The Benefits of Yoga for Surfers
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Yoga and surfing are more similar than you might think. Yoga taps into the rhythm of your breath and body; surfing connects you to the rhythm of the waves and ocean. Both teach you to be more aware, stay in the moment, and find your flow.
It should come as no surprise that many pro surfers use yoga to enhance their skills. No matter your level, whether you’re just starting out or already have an impressive portfolio of gnarly waves, it comes with tremendous benefits. First of all, yoga helps build a strong foundation for surfing, keeps you in shape out of the water, and aids recovery.
Therefore, yoga is the perfect match for your surfing holiday and vice versa. This is precisely why numerous surf and yoga camps have emerged all around the world, combining the two practices for an uplifting and transformative experience.
Wondering how the practice can help your wave riding skills? Check out these outstanding benefits of yoga for surfers:
Strength and endurance
Paddling, popping up, standing on the board, performing various maneuvers, getting back on the board each time to you fall off…all of these require strength and stamina.
The reality is that, on average, only 10% of surf sessions are actually spent riding waves. The rest is spent paddling or waiting for the next set. You need to be in tip-top shape when you hit the surf and for that, you must prepare out of the water.
Yoga is a full-body workout. By holding the poses, staying aligned, and moving slowly in flowing sequences you build strength from head to toe.
Surfing also requires smaller muscle groups that are rarely used in daily life. The fluid movements in yoga do not allow you to use momentum; you must control each movement and engage all the muscles in your body, even the tiniest ones.
After a good yoga session, you might find yourself sore in places you never knew existed. That means you’re working all those small, stabilizing muscles used for balance and control, and that you’re becoming stronger.
Practicing yoga on a regular basis leads to increased paddle strength and greater control during maneuvers. It will help you to surf better and for longer.
» Not sure which asanas are most beneficial for you? Find out what are the best yoga poses for surfers of all levels.
It’s a well-known fact that surfers struggle with tight hips and stiffness in the back, neck, and shoulders. Yoga can counteract that.
Flexibility plays a huge role in surfing. Many people associate yoga with extremely bendy people who can twist like pretzels. But the poses are actually designed to help increase your range of motion, which is what matters most for surfers.
You need a good range of motion in your hips, shoulders, back, and chest in order to paddle and pop-up efficiently. As you advance to more challenging maneuvers, your back flexibility will also come into play. Furthermore, flexible joints will recover faster and will be less prone to injuries.
Try Vinyasa or Ashtanga Yoga for some deep stretching, with balance poses and flow-like sequences before and after a surf session. Yin Yoga is a great way to wind down after a sesh – poses close to the ground are held for longer intervals for a deep stretch of the connective tissues.
What is surfing if not balancing on the board?
When practicing yoga, being able to hold a pose without wobbling is challenging indeed. Luckily, balance can be honed; but it must also be maintained. Both strength and flexibility are needed in order to have balance. By engaging all the muscles in your body, you can correct your posture and not wobble.
When you exercise between being off-balance and balanced, your body and mind learn to respond quicker and adjust your position. By repeating the same movements, you build muscle memory. Through that, you become more aware of what you’re doing, how your body is moving, and its alignment. Small adjustments in your pose can make a tremendous difference. The same goes for surfing.
If you go a long time without exercising balance, your mind and muscles begin to forget this information and they need to be retrained.
One of the greatest benefits that surfers can reap from yoga is training and controlling the breath.
Yoga teaches you to breathe through your nose, filling your entire lungs. For surfers, this has two awesome benefits – building lung capacity (for endurance and to withstand being held under for an extended time) and overcoming fear.
Through various Pranayama techniques, yoga teaches you to keep your breath smooth and even, finding your natural rhythm. With a controlled and calm breath, your body will be more relaxed and your mind more open. You’ll find the strength to push on through even though the outcome is unpredictable. When you’re faced with challenging waves, remember to breathe and keep your composure.
» Read more about overcoming your fears when surfing and in everyday life.
Sure, many yoga poses are demanding and require practice. But one of the most challenging tasks is, in fact, quieting the mind.
The same applies to surfing, which requires zen-like focus. There’s just so much going on – paddling, looking out for the next wave, dodging other surfers, popping up, riding the wave – that you cannot afford to get distracted. There’s no room for any chatter in your mind. You must be fully focused and immersed in the moment, losing yourself to the flow.
Yoga focuses on inner awareness, helping to unlock, harness, and channel the power of your mind. A calm mind will help you stay safe in the water, and the better you’re able to focus under pressure, the more you’ll progress. You’ll be able to slip into the flow state, the peak of performance and happiness.
Yoga cultivates patience; you cannot force a pose. When surfing, you must patiently wait for the right moment; you cannot force the swells. You must regularly step out of your comfort zone. It is a constantly changing environment and no two waves are the same; there’s always a new, unknown situation to deal with. Both yoga and surfing teach you to accept, let go, and navigate the situation as best you can.
Recovery & injury prevention
Each sport creates its own muscular imbalances and misalignments, and surfing makes no exception. Surfers often struggle with tight hips and hamstrings, compression in the lower back, pain in the neck and shoulders, and closed chest. Yoga can help fix these imbalances.
Strength and balance are very important indeed, but other great benefits of yoga for surfers are preventing injuries and speeding up recovery.
Surfing can put a lot of strain on your body, and yoga can counteract that by keeping you in the best possible shape.
Have you ever found yourself too sore or stiff the next day after an intense surf session? Yoga can shorten recovery time in between surf sessions by reducing aches and pains. It releases stiffness in the neck, shoulders, and back, leaving you feeling relaxed and refreshed.
Furthermore, regular yoga practice during flat days or when it’s not possible to go surfing will keep you in shape for when the time is right to hit the waves again. On days when you do surf, yoga comes in handy to warm up and stretch your body before and after a session.
Let yoga work its magic on you. Join a surf and yoga camp in a serene location!