THEY ARE WAYS OF LIFE–disciplines that, with time, help you combat fear, breathe deeper, and achieve the kind of bliss that only riding a wave or pressing into your first headstand can provide.
The physical benefits of yoga also complement the flexibility and power needed to have maximum fun and prevent injuries when surfing. Below are six poses that will make your arms and back stronger, help you avoid the nagging lower back pain so common in surfers, and maybe help you look hotter in a bathing suit too.
(Note: The images do not necessarily correlate with the yoga poses listed. Click on the hyperlinks for how-to videos by experts.)
1. Garudasana or Eagle Pose (arms only).
Benefits: Stretches upper back and shoulders. Essential before and after long paddling sessions, especially on windy days.
How: After extending your arms in front of you, cross your right arm above your left in front of your torso, bend your elbows, and rest the right elbow into the left’s crook. With your forearms perpendicular to the floor, press your palms together, and continue to lift your elbows to feel more of the stretch. Switch sides after 15-30 seconds.
2. Malasana or Squat / Garland Pose.
Benefits: Opens up the hip flexors and strengthens the back. Great to prevent hip cramping when sitting with spread legs for a while. Also, try this with Eagle arms (above).
How: Separate your feet wide enough that you can squat comfortably between them. If this hurts your knees, support your seat with a bolster, and if your heels come off the ground, place a rolled up towel beneath them. Placing your hands in prayer, press your elbows into your thighs to open your chest and hips. Hold for 60 seconds.
3. Chaturanga Dandasana or Four-Limbed Staff Pose.
Benefits: Core, triceps, core, back, core. Your pop-ups will improve like nobody’s business.
How: From a plank position with your wrists lined up with your chest, lower your body to a hover over the floor while keeping your back flat, your elbows hugging your sides and engaging your abdominals. Hold the hover for 10-30 seconds, and repeat from plank pose.
4. Shalabhasana or Locust Pose.
Benefits: Strengthens the spinal and gluteal muscles, backs of arms and legs; Stretches shoulders and chest. Non-aggressive back bends help to build the spinal support for all the back-arching surfers do when paddling for waves and looking behind them.
How: Lie on your belly, and place palms on floor next to your chest. Without gripping your buttock muscles, lift your head, upper torso, and legs off the floor on an inhale. Use your hands as gentle support (not to push your torso up) so that your weight is on your lower ribs, belly and pelvis. Reach through your legs to not crunch your lower back and hold for 10-30 seconds. Repeat two to three times.
5. Navasana or Boat Pose.
Benefits: Strengthens core; Stretches back muscles. While good for overall strength, this pose will help with deep breathing and focus.
How: Sitting up, use your hands to center your weight between your sit-bones and tailbone. Place your hands right behind your seat to open your chest and flatten your back. Engaging your core muscles, lift your feet off the ground. Keeping your chest open, work toward straight legs before lifting your hands off the ground and reaching your fingers towards your feet. Hold for 20-30 seconds. Repeat two to three times.
6. Balasana or Happy Baby Pose (with an added twist).
Benefits: Releases tight hips and back muscles. Yes, you will look silly doing this in public. But half of yoga is to turn your focus inward, so forget about the bros who give you a hard time and breathe.
How: Lie on your back, bend your knees towards your torso, lift your feet off the ground and grab them. Open your knees wider than your torso, and try to push your tailbone towards the ground while moving your knees towards your armpits. Hold for 60 seconds. For the twist, release your feet, and let both knees fall to the right side of your body while looking over your left shoulder. After 60 seconds, repeat on the other side.
So stretch out, wax up, and enjoy! (Please don’t take this article as dispensing medical advice. It is merely my insight as a yoga instructor and avid surfer. And I wrote this disclaimer because I am also a lawyer.)
Learn some easy beach yoga with Brave New Traveler.