The ability of yoga’s breathing, meditation, and asana practices to help calm the mind and increase focus, stamina, flexibility, and strength has helped make practicing yoga a popular cross-training exercise for many types of physical activities. Over the last couple of years, the surfing community has begun to buzz about the ways in which a consistent yoga practice can improve your surfing, and perhaps it’s time for the yoga community to buzz back.
Luis Pinto is encouraging surfers to practice yoga as a way to increase “energy, stability, endurance, confidence and performance while keeping [you] extremely focused for each single wave”. His suggested poses include Paschimottanasana, Sphinx Pose, Salamba Sirsasana, and the pose most obviously reminiscent of the stereotypical image of a surfer’s stance, Virabhadrasana II.
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Yoga Teacher Benita Hussain recommends poses that strengthen the arms, legs, and back, while relieving the lower back pain shared by many surfers. In addition to physical benefits, she believes that surfing and yoga “have a natural partnership” as “ways of life–disciplines that, with time, help you combat fear, breathe deeper, and achieve the kind of bliss that only riding a wave or pressing into your first headstand can provide.” In this way, surfing could potentially improve your yoga practice as much as the other way around.
This is a philosophy that makes sense to popular yoga teacher and surfer, Shiva Rea. When asked how surfing makes her a better yogi, she talks about how surfing can connect you with the power of the elements and immerses you in the tidal pulse and the breath wave. It is this sense of connection and serenity that many people are trying to achieve on their mat. Reciprocally, the heightened awareness that can come from practicing yoga can help surfers to be more centered and aware on the waves.
Some of the comparisons between the nature of the ocean and the nature of our bodies may seem obvious, as are those between the laid back, going with the flow stereotype of surfing culture and the letting go process many encounter in their yoga practice. Yet these comparisons can be valid despite being easy. Author Mihaly Csikszentmihaly describes the common surfer lingo “stoked” as “being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz." Or perhaps like practicing yoga.
Do you practice yoga and surfing? How has one influenced the other? Can you drop-into a yoga pose and ride it out like a wave or do you constantly wipe-out in your poses?