Yoga Poses Every Surfer Should Practice
Are you feeling stiff after getting out of the ocean? You’re not alone! Surfing demands a lot from our bodies, primarily creating tight shoulders, compression in the lower back and hips, and a closed chest. Not to fear, yoga for surfers is here!
It’s no surprise that many surfers are yogis because the balance of the two creates a beautiful harmony in our bodies. Some of the most famous surfers in the world, including Gerry Lopez and Taylor Knox, preach that yoga drastically improves their surfing abilities.
Every year, I host week-long surf and yoga retreats at some of my favorite surf breaks in the world, from Mexico to Sri Lanka. We surf for hours on end each day, and as epic as that is, it requires an hour or more of yoga each day to balance out our bodies. Below are yoga poses that are essential to any surfer’s yoga routine.
Prana, our breath, is a key element in both yoga and surfing. In the yoga practice, the breath is what keeps us centered and focused. In surfing, we need full lung capacity in those moments that we’re stuck under a wave and are forced to hold our breath.
Before you practice any of these poses, begin in a seated position, and focus on engaging your breath. Start by placing one hand on your heart and one hand on your belly. On a slow count of four, inhale through your nose, feeling your belly, ribcage, and chest inflate with air. On the same slow count of four, exhale through your nose, feeling yourself deflate. Continue breathing like this throughout your yoga practice to maintain focus.
Pose 1: Child’s Pose with bent elbows and blocks
How: Enter child’s pose on your mat, with your knees spread wide and your two big toes touching, with your arms extended in front of you. Take your two blocks and place one under each elbow at the lowest height and your hands at prayer tapping your upper back so that your forehead and heart can sink in between the blocks. Release your head and chest toward the mat. Take multiple breaths, perhaps holding for several minutes.
Why: Opens chest, releases tension in the upper back and traps, and gives the neck a release.
Pose 2: Cat Pose
How: From table-top position, exhale and round your back toward the ceiling. The pose should look like a cat stretching its back. Release the top of your head toward the floor, and hold for multiple breaths.
Why: Relieves tension in the upper back and strengthens the spine.
Pose 3: Puppy Pose with thread the needle twist
How: Come to a table-top position with your shoulders stacked over your wrists, your hips stacked over your knees. Slowly walk your hands out in front of you, lowering your chest and forehead down toward the ground. Keep your hips over your knees and your arms shoulder-distance apart, and hold for a few breaths. When you’re ready, slide your left arm underneath your right armpit to thread the needle in your puppy pose to take this into a shoulder-releasing twist. Make sure to repeat on the second side.
Why: Stretches the spine, shoulders, upper back, and arms.
Pose 4: Salabhasana
How: Lie on your stomach, arms by your side, your forehead, or your chin on the mat.
As you inhale, lift your head, chest, arms, and legs off the floor, firming your shoulder blades onto your back, and so broadening your chest.
Why: Stretches the front of the body, opens the chest and shoulders
Pose 5: Downward-facing dog
How: From Table position, tuck the toes under, press into your hands, and begin to lift your hips towards the ceiling. Your palms should be shoulder-width apart. Press your hips up and back, reaching your chest towards your thighs.
Why: Deeply stretches the back, opens the chest, and builds upper body strength.
Pose 6: Low lunge with eagle arms
How: From low lunge, take your Eagle Arm wrap. The bottom arm (the arm that wraps under) is the same side as the leg extended back behind you. The top arm is the same side as the front bent knee. The arms are crossed in front of the torso so that one arm is crossed above the other arm.
Why: Stretches the thighs, hips, shoulders, and upper back.
Pose 7: Malasana
How: Bend your knees deeply, sinking down until your hips are lower than your knees, a few inches off the floor. Bring your hands together at heart center, and wedge your elbows one at a time, to the inside of your knees. Push your elbows into your knees to open your hips. Lift your heart forward and up, attempting to bring length into your lower back and spine.
Why: Stretches groin, lower back, sacrum, and hips
Pose 8: Cow Face Arms
How: Sit tall, knees bent, feet flat on the floor. Slide your left leg under your right and bring your left heel to the outside of your right hip. Bring your right foot around to the outside of your left hip. Then, since your right leg is on top, inhale and lift your left arm, bend your left elbow and let your left hand rest in the middle of your upper back. Reach back and around, bringing the back of your right hand to rest on your back. You might be able to clasp your hands together. If not, use a strap between your hands.
Why: Deep stretch of hips, ankles, thighs, shoulders, armpit, chest, deltoid, and triceps
Pose 9: Supine Figure 4
How: Lie on your back, cross your right ankle over your left knee and keep your right foot flexed. Bring your left knee toward your chest. Reach your right hand through your legs and interlace your fingers just below the crease of your left knee. Using the strength of your arms, pull your left knee toward your chest and breathe.
Why: Opens tight inner and outer hips, releases neck tension.
Pose 10: Supine Twist
How: Lie down on your back with your legs extended long on the ground. As you inhale, hug your right knee into your chest. As you exhale, trace your right knee over to the left. Create a “T” shape position with your arms, twisting and gazing to the right. Hold for a few breaths and then change sides.
Why: Lengthens and encourages mobility along your spine, and stretches the hips, lats, and shoulders.
By Emily Meersand
September 30, 2020