Yoga for surfers

Practicing yoga helps me so much in feeling good and strong when I surf.  Even more, it helps me recover faster so that I can get out in the ocean and get stoked more often.  Personally, I like to get in the ocean as close to sunrise as I can so stretching before really isn’t going to happen for me.   I find that focusing on my yoga and stretching in the evenings or on my non-surfing days works best for me, but you absolutely can add this routine before or after your surf sess.  

As I mention in all my yoga blogs, yoga is not about being flexible in body.  It’s more about being flexible in mind and improving self awareness. Don’t limit yourself by being too atttached to what your poses look like.  Use the time on your mat to connect with how your body feels and letting go of the ruminating thoughts that might be weighing your down.

Before I get into the best yoga poses for surfers, here a few…Quick reminders when practicing yoga…

Tips Before Getting Started

1. The breath matters more than the form

The biggest benefit you can get from yoga is learning to breathe deeper.  When holding these poses, it’s important to only go so deep that you can still regulate your breath work.  If you find yourself struggling to breathe deeply or holding your breath, you are going too far.

2. Steady the breath

Seal the lips and breathe slowly through your nose taking about 5 seconds on the inhale and matching it with 5 seconds on the exhale.  On the exhale, think about releasing tension and relaxing the muscles especially the smaller muscles of the neck, face, and jaw.  I like to think of softening when I’m holding each pose. With practice, you will feel like the breath is helping you melt deeper into each posture.

3. Equipment

For this sequence, it is nice to have a yoga mat, a strap, a block, and maybe a blanket too.

4. Posture up

Surfing tends to beat up your shoulders. In order to create the maximum amount of paddle power, you have to internally rotate your shoulders, which will start to tighten up the chest muscles and possibly weaken the mid-traps. The effects of this can show up as poor posture out of the water.  

In addition, if you are hypermobile (very flexible) in your spine, you may also be getting some compression in the vertebrae of the lower spine.

The flip side of this is that if you are very inflexible in your spine, you will start to have compression issues in the cervical spine (neck).

Pavones, Guide to Surfing the Worlds Longest Lefts

When doing these poses, think about these postural tips:

  • Align the ears with the shoulders by thinking of lengthening the vertebrae in back of the neck
  • Draw the shoulder blades down your back and towards each other
  • Keep the spine long, especially through the neck
  • Lift the chin slightly without losing the length in the back of the neck
  • Draw the belly in toward the spine by thinking of bringing the lower ribcage together slightly
  • Tuck the pelvis under so that your tailbone is pointing slightly down toward the floor

5. Go across midline

Sitting and balancing on your surfboard often tightens up your hip flexors and inner thighs. Many of the yoga poses below move in the opposite direction by taking your hips inward or across midline. But, some of these are advanced postures so please go into them slowly and be mindful of your breath when holding them.

6. How Long To Hold

Hold each pose for 3 to 5 breaths. You can also turn this into a yin-type practice and use blankets, bolsters, or blocks so that you can hold some of the poses comfortably for 3-5 minutes.

7. How Long Will This Take

This is a one hour yoga class if you do all the poses with the recommended breaths and the flow section.

Warm-Up Flow

Seated Forward Fold

Seated forward fold
  • Start in a cross legged position
  • Extend both arms out in front of you and let your head hang heavy
  • Hold for 5 breaths while trying to release tension in the neck and upper back
  • Then, walk both arms over to the right side of your mat while keeping the left hip rooted down
  • Hold for 3 breaths
  • Sit tall. Reach both arms overhead, creating length through the sides of your waist and stacking the spine
  • Place the left hand onto the floor or a block
  • Reach the right arm overhead while taking the gaze under the right arm
  • Take 3 slow breaths while trying to create space between the rib cage and hip bone on the right side body, stay rooted in the right hip
  • Switch the cross of the ankles then repeat all three seated postures on the left side

Gate Pose

Gate pose
  • Start with your hips stacked over your knees
  • Extend your right foot out to the side
  • Place right hand on right thigh
  • Reach left arm overhead and lengthen the left side of the body
  • Take gaze under left arm as you reach to the right
  • Hold for 5 breaths

Gate Pose with Puppy Pose

Gate + puppy pose
  • Keep legs in the same position, hips stay lifted above the left knee
  • Reach both arms out in front of you
  • Let your forehead rest on your mat
  • Press the chest towards the floor, feeling an opening in the shoulders
  • Hold for 5 or more breaths

Repeat gate poses with variation on the left side before moving on

Prone Shoulder Stretch

Prone shoulder stretch
  • Lie flat on your stomach
  • Extend you left arm out in front of you
  • Tuck the right arm under the left arm with the right palm facing up
  • Breathe into the muscles of the right shoulder for 5 to 10 breaths

Repeat on the other side before moving on

Prone Chest Stretch

  • Start with the right arm extended at a 90 degree angle on the right side of your mat
  • Use the left hand to peel your chest off the mat, rolling towards your right arm
  • Option to step your left fot behind you to deepen the stretch
  • Hold for 5 to 10 breaths

Repeat on the other side before moving on

Standing Sequence

Low Lunge with a twist

Low lunge w/ twist
  • Start in a low lunge with the right foot out in front and left knee on the mat
  • Make sure the right knee is directly above the right ankle when the hips are pressing forward without arching the low back excessively
  • With a long spine, place the left hand on the outside of the right knee and the right hand on your lower back or grabbing onto the left hamstring
  • Use you hands as leverage to help you twist
  • Hold for 5 breaths and as you inhale, lengthen the spine, and as you exhale, twist deeper, maybe even taking the gaze to the back foot
  • Unravel, coming back to square hips and shoulders
  • Come onto the ball of the left foot and lift the left knee off the ground coming into a crescent lunge
  • Start by opening up the left hip flexor by lifting the right arm overhead and slightly arching the upper back by lifting the chest
  • You can place your left hand on the back of your left leg for support
  • Take 3 breaths
  • Then, keeping the crescent lunge, move into eagle arms by wrapping the right arm under the left arm and either clasping the hands together or holding onto opposite shoulders.
  • Hold for 3 long, slow breaths, think about lifting the elbows and moving your forearms away from the body so that you create a stretch through the upper back and rear delts

Pyramid pose with bind

  • Straighten out both legs and step the back foot in and a little wider so your hips feel squared to the front of your mat
  • Turn the back foot out 45 degrees
  • Hold a strap behind you while anchoring your shoulder blades down your back and squeezing the tips of your shoulder blades together (you don’t have to use a strap if you don’t need to)
  • Hinge at the hips and bend over, keeping you back flat and hips square as you fold
  • Then, relax into the pose, letting your head hang heavy toward your right shin while drawing the strap overhead
  • Be sure not to lock out the elbows
  • Hold for 5 breaths while focusing on drawing the left hip forward and right hip back so the hips stay square (if this is too much, release the strap and place your hands on a block)
  • If you feel wobbly, widen your stance

Revolving Half Moon

  • Release the strap
  • Shift your weight onto the right leg
  • Place your left hand on a block or the floor and extend your left leg back so that it is parallel to the floor
  • Rotate your chest to the right while extending the right arm to the right and possibly overhead
  • Hold for 5 breaths while trying to rotate through the spine, not just the shoulders, on each exhale

Reverse Warrior

Reverse warrior
  • Step back with the left foot into warrior two postion
  • Left foot should be turned 90 degrees towards the left side of your mat
  • Front foot is pointing forward and is in line with the arch of your left foot
  • Bend into the right knee, extending both arms in opposite directions over your legs, take a few breaths to feel rooted to the ground
  • Place the left hand on the left thigh while reaching the right arm up and overhead
  • Hold for 3 breaths while sinking into the front knee and opening up space in the right hip and waist

Skanda

Skanda pose
  • To release your reverse warrior pose, straighten both legs and pivot all ten toes to face the left side of your mat and then bend into the left knee (you may need to place your hands on the ground or block to help you transition and to hold the pose)
  • Keep the right leg straight and flex the right toes back towards your body
  • Bring your hands to heart center and hold for 3 breaths before trying the next two options
  • Option 1: Walk your hands out in front of your left knee and then over to the right a few steps
  • Let the head hang heavy and relax into your inner thigh and upper back for 3 breaths
  • Option 2: For more shoulder opening you can add a bind by wrapping your left shoulder under your left knee and right arm behind your back
  • When moving into the bind remember to point the thumbs down first to help your shoulders rotate better (you can also do this pose by holding a strap)
  • Hold for 3 breaths while thinking about broadening the collar bone and lifting the chest slightly

Runner Lunge with Hip Openers

  • Release the hands and walk them over to your right foot, turning all ten toes towards the front of your mat
  • Bend the right knee so that it stacks over the right ankle and straighten the left leg while staying high on the left toes
  • Place the left hand on the ground or a block
  • If the next option is too hard, just hold here and breathe into the front of the left hip
  • Scoot the left hand just a little wider and let the right toes point out about 45 degrees while also allowing the ankle to roll a little towards the outer edge of the right foot
  • Spin onto the outer edge of the left foot, turning your shoulders towards your right knee
  • The right knee can roll outward so that you feel a stretch in the outer right hip and you can place your right hand on your right knee to get a deeper stretch if it feels good
  • Stop here if this is too much
  • If you want a little more in the hips, try the next 2 options
  • Option 1: Allow the left hip to sink a little towards the floor while reaching the right hand towards your left foot, feeling a stretch in the left hip
  • Hold for 3 breaths
  • Option 2: Lift the left hip and extend the right arm overhead, getting more of a stretch in the right hip this time
  • Hold for 3 breaths

Nice job on the right side! Now it’s time to do that standing sequence on the left side

Turn to a plank position and go through chatturanga, up dog, and down dog (maybe even throwing in a child’s pose if you need a rest).

Then, step the left foot in front and go through the same standing sequence on the other side before moving on to the standing balance postures.

  1. Low lunge with a twist
  2. Crescent lunge with eagle arms
  3. Pyramid with a bind
  4. Revolving half moon
  5. Reverse warrior
  6. Skanda
  7. Runners lunge with a twist

Flow it out

After you’ve held each of the poses on both sides, it’s time to repeat all of the standing sequences in a flow. The idea is to move quickly through each posture holding only for one or two breaths. As you get better at memorizing the pattern, you will be able to use more.

  • Inhale to step to low lunge
  • Exhale to twist
  • Hold for one breath cycle
  • Inhale to crescent lunge
  • Exhale to eagle arms
  • Hold for one breath cycle
  • Inhale to pyramid stance
  • Exhale to fold (bind is optional)
  • Hold for one breath cycle
  • Inhale to set up half moon
  • Exhale to revolve it
  • Hold for one breath cycle
  • Inhale to reverse warrior
  • Exhale sink into thefront leg
  • Inhale to skanda
  • Exhale extend the arms
  • Hold for one breath cycle
  • Inhale to runners lunge
  • Exhale to twist and lower the hip
  • Inhale to lift the hips and extend the arm
  • Exhale to plank
  • Flow it out and repeat on the other side

Standing Postures

Neck Stretch

Neck stretch
  • Grab your strap and stand on it with your right foot
  • Hold the strap so that your right arm is completely extended
  • Drop your left ear to your left shoulder and breathe
  • Then, play around with different angles like pointing your chin towards your left shoulder or turning your gaze upward
  • Move slowly and with your breath for at least one minute before switching to the other side

Dancer

Dancer pose
  • Again, start standing with your right foot in your strap, holding the strap in the right hand with the thumb pointing outward
  • Bend the right knee, drawing your heel towards your glute
  • Raise both arms overhead, holding the strap with both hands
  • Find what you need more or alternate
  • For more shoulders, kick into the strap a bit more
  • For more quad and hip flexors, pull up on the strap
  • Keep the core engaged so you don’t dump into your lower back
  • See if you can hold for 10 breaths before moving to the left side

Deep Stretch Poses

Cow Face

This one is intense so only try it if you feel like you’ve opened up your hips and shoulders enough with the other postures. If it’s too much, skip it. the full expression of the posture looks like the photo below.

Cow face
  • Start on hands and knees, placing a block under where you will be sitting back down
  • Tuck the left knee behind the right knee
  • Point both feet away from each other, then sit back down on the block (if your hips are very open, you can just sit on the floor)
Start by crossing your knees
  • While sitting tall with the knees stacked, hold the strap in the left hand over your head
  • With the thumb of the right hand pointing toward your body, reach back and grab the other end of the strap
  • Walk you hands towards each other until you feel a gentle stretch in the shoulders
  • Also, try to keep the ears in line with the shoulders so the neck stays long
  • If your shoulders are very open, you should be able to get your left elbow all the way behind your head. If your shoulders are tight (like mine) it may not be possible and that is totally fine.

Repeat on the other side before moving on to the last chest stretch

Kneeling Chest Opener

You may want to shake out the legs a bit before kneeling back down on them or you can choose to sit on a block or in a cross legged position

  • Hold the strap in both hands out in front of you
  • From here you will keep holding the strap while circling the arms overhead and behind you
  • Move slowly and adjust your hands to a width that allows you to rotate your shoulders while also getting a stretch in the chest and front delt
  • I like to stop at my sticking points and hold them for a few breaths to help loosen it up
  • Spend a minute here moving the arms and even rotating side to side if that feels good

Embryo + Rabbit Pose

  • In a kneeling position sit your hips on your heel, like child’s pose but knees and heels touching
  • Rest your arms beside your legs
  • Let your forehead rest heavy on the mat
  • Take 5 long breaths
  • Move into rabbit pose
  • Grab hold of your heels, bring your chin to your chest, and lift your hips up to roll onto the top of your head
  • Pull gently on your heels to get a stretch on the back of your neck

Supine Chest Opener

  • Place a block lengthwise on its lowest side so that when you lie backache block is under the ribcage about where a bra strap would be
  • Lie back on the block allowing the arms to rest out to the sides
  • If this is too intense, you can place another block or a blanket under the head

Finishing Posture: Savasana

  • Lie like a dead corpse, extending your legs straight on the floor and  letting your toes roll outward
  • Arms lie by your sides with your palms facing upward
  • Draw your shoulder blades down and toegther, tucking them under you and allowing your chest to expand
  • Imagine the weight of the world falling away from your body as you soak in gratitude for the epic waves you seek and the gorgeous planet we live on 🤙

Nice job! Hopefully your chest, neck, inner thighs, and outer hips feel much better than an hour ago.

If you need more stretching for your quads, hamstrings, and spine try my Yoga for Hikers blog.

My Yoga for Runners video is at the bottom of this page. I also have a more yoga sequence videos that you can watch here.

Last, I included three poses below that are great to do when you are short on time or need a deep stretch before you paddle out.

~Namaste

reset your life in 30 days

Supine Twist

Yoga Poses for Surfers, Supine Twist
Supine Twist

Low Lunge with Counter Twist

Yoga Poses for Surfers, Low Lunge with Counter Twist
Low Lunge with Counter Twist

Pigeon

Yoga Poses for Surfers, Pigeon
Pigeon pose

Related Blogs:

If you’d like a guided yoga class, try my yoga for runners and hikers YouTube video below:

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Yoga for surfers