The ancient practice of yoga has grown deep roots in the surfing community. Both physical and spiritual, surf and yoga work together to help a surfer achieve a clearer mind and a stronger body.
Yoga's Indian origins go back millennia. This possibly pre-Vedic tradition combines the power of mind and body, aiming to create a perfect balance in order to open the path to nirvana and illumination. But what does this deep, inward activity have to do with the outdoors? What could it offer an extreme surfer? A lot, it seems.
Surfers need deep focus and optimum fitness to attain their in-water goals. Big wave riders make good examples of this, requiring great mental skills to overcome fear; along with very fast physical responses. A yoga routine can provide these things, with emphases on focus, confidence, balance, energy, endurance, vitality, flexibility, longevity and, ultimately, performance.
Yoga also helps to strengthen key physical points to the surfing practice, such as arms, legs, back and wrists; minimizing the risk of injuries and improving recovery time after a surf session.
What is not so talked about, however, is that surfing also benefits yoga practitioners. Riding a wave is, for many, a highly spiritual experience which presents itself as an outward expression of the yoga and meditation practices.
It also allows yogis and yoginis to take physical and balance skills acquired through yoga to a whole new level. Yoga stretches and techniques are perfect before and after a surf session. Yoga also aids in stronger paddling, and in faster, more grateful popups.
Now that you can see what deep bonds connect surfing and yoga, you can dedicate yourself to it at home or in the line-up, before you go into the water. Here are some of the best yoga poses for surfers:
The Padmasana, or "Lotus Pose"
The Padmasana is mostly a meditation pose. It is a sitting pose, with legs crossed one over the other and each foot placed on the opposite thigh. This asana requires constant practice to do comfortably, but once achieved calms the mind and stretches the ankles and knees.
The Adho Mukha Svanasana, or "Downward-Facing Dog"
"Downward-Facing Dog" is a rejuvenating stretch that strengthens the wrists, arms and shoulders. It is one of the most widely-recognized and famous yoga poses. It consists of standing with hands and feet on the floor, the sitting bones pointing to the ceiling and heels touching the ground. Knees, arms and back are stretched, forming an angle. A variation of the pose, known as the "Dolphin Pose", is also great to open shoulders and to strengthen the core, arms and legs.
The Utthita Parsvakonasana, or "Extended Side Angle Pose"
This pose is a stretch along the top side of the body, from the back heel through the raised arm. It opens the hip joints, stretches the groin and releases the shoulders and neck.
The Virabhadrasana II, or "Warrior II Pose"
The "Warrior II Pose" increases stamina and concentration, stretches the hip, groin, and shoulders, relieves backaches, and improves circulation and respiration. Stand with feet apart, one knee bent toward the front and the other stretched to the back. Arms are outstretched; parallel to the floor.
The Utkatasana, or "Chair Pose"
By standing straight and gently bending at the hips as if to sit; with arms stretched upwards, the "Chair Pose" works the muscles of the arms and legs and also stimulates the diaphragm and heart.
The Ustrasana, or "Camel Pose"
This challenging backbend pose improves the flexibility of the neck and spine and relieves backache. The camel pose keeps you on your knees, tail bone pushed forward, chest up and back bent, with hands holding the heels.
The Salamba Bhujangasana, or "Sphinx Pose"
This pose releases stress, provides energy and makes the spine flexible. It resembles a sphinx, hence the name, as the practitioner lies on the floor on his belly and faces ahead, supported on parallel forearms.
The Paschimottanasana, or "Seated Forward Bend"
The "Seated Forward Bend" completely stretches the entire backside of the body from the back of the head through the heels. Sit with legs straight ahead and lean forward, reaching for the feet.
The Supta Virasana, or "Reclining Hero Pose"
By lying on your back with knees bent to the side, resting on the floor, the "Reclining Hero Pose" stretches the knees and intensifies the stretch in the thighs and ankles.
The Bharadvajasana I, or "Bharadvaja's Twist"
This position, in which the knees are bent to one side and the torso twists to the opposite direction, is a gentle tonic twist for the spine and the abdominal organs. It is great for beginners and calms the nervous system.
The Salamba Sirsasana, or "Supported Headstand"
The "Supported Headstand", in which one stands upside down with the body straight, supported on the head and forearms, is a crucial yoga pose with endless benefits. It improves respiration, balance and circulation, stimulates pituitary and pineal glands, calms the brain and strengthens the body.
For meditation, try Dhyana, or "Cross-Heart Kirtan Kriya Meditation", a mantra meditation that helps control the thoughts and encourages a renewed sense of peace and balance.
Rochelle Ballard, Taylor Knox, Brian Conley, Garrett McNamara, Tom Carroll, and Holly Beck; to name a few, are all pro surfers that share a passion for yoga in their surfing lives.
Ballard, a former WCT surfer, has even released an instructional DVD, "Surf Into Yoga", with relevant sequences for surfers. If you want to deepen surf yoga, take a look at Peggy Hall's "Yoga for Surfers".