Yoga for Surfing
A list of the best yoga poses for surfing that anyone can incorporate into their practice and how they can improve your surfing.
Let's say you see a bunch of half-naked people on the beach. They all have great bodies, strong muscles, and considerable flexibility. They are also all chill people who enjoy the outdoors, the sunshine (sometimes, they even salute it), and the sense of community they have. The question is, though, who are they? Are they a yoga class or a school of surfers? Why not both?
In this article, we’ll answer that exact question and we’ll imagine how surfers would benefit from yoga.
Here at OMBE, we keep emphasizing how the best surfers have a combination of strong mentality and physical prowess. The millennia-old tradition of yoga is one of the best ways to reach that combination. It's a practice that strengthens your focus and confidence as well as your balance, flexibility, and endurance. Therefore, we wholeheartedly recommend yoga for surfers.
Now, let's see which pre-surf yoga poses might benefit your performance.
The Best Yoga Poses for Mobility and Flexibility
Downward Facing Dog
The downward facing dog is probably one of the most famous yoga poses as it's a part of almost every yoga practice. That should be the case with surfers as well since it allows you to stretch your paddling muscles and it's a good warm-up for any surf session.
In downward dog, you start with your feet and hands on the floor and your knees directly under your hips, while your wrists are a few inches further apart than your shoulders. Naturally, your palms are pressed against the floor. Then, while keeping your knees slightly bent, you start raising your hips to the sky at an angle. Remember that you should rise with your palms pressed against the floor, and they should stay like that for the rest of the pose.
It's a great pose for surfers not only because it strengthens your shoulders but also because it's a good stretching exercise for your spine. Spinal flexibility is one of the key aspects for keeping your upper body straight while doing twists and turns, and routinely exercising the downward dog posture can help you achieve that flexibility easily. It's also known to relieve back pain and fatigue, which can help you after a tiresome surf session.
Upward Facing Dog
After the downward facing dog, it's only natural that the upward version of the pose follows. If there's one true surfer yoga pose, it's surely the upward dog. See, during pop ups, you need to be in a position that allows you to quickly jump up to a surfer's stance, and that position happens to be the upward dog.
It's another pose that strengthens your upper back and improves your posture. It starts very similarly to a plank pose in which you are in the push-up position. Then, you slowly lower your lower body with the tops of your feet pressing against the floor and arch your upper body by lifting your head up high. In the end, your upper torso should face forward with a nice stretch. Also, make sure that your knees and thighs don't touch the ground.
Extended Puppy Pose
If you want another nice stretching exercise for your spine, the extended puppy, which is very similar to the beginning of the downward dog, might serve you well. It's also good for strengthening your shoulders, arms, and the sides of your body.
You need to be on all fours on your mat with knees directly under your hips and arms stretched forward to the length of the mat. There should be a shoulder-width space between your wrists, and your arms shouldn't touch the floor. Instead, you're going to touch the floor with your forehead. Then, you can inhale and start stretching by keeping your core centered and moving your hands to the sides.
Since the extended puppy can be a “supplement” to the downward dog, the locust pose is a supplement to the upward dog. Similar to the upward dog, it improves your back and core strength and provides you with more spinal mobility, and we already know that’s important.
Lie face-down on the floor, and exhale while lifting your upper and lower body at the same time. In other words, you need to be on your lower belly. Make sure that your legs and toes are touching each other at this moment and your arms extend toward your back as if you're body surfing just on your belly.
Seated Forward Bend
The seated forward bend is a pretty straightforward exercise that you can see every athlete do regardless of the sport. An athlete who's warming up for their Olympic performance does it. A soccer player who is down on the ground due to a tackle towards the end of a game does it as well. It's simple yet quite versatile and effective: it gives a good stretch and a sense of relaxation to the entirety of your back muscles.
Sit with your feet extended straight to the front and your toes pointing to the sky. Inhale and raise your arms up. Then, exhale and fold forward from the hips to touch your toes while pressing your heels against the floor. Remember that your back should be straight during your fold.
If you're new to surfing (or any other kind of sport that needs you to be flexible), you'll feel some pain in your hamstrings during the latter part of this yoga pose. You shouldn't worry about it as this only signifies that you have some work to do to improve your flexibility and mobility. You can continue the practice with your knees bent a bit. In due time and with enough exercise, you'll have more flexibility.
The Best Yoga Poses to Improve Your Balance
The tree pose is another very popular pose, which is quite simple and it's great for your balance as well as for your leg, hip, and core strength. Moreover, it's generally one of the first or last poses of a yoga session because it benefits you in terms of focus and discipline as well.
You start the pose in a standing position by rooting both feet firmly to the ground. Then, you shift your weight (as you often need to do while surfing) to the right foot and lift your left foot off the floor while keeping your right leg as straight as possible. During the lift, make sure that your right knee isn't locked in that position so that it doesn't absorb too much pressure and get injured. Then, put the sole of your left foot against your right thigh and stand like that before you change to your left leg in 5-to-10 breaths.
Most newbies tend to wobble during this pose just like novice surfers wobble on their surfboards. The only way to get better is by keeping your focus and keeping on practicing.
What do you expect from a pose named after a ferocious incarnation of the god of war, Shiva? To be and to make you god-like? Well, Warrior poses are one of the rare things in the universe that are able to meet the expectations they create, and Warrior II among them is the one that can benefit surfers in almost all aspects.
The main emphasis might be on balance and it works wonders on bettering the open stance of a surfer, but it also helps strengthen legs, torso, and spine and stretches shoulders, chest, and groin. In that sense, it's quite an all-around pose.
Once again, you start in a standing position sideways on your mat with your feet shoulder-width apart. Turn your left foot 30-45 degrees toward the front and step your right foot forward 90 degrees so that you can get a nice hip stretch. Your left knee should remain angled and your right knee should be above your right wrist in an almost 90-degree bend.
Then, you should stretch your arms in a line from the back of the mat to the front in shoulder height and parallel to the ground: your right arm to the front and left arm to the back. Make sure that your shoulder blades are straight as well.
You need to be able to stand in that pose for the length of 10 breaths or so and then switch legs. It's one of the most fun yoga poses and it's also one of the most important ones for a good surfers' yoga practice.
In surfing, your ability to maintain balance during turns is down to your knees' capacity of absorbing pressure through compressing and extending. For that, you need knees that are both strong and stable. Chair pose is the perfect practice for that.
Don't be fooled by how easy it looks, though, because if you don't possess the desired levels of flexibility yet, it'll be a good challenge for you. However, it's a challenge worth taking because it bolsters your legs, knees, ankles, and hips, all of which are very important for riding waves.
Start standing on your mat with your legs and big toes touching each other, and raise your arms toward the sky while inhaling. Then, exhale and bring your lower body almost to a half-squatting position. In other words, bend your knees so that your thighs become almost parallel to the ground. Make sure that your arms are lined up with your ears during this half-squat, your hips are facing the floor, and your back stays stretched in an angled fashion.
Standing in that position for 5-10 long breaths will pay dividends in terms of both warming up and building strength in your lower body.
The Best Yoga Poses for the Aftermath of a Tiresome Surfing Session
You can do the child's pose to stretch your ankles, thighs, hips, and most importantly, your spine as well. However, we believe that its most rewarding benefit is how calming it actually is, which is kind of what you expect from a pose called "child's."
If you take deep breaths while in the pose, you'll quickly find your nervous system calmed, your anxiety reduced, and your fatigue after a long surfing session deservedly alleviated. In addition to those, it also increases blood circulation and relieves the tension in the muscles you use the most when surfing: hamstrings, shoulders, back muscles, and the chest.
Luckily, it's not a demanding pose so you can easily do it once you hit the shore. Get on your knees on the mat and place your hips on top of your heels when your feet are touching each other. Then, bow forward and spread your knees as wide as you can without lifting your hips. Stretch your arms to the front sides of your mat and let your forehead touch the ground. Remember to take deep breaths. It's as simple as that.
Kneeling Crescent Lunge
Sometimes, your hips might get tight after a day in the ocean, and the kneeling crescent lunge is the perfect solution to release the tension in your hips by stretching hip flexors alongside your lungs, neck, and abdomen.
It's similar to the Warrior I pose, but it requires you to press your back knee and back foot firmly to the ground while balancing yourself on your front leg with your front knee angled at 90 degrees. Your upper body should remain straight and face forward with your arms stretched and hands touching above your head.
Revolved Wide-Legged Standing Forward Fold
This particular forward fold can strengthen your back and shoulders, but it's also great for releasing pressure, especially the pressure accumulated in the shoulders. It helps calm your mind as well.
Stand on the mat, set your feet wide apart, and do a forward fold with slightly bent knees. Try touching the ground in the middle of your feet and right under your chest with your hands. If you can't, you can use blocks to make up a certain height. Then, bring your right hand to the center, and starting with your left shoulder, extend the left arm toward the sky so that it can make a line with your right arm. Repeat the same move while switching arms 5-10 times. Make sure that you're twisting through your torso, not your hips.
For the second part of the pose, you need to bend your knees a bit more while still in a forward fold and put your hands on your kneecaps. Then, while making sure that your back is straight, lengthen the spine, and release the left shoulder a bit forward, but not below the knee level. Repeat it while switching shoulders 5-10 times, and you're done.
There are so many different poses in yoga that strengthen and stretch the same muscles you use when surfing that we can only recommend a select few. If the ones we listed above got your attention, though, you can further check out cobra pose, bow pose, or cow faced arms. Or, even better, you can contact someone better at teaching yoga than us and have your specific routine figured out for you.
All in all, though, whether you're looking for more spinal mobility, flexible strength, improved balance, or a calm mind with deep focus and discipline, yoga will certainly benefit you in more ways than you can imagine.