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.
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).
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.