, arms and shoulders, and one of the most widely recognized and famous yoga poses. It consists on standing with hands and feet on the floor, the sitting bones pointing to the ceiling and heels touching the ground, with knees, arms and back stretched, forming and angle. A variation of the pose, the "Dolphin Pose", is also great to open shoulders and to strengthen the core, arms and legs.
The Utthita Parsvakonasana, or "Extended Side Angle Pose"
This pose is a stretch along the top side of the body, from the back heel through the raised arm. It opens the hip joints, stretches the groins and releases the shoulders and neck.
The Virabhadrasana II, or "Warrior II Pose"
The "Warrior II Pose" increases stamina and concentration, stretches hip, groins and shoulders, relieves backaches and improves circulation and respiration. It is done by standing with feet apart, one knee bent the front and the other stretched to the back, and arms outstretched, parallel to the floor.
The Utkatasana, or "Chair Pose"
By standing straight and gently bending the hips back as if to sit, with arms stretched upwards, the “Chair Pose” works the muscles of the arms and legs and also stimulates the diaphragm and heart.
The Ustrasana, or "Camel Pose"
This challenging backbend pose improves the flexibility of the neck and spine and relieves backache. The camel pose keeps you on your knees, tail bone pushed forward, chest up and back bent, with hands holding the heels.
The "Sphinx Pose"
This pose releases stress, provides energy and makes the spine flexible. It resembles a sphinx, hence the name, as the practitioner lies on the floor on his belly and faces ahead, supported on parallel forearms.
The Paschimottanasana, or "Seated Forward Bend"
The "Seated Forward Bend" does the complete stretch of the entire backside of the body from the back of the head through the heels, as one sits with legs straight ahead and leans forward, reaching for the feet.
The Supta Virasana, or "Reclining Hero Pose”
By lying on your back with knees bent to the side, on the floor, the “Reclinig Hero Pose” stretches the knees and intensifies the stretch in the thighs and ankles.
The Bharadvajasana I, or "Bharadvaja's Twist”
This position, in which the knees are bent to one side and the torso twists to the opposite direction, is a gentle tonic twist for the spine and the abdominal organs. It is great for beginners and calms the nervous system.
Salamba Sirsasana, or "Supported Headstand"
The "Supported Headstand", in which one stands upside down with the body straight, supported on the head and forearms, is a crucial yoga pose with endless benefits. It improves respiration, balance and circulation, stimulates pituitary and pineal glands, calms the brain and strengthens the body.
For meditation, try Dhyana, or "Cross-Heart Kirtan Kriya Meditation", a mantra meditation that practices mind control and encourages a renewed sense of peace and balance.
Rochelle Ballard, Taylor Knox, Brian Conley, Garrett MacNamara, Tom Carroll, Holly Beck are all pro surfers that share a passion for yoga in their surfing lives. Ballard, a former WCT surfer, has even released an instructional DVD, "Surf Into Yoga", with relevant sequences for surfers. If you want to deepen surf yoga, take a look at Peggy Hall's "Yoga for Surfers".