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The 10 Best Yoga Poses for Surfers of All Levels

by Octavia Drughi

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Ask any surfer and they’ll tell you that the best way to get better at surfing is to…well…surf more. While I’m sure we can all agree on that, there are some things that you can do out of the water to boost performance and support recovery. 

Yoga and surfing make a killer combo. Just look at all the pro surfers who have already incorporated regular yoga practice into their lifestyle: Kelly Slater, Gerry Lopez, Fergal Smith, Greg Long, Nikki Van Dijk, and many others. But it’s not just the experienced surfers who benefit from it. Beginner surfers should do yoga too.

Surfing demands a lot of flexibility and balance, strength and focus. And guess what? That’s exactly what most yoga poses are about. Yoga has been a part of the surfer lifestyle for decades, yet it wasn’t until recent years that the pair finally started getting the recognition it deserves.


Common aches and pains that surfers struggle with


Each sport comes with its own muscular imbalances. Surfing is a very demanding activity, both physically and mentally, and the greatest challenge is to be able to keep pushing your body. Aches and injuries can occur. Fatigue will creep in. Not just in the muscles, but in the mind too.

Before, during, and after a surf session, surfers often experience:

  • Tightness in the hips – surfers tend to overuse their hip rotators and, as a result, their hips become incredibly tight
  • Lower back pain – when surfing, a lot of pressure is put on the lower back
  • Stiffness in the back, neck, and shoulders – the paddling motion can cause the neck and shoulders to stiffen and the spine to become more rigid
  • Closed chest – leads to poor oxygen flow
  • Joint pain – especially in the wrists and ankles
  • Tightness in the side body


The benefits of yoga for surfers


How wonderful it would be if we could reduce recovery time and the risk of injury, improve our overall fitness, and be able to surf more! Here’s where yoga comes to your rescue.

Here’s a fact: Between 50 and 60% of each surf session is spent paddling; only 8% is spent actually riding waves. You need enough strength and endurance to make it through and still have enough energy left to make the most of that upcoming wave.

Here’s why yoga is so important for surfers:

  • Increases flexibility and range of motion
  • Builds core strength
  • Improves posture
  • Reduces the risk of injury
  • Reduces recovery time
  • Relieves aches and pains
  • Improves balance
  • Improves body awareness and coordination
  • Increases stamina
  • Better breathing
  • Energizes the body and mind
  • Relaxes the muscles in the body, which leads to more efficient movement

The benefits of yoga for surfers go far beyond the physical aspects. Yoga teaches you to stay calm and keep your focus in challenging situations, and we all know that surfing offers plenty of those. Furthermore, yoga teaches you to be patient. Surfing takes time and dedication to master.


Best yoga poses for surfers


If a pose looks similar to surfing, then it’s good for you. If it taps into the problem areas or mimics the surf stance, pop-ups, and any other movements performed on the board, you should definitely add it to your routine!

Before getting into these poses, take a moment to focus on your breath and bring yourself to the present moment. Get into Easy Pose (Sukhasana) and clear your mind. Breathe through your nose, filling your lungs, and exhale through the mouth. With each exhale, start to let go of any tension, worries, or stress.

As you come into these poses, move with your breath, bringing your awareness to your body.

Now let’s take a look at the yoga poses that will take your surfing to whole new levels. Grab your water and let’s get seated on the mat.


1. Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)


Perhaps the most recognizable yoga pose, Down Dog is a miracle worker for anyone. It lengthens the spine, stretching the hamstrings, calf muscles, and shoulders. It strengthens the arms, wrists, legs, and upper body. As an added bonus, Down Dog relieves pain, calms the nervous system, and energizes the body.

If you’re comfortable in Down Dog, you can try a more challenging variation – Dolphin Pose (Ardha Pincha Mayurasana) – that will open your shoulders and strengthen your core even more.


2. Plank Pose (Phalakasana)


From your Down Dog, get into plank to really engage your core. The pose specifically targets the abdominal muscles, toning the arms and spine. It also helps build endurance and stability, while improving your posture. Maintain this position for at least 60 seconds, welcoming the heat and the occasional sweat drops. Do at least three sets.

If you’re looking for a bigger challenge, go into Side Plank (Vasisthasana), a powerful arm and wrist strengthener that tones the sides of the body and builds balance.


3. Four-Limbed Staff Pose (Chaturanga Dandasana)


From plank, lower your body into the Four-Limbed Staff Pose, another important asana in the traditional Sun Salutation sequence. It is a great upper body workout that lengthens the spine and strengthens the lower back, triceps, and core muscles. Your pop-ups will become stronger and faster.


4. Upward Facing Dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana)


Just like Chaturanga Dandasana, Upward Dog mimics the same movement as when you start to get up on the surfboard. Practicing this pose will help you with your pop-ups. It will also help you to avoid muscle soreness in your lower back.

Upward Dog lengthens the spine and increases flexibility in the back, opens up the chest and shoulders, stretching the neck and the front of your thighs.


5. Pigeon Pose (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana)


Pigeon Pose is one of the deepest and most effective hip openers in yoga. It stretches the glutes, groin, and psoas muscles, all the while opening the chest and shoulders. It increases the blood flow throughout the body and counteracts the forward bending posture that is all so common in surfing.

The best way to get into Pigeon Pose is from your Down Dog. From Pigeon Pose, you can transition into Seated Spinal Twist Pose (Ardha Matsyendrasana) to give your spine some love. This pose stretches your outer hips, glutes, oblique muscles, ribcage, shoulders, and neck, releasing any stiffness in the upper body.


6. Warrior 2 (Virabhadrasana II)


Warrior 2 looks strikingly similar to the surfer’s stance on the board, doesn’t it?

This pose benefits the entire body. It stretches your legs, ankles, hips, and groins, stimulating the abs and opening up the chest and shoulders. It helps improve balance and focus while building endurance.


From your Warrior Pose, you can transition into Reverse Warrior (Viparita Virabhadrasana) for a deep stretch of the side body. Or, you can come down in Low Lunge (Anjaneyasana) to stretch the hips and thighs. 


7. Extended Side Angle Pose (Utthita Parsvakonasana)


This pose lengthens the top side of the body by creating a straight line between the back heel and the tip of the hand of the extended arm. It is a great hip opener that stretches the groin and strengthens the legs, ankles, and knees. At the same time, it releases the tension in your shoulders and neck, while building endurance.  


8. Eagle Pose (Garuadasana)


Photo credit: Yoga International

One of the best yoga poses for balance and focus, the Eagle stretches and strengthens the ankles and calves. It also stretches the hips, thighs, shoulders, and upper back, and strengthens the deltoid and trapeze muscles, which are highly engaged when paddling.

You need unwavering focus to stay in Eagle Pose, same as when surfing.


9. Boat Pose (Navasana)


Boat Pose is your ticket to fab abs. It’ll really engage your core, while building balance too. Not only that, but it will also teach you to commit yourself to the task at hand and pay attention to your breath.

The trick to staying in Boat Pose is being able to concentrate on your breath in order to keep the position for as long as possible, until you literally feel your abs burning.


10. Locust Pose (Shalabhasana)


Photo credit: Yoga International

The Locust Pose strengthens and tones the entire back of your body, from the back of your legs to the spine muscles, your neck, and the back of your arms. These are the exact same muscles that are being used when paddling. This gentle backbend also stretches the shoulders and chest.


Interested in becoming a lean and powerful surfing machine? Go on a surf and yoga camp!

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