Updated: Dec 4, 2020
Check the training programmes of many of the top professional surfers in the world and you will find that Yoga often plays an integral part. The likes of Kelly Slater, Rochelle Ballard, Nikki Van Djik, Gerry Lopez, Greg Long & Lakey Peterson all incorporate yoga into their routine because yoga helps surfing in so many different ways. In this blog we take a look at the reasons why you should also be doing yoga if you surf.
Surfing and Yoga have much in common, both disciplines rely on a clear mind and inner focus. The power of the breath, body strength, regular practise and body awareness are central to both yoga and surfing. Surfers will often experience tightness in the hips from overuse of the hip rotators when carving out top and bottom turns. The natural position for paddling puts a lot of pressure on the lower back which can result in lower back pain for some surfers. Paddling can also lead to stiffness in the back, neck & shoulders.
If you live on the North Yorkshire coast then the waves have to be taken when they are here so that stiffness can be especially present after a long flat spell followed by a few days of great waves. On average 50-60% of any surf session will be paddling whilst only 8% will actually be riding waves so surfers also require lots of patience!
Reasons to do yoga:
Increases flexibility & range of motion.
When we practise yoga we move the body through a series of postures whilst connecting to the breath, sometimes holding each posture for a number of breaths. Over time and with regular practise we will start to see an increase in our range of motion and flexibility which will translate to easier transitions on the surfboard.
When we're surfing we need strong arms and shoulders to paddle out and move around for position in the water, we need strong legs, lower back and core to pop-up to our feet and maintain our balance whilst riding the wave. Holding poses in yoga, staying aligned through moving flows and sometimes doing fast and intense yoga routines all help build strength in these key areas.
Improves breathing technique.
The foundation of yoga is being mindful of and moving with our breath. Practising this in yoga helps us to be become more connected with our breath. This naturally transfers to the surfboard allowing us to relax the mind and settle our breathing, whether we are paddling out back or popping up to take the wave.
Many yoga postures require us to balance and each time we practise we improve our ability to focus and maintain that balance, this then transfers to our surfing. If you join us for yoga by the sea and take your practise outside you have the added challenge of balancing with the elements, which will only boost your balance skills further.
The strength and the breath work of yoga combine together to improve your stamina, this will enable you to stay in the water for longer and make more of each session. More time in the water is the best way to see significant progression in your surfing.
Enhances mental focus.
We've all been there, the killer paddle out, if you can just get through the next few waves you'll be out back but you feel so tired. Frequent yoga practise will help you to focus through the tiredness and find the strength within to make one more duck dive, it's just another mini sun salutation after all!
Restores & revitalizes energy levels.
Start your day with some yoga and you find your body feeling both energised and revitalised, not only this but by incorporating some sun salutations into your morning practise you will be warming up all those muscles that are vital for a good surf session. If you have one of those mornings where you just don’t get up in time, or the surf is pumping and you just need to get in, then a few quick sun salutations on the beach before you paddle out will have you raring to go for that perfect sunrise surf.
Reduces recovery time.
Incorporating yin yoga into your routine will help release muscular tension built up during your surf session. Yin yoga involves working passively and holding postures for much longer (3-15 minutes) resulting in deeper stretches that help to lengthen the connective tissues. It can be quite challenging mentally to stay focused and relaxed for much longer but it is well worth the effort. Whenever I pick up aches and pains through any sport (or even just doing the gardening!) I always turn to yin at the end of the day and feel so much better for it.
If you want to find out more about how yoga can help your surfing why not come along to one of our Saltwater Soul Surf & Yoga Days, check our workshops page for upcoming dates.