This year my personal trainer Leo Pinto invited me to be the yoga instructor at his Nicaragua Surf and Fitness Retreat, which is coming up from July 15th to 20th in San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua. As a longtime yoga practitioner but novice surfer, I have been researching the best yoga exercises to teach at the retreat. Below I share with you the fruits of my research, along with favorite yoga photos from my archives to to inspire you.
In her blog post The Definitive Guide to Yoga for Surfers, yoga teacher Abi tells us that surfing requires "high levels of strength, flexibility and mobility as well as excellent balance, coordination and body control." Specifically, Abi tells us "You need to warm up your hips before you surf, stretch your hips when you come out of the water and build strength in the joints with standing and balancing poses."
Let's keep that in mind as we look at some asanas.
Meditation & Breathing
Almost every resource I checked out mentioned breathwork and meditation as a way to improve surfing. The best asana for meditation is one you can sit comfortably in while you meditate. It might be the iconic Lotus Pose (Padmasana), if you have flexible hips. If not, you can try just crossing your legs comfortably as yogi Jackie Foley demonstrates here. It gives the added benefit of opening the hips.
It helps to have your hips higher than your hands, but sitting in a waterfall is not necessary. Try a blanket or yoga block.
In yogic meditation we choose an object of focus for the mind. If you are by the beach you can concentrate on the sound of the waves, or your breath. Let your breath flow naturally and notice what distracts you from concentration, then let it go. Return to the waves or your breath. Be aware of everything that unfolds in each moment, but try not to hold on to it. Catch the perfect wave of mindfulness!
Tree Pose (Vrksasana)
In their article 5 Yoga Poses for Surfers, Ines Mira & Patrick Stapleton state that, "this position will help with two fundamental elements of your surfing, balance and focus."
Shalabasana | Locust Pose
In 7 Yoga Poses That Will Keep You Surfing Longer Sessions we learn that "Locust pose is something all surfers practice whether they know it or not. Lying on your abdomen and pelvis, you lift the legs and torso from the floor. Similarly in surfing, you engage many of the same muscles while paddling."
Need more proof? In 5 Reasons to Do Salabhasana, Locust Pose, Every Day we learn that locust pose "Tones Your Butt." What more do you need to know?
Garudasana | Eagle Pose
I took this photo of yogi surfer April Joy practicing Garudasana in NYC's Lower East Side.
In his article 10 Best Yoga Poses for Surfers, Jack Albritton writes,"Eagle pose is excellent for stretching out the upper back and shoulders and is a must before and after long paddling sessions. These are the muscles that get the most work in the water and they are the ones that will feel tight the next day if not taken care of. "
I would add that Garudasana also is an amazing hip opener, and it helps us work on balance. Garuda is a mythical creature, half man, half eagle, fully bad ass.
Learn more about the mythology of Eagle Pose and how to practice it in this post from Yoga International.
Navasana | Boat Pose
In her article 7 Yoga Poses for Surfers of All Levels, yogi Florence Shih
writes about Navasana, "Helping to increase the strength and control through the global abdominal and hip flexor muscles allows us to project the board away from the body, whilst still keeping a strong upper/lower body connection, to then bring the board back underneath the hips."
Virabhadrasana II | Warrior 2
In the blog post 10 Best Yoga Poses for Surfers, Jack Albritton writes, "Warrior II is similar to the stance surfers use as they stand up on their board. There is a lot going on in this pose and it really benefits the entire body. It strengthens and stretches the legs, hips, groin and shoulders. It helps with balance while building concentration and balance."
I checked out the article The Proper Surfing Stance on the Barefoot Surf Travel website, and while none of the stances look exactly like Warrior II, practicing warrior poses will strengthen and stabilize us in the right places for a solid surfing stance.
Check out The Five Most Common Alignment Mistakes in Warrior II to get the pose right. And speaking of surfing warriors, check out the Warrior Surfing Foundation, who "strive to enhance the psychological and physical wellbeing of Veterans, active duty service members, and their families through the experience of surfing."
Parivrtta Utkata Konasana |Revolved Fierce Angle Pose
Photo of Thicha Srivisal, who booked me for a photo shoot on her visit from Singapore. During the shoot we passed by the strange architecture of the Oculus, which was built as part of the 911 Memorial. You can see it coming like wings out of her shoulders in a reflection on the building behind her.
This is one of my all-time favorite poses, opening the hips and stretching the back. Standing in a wide-legged stance with knees bent and feet turned out in line with the femur bone (thigh bone), place your hands on your thigh just above the knee. I generally like to turn my fingers in towards my inner thigh, but the version in this photo works also. Extend your arms so that they are supporting the weight of the pelvis and creating length in the spine. Turn one shoulder forward and down as the other lifts up and back, and gaze over the raised shoulder. If you are being photographed, it is OK to look at the camera instead!
This pose is also referred to as Revolved Fierce Goddess Pose.
Eka Pada Raja Kapotasana | Royal Pigeon
This smiling yogi is my friend Helida practicing a pigeon pose variation in the Brooklyn Botanical Garden. Don't worry if binding your elbow to your foot seems unlikely, there are easier variations.
The article 6 Yoga Poses that Give Surfers Stronger, Supple Hips states that "This is a great stretch for the outer hips and piriformis and a passive stretch for the hip flexors. If it’s too uncomfortable for you, you can lie on your back and stretch your glutes in Dead Pigeon."
I hope you enjoyed these photos and got some ideas for your practice. If you search the internet enough, you will find claims that just about any yoga pose can help with surfing, and that is probably true. It is also claimed that surfing can help strengthen your yoga practice, a hypothesis I plan to test out in July. Come join Leo and I for the Nicaragua Surf and Fitness Retreat from July 15th to 20th and we can discover the benefits together! Fitness classes in the morning, surf lessons each day for novice to advanced, and sunset yoga sessions with yours truly.
If you have any thoughts on yoga and surfing, please leave a comment below. Akaw! Namaste.