Top 5 Yoga Poses For Surfers
Surfing and yoga - two of my absolute favourite things, and they complement each other so well! I’ll be honest, my skills in the surf are still pretty limited (the perks of learning as an adult!) but I have noticed a big difference since my slight obsession with yoga started, especially with my balance and my ability to paddle at speed.
It is well documented that a regular yoga practice builds strength, increases your flexibility and helps you to focus - all qualities that you need to be at the top of your game when surfing. But don’t just take my word for it, 11-time World Surf League Champion Kelly Slater is a big fan of yoga to support his intense training schedule:
“I tend to find that [surfers] want some endurance and you want strength and quick switch muscles, cardio. There’s all sorts of different things you need but a lot of my injuries come from stiffness, tight muscles and imbalances so yoga’s really great. You can gain strength, a lot of strength through that and you really focus on your breathing.
I want to have longevity, I want to be 80 years old and be really strong and fit…food’s a big part of it, clean air. Also your thoughts, your mind” (See the full interview here, hosted by Occy and Fox Sports)
As Kelly explains, it’s all about caring for your body and mind. As with yoga, if you can clear your mind and find your focus in surfing, you’re much more likely to succeed. Some might call it salt water therapy! Likewise, it's important to stretch well before heading out into the surf to prevent injury, especially focusing on the arms, hips and thighs.
So we've established why yoga's so important for surfers, but which moves are the most effective?
1. Downward facing dog
- Start on your hands and knees and make sure your knees are directly below your hips
- Spread your palms and tuck your toes under
- Lift your knees off the floor and lift your sitting bones toward the ceiling.
- Push your thighs back and your heels toward the floor.
- Try to straighten your knees but if your hamstrings are tight (like mine!), it’s best to keep them a little bent.
- Keep your between the upper arms and try not to let it hang.
- Stay in this pose anywhere from 1-3 minutes.
The pose is all about upper body strength so try not to scrunch up your shoulders and create space in your neck. If you're already a surfer, you'll no doubt have a strong upper body which will make this pose fairly easy. And if you're just starting out with surfing, you'll increase your strength the more you practice so this pose will get easier as you go.
- Energises the body
- Strengthens the legs and arms
- Good stretch for the hamstrings, calves and shoulders
- Calms the mind and helps with focus
- Stand with your feet hip width apart, bringing your hands to your hips
- Make sure there's a small bend in your knees and bend forwards from your hips with a flat back
- Cross your arms and grab hold of opposite elbows
- Move your body gently from side to side to release your spine
- Hold the pose for around 10 breaths through the nose
- To come out of the pose, place your hands on your hips, bend your knees slightly and come up to standing
- Stretches the calves, hamstrings, neck and shoulders
- Helps to relieve tension
- Relaxes the mind and brings a sense of calm
3. Transition from Crescent Pose to Warrior III
- Starting in downward dog, push your right leg high into the air behind you
- Move the foot forwards and place into your hands
- Bring your arms into the air above your head, into Crescent pose.
- Keeping your eyes on your front foot, reach your arms forward over your front leg.
- Look forward and push off your back foot, lifting it into the air and lean forwards (your body should be in a straight line)
- Try to square off your hips by moving the hip of the raised leg down.
- Keep reaching your hands forwards, and hold this position for 5 breaths.
The dynamic movement from Crescent Pose to Warrior III requires focus, strength and balance, all qualities needed when riding the perfect wave. One of the main tips my surf instructor gave me when I was first starting out is to keep a focused gaze when popping up and manoeuvring the wave and practising this dynamic yoga move will help you feel more steady when transitioning.
- Improves focus, strength and balance
- Builds strength in the ankles, legs, shoulders, back and abs
4. Boat pose
- Sit on your mat with your legs out in front of you.
- Place your hands on the floor a little behind your hips (fingers facing forwards), and lift your legs up about 45 degrees off the floor
- Lean back slightly but make sure that your back is straight
- Stretch your arms out parallel to your legs and the floor, pulling your shoulders back
- Pull your stomach in and hold for 10-20 seconds
Boat pose is one of the best to really wake up your core! And by increasing strength in the abdominals and hip flexors. it helps to project the board away from the body and then bring it back underneath the hips (whilst keeping the upper body strong). Personally I find it hard to keep both legs straight so I always bend one knee and try t straighten the other, then switch between the two.
- Builds strength in the core
- Increases your focus and balance
5. Pigeon pose
- From downward dog, lift your right leg in the air behind you and twist it to the left to open your hip flexors
- Bring the leg down and move it forwards towards your hands.
- Place your knee down behind your right wrist and slide your left foot back until it’s straight
- If you have the flexibility in your hips, and you want to increase the intensity, walk your hands forward and hold this position for 5-10 breaths.
- To release the pose, push down onto your hands, tuck your left foot and step your right foot back into downward dog.
- Repeat on the left side.
Pigeon pose is one of my absolute favourites as it helps to calm my mind and I absolute love the feel of the deep stretch. I also get pain in my lower back and it helps to alleviate this if you practice the pose regularly.
- Helps to alleviate any pain in the back
- Stretches and opens up the hips and gluten
- Helps to calm the mind and body
With all of these moves, you’ll get the best results if you practice at least 3 times a week (every day if you can) and you’ll be feeling more focused, supple and hopefully skilled on the board! And if you're keen to watch a full sequence for surfers, check out this video from Tim Senesi:
Have a wonderful day one and all!
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