10 reasons to relax with yoga after a surf session
Yoga and surfing have become a popular combination in recent years. More and more surf camps offer surf and yoga packages and you’ve probably noticed yoga studios popping up in most surf towns. There’s a reason for this; surfing and yoga go perfectly hand in hand. Even though the approaches are different, both aim to align the body and mind. Pro Surfers like Kelly Slater, Gerry Lopez, Nikki Van Dijk and many others have long incorporated yoga practice into their training and lifestyle.
The movements, stretches and breathing techniques of yoga are very beneficial to improve surfing abilities, as well as in preventing injuries and faster healing. Read on to find out our 10 reasons why you should include yoga in your surf practice and what it can do to make you a better surfer.
1) Yoga cultivates patience and mindfulness.
If you have ever participated in a yoga class, you know the feeling of mental relaxation, inspiration and rejuvenation after a good session. By taking time to focus on the alignment of movement and breath, you cultivate mindfulness and patience. You learn to consciously pay attention to yourself and to control your movements and your breath more purposefully. These qualities will stick with you even after the yoga class. In daily life it makes you calmer and more relaxed.
Patience and calmness are qualities that every surfer needs. Think of the long times waiting for waves in the line-up or inevitable drop-ins – to keep the atmosphere in the water peaceful, everyone needs some patience. Especially beginners, who are just learning to surf, will soon find out that patience is the most important thing when advancing your surfing skills.
2) Stretching reduces the risk for surf injuries.
A gentle morning yoga session is the best way to prepare muscles, tendons and also the head for the varied demands in the line-up.
After surfing, a relaxed evening session on the mat ensures less muscle soreness and prevents injuries for exhausted surfers. Especially yoga styles like Yin and Restorative practices are perfect to relieve muscle tensions. In these styles, poses are held for 5 minutes or longer. This allows you to stretch through to your deep fascia tissue
3) Yoga sharpens your mind and improves focus.
In the water, you often have to make quick decisions: do you try to paddle over a big wave that you see approaching or do you stay where you are, preparing to duck-dive through a big set? Also in order to position yourself for catching waves, you have to constantly pay attention to the ocean and move accordingly. No doubt that the surfer with the best focus and quickest mind will catch the most waves.
In addition to inner peace, yoga also teaches you to concentrate better and more intensively. This allows you to control your thoughts in a more focused way, which makes it easier for you to pay absolute attention to whatever situation you experience in the water.
4) Regular practice makes you more flexible.
Surfing is not only about paddle power, but also about various complex movement sequences for which you need a certain dynamic flexibility.
Shoulder-opening postures and hip openers as well as the forward bends, lateral stretches and twisting postures stretch the parts of the body that are stressed during surfing. This leads to better overall flexibility.
5) Yoga improves balance and makes you surf longer waves.
Balance is one of the most important aspects of surfing. As soon as you have managed the pop-up and your feet touch the board, balance is the key to stay on the wave and make the most out of it. If you are not able to balance out the dynamic forces of the wave – you fall off.
For balance practice the principle is simple, if you don’t use it, you lose it. Especially if you don’t live by the ocean and can’t get in the water regularly, it is important to have a continuous balancing practice. Yoga is a great way to improve your balance and you can easily do it at home. Poses like Tree and Eagle will improve your balancing skills.
By the way, an advanced yogi tip is to spread the toes as far apart from each other as possible to get a better stand and more balance on the mat. If you practice spreading the toes often enough, it becomes muscle memory and you will just naturally spread the toes more, even on your surfboard! This technique has a great positive impact on your balance and stability.
6) Yoga practice improves your surf strength.
Yoga can be practiced in such a way that muscle strength training is included. Evidence shows that yoga can be just as effective for improving strength as working out with light weights and resistance bands. In addition, holding poses is a type of isometric training. It strengthens the muscles you’re using by keeping them under tension longer.
The most obvious muscles that are needed for surfing are shoulders and arms. However, surfing is a complex and dynamic full-body sport. The chest, back, spine and legs are at least as important as the shoulders. Yoga is a gentle full-body workout for strength and flexibility in all those areas.
7) Your lung capacity increases.
In healthy adults, the amount of inhaled and exhaled breathing air at resting is approximately 0.5 litres. This can be increased by two to three litres. Athletes in particular want to increase their lung volume in order to perform even better.
Breathing exercises through yoga help to increase lung volume. In a yoga class, breath and movement are meant to be aligned. This helps to improve your conscious inhalation and exhalation as well as your body awareness. This makes it easier for you to learn when to inhale and how much air to exhale.
Some classes incorporate special breathing techniques called pranayama. Those often include conscious long breathing and holding the breath. This way the lungs are perfectly worked.
8) Yoga boosts your confidence.
Through yoga you above all improve your self-confidence. You deal with yourself, learn to listen to yourself and your body and thus know what is good for you. You also train your own body awareness, because you pay more attention to your body and mind. This way you discover your strengths and gain strong self-confidence, and you radiate that.
9) You can better deal with challenges.
If you’re an advanced surfer, yoga can help you stay loose and focused in big waves and moments of greatest tension. On days with mega swells, violent currents and relentless cleanup sets, this will benefit you. Yoga reduces surfing anxiety and strengthens your decision-making skills.
10) Body awareness.
By becoming more aware of your body, you can shift your weight in a much more targeted way and transfer your body’s power to the surfboard more effectively. Demanding movements like rail-to-rail or radical cut-backs are noticeably easier.
Yoga trains mindfulness with one’s own body. Answering questions like, ‘what does my body need right now to function at it’s best?’, become easier to answer. It also becomes easier to get a feeling for when you need to rest in order to avoid being surfed out for days in a row.