Stiff backs and sore necks are synonymous with surfing - especially at this time of year. And though we all know by now that getting down to our local yoga studio and stretching a few of those aches and pains away is pretty much the best way to sort this out, it doesn't always happen as regular as it should. But that doesn't mean that your body - and your surfing - can't benefit from a few simple poses that you can do anywhere - pre-surf on the beach or post-surf back in your living room.
In your living room, at the beach, or anywhere else.
Here are four of my favourites that I use to help me stay focused, balanced and strong in the surf.
Pose 1 - Mountain Pose
- Start with this. I start my yoga sessions with this, my surfs with this, and to be honest, it would do me no harm to start all things I do with this.
Why do it?
Standing in mountain pose allows you the time to say “Hey me, this is where I am” and enjoy it!
It lets you engage with both yourself and your surroundings and to create an intention for surfing. It is a lot easier to progress if you acknowledge what you are doing. Mountain pose is a good way to stay present and appreciate what you can feel and do now.
Standing in mountain pose gives you time to get present and focus.
A quick how to
Stand shoulder-width apart, arms at your sides.
Roll your shoulders back, stand tall, knees and pelvic floor lifted.
Engage your whole body from your spreading fingertips to your tensing core- think about breathing fully and look straight ahead.
Think about ne new move that you're gonna nail today!
Acknowledge the other surfers and you may pick up some useful advice.
Look at what the waves are doing and save your energy by paddling in the breaks between sets.
Difficulty level: 1/5
Pose 2 - Downward Dog- (kind of like watching a dog stretch but for humans)
Why do it?
This is great for finding space in your neck, between your shoulder blades, inside your ribs, in your thighs, calves, all the way from your suctioning hands to your pulling heels - Let your body tell you how it feels. All those muscles in your back that you work so hard when you're surfing get some much needed love and attention when you're in down dog.
Spread your hands wide and grip the mat in downdog.
A quick How-to
From a high plank posture, push the weight from your hands up through your body, raising your bum to the air.
Put your heels down slowly (tensing your thighs, sucking in your ribs and lifting your pelvic floor will help to keep you light.)
Pedal through your heels if necessary; bend your neck inwards so you are looking at your navel.
Keep your breathing steady and full.
From my experience…
Downward Dog loosens my body so I don’t feel as stiff after a surf. I can spend as much time as I need in this position without worrying about falling over (falling over happens a lot for me in yoga and surfing.) It isn’t hard to balance in this posture so you can focus on deepening through every exhale.
This position is way of saying, “wake up brain, you’ve got a whole body here,” and comes in handy to remember all your limbs when surfing. Turning on your core is vital for surfing, popping up and your balance will hopefully improve using this pose. Post-surf, downward dog is a place to reconnect, especially when you may have had a frustrating surf.
Difficulty Level - 2/5
Pose 3 - Arm Balances like Crow (for help with popping up)
I don’t tend to have a problem with my balance once I’m up on a surf board, it’s the “getting to my feet” that I sometimes struggle with. Crow is a great way to find your centre of gravity when balancing on your hands and it really strengthens those shoulder muscles.
Why do it?
This posture is really great for stregthning your shoulders, back and core (all key surfing muscles). Building strength in these areas will help prevent injury and keep you paddling strong.
You can do crow pose anywhere
A quick how to
To get into this posture, sit in yogic squat and place your arms inside your legs.
Bend your arms and slowly put your hands to the floor, shoulder width apart.
Slowly take your weight forward and look at the floor in front of you for something to focus on. Let your knees fall onto your arms, just above your elbows.
Keep leaning forward; your heels will want to lift off the floor so when you feel balanced, let your toes come off the ground and lift your bum to the air!
Why would I do this?
It took me two weeks to be comfortable in crow, which for me, is incredibly fast compared to other arm balances... and everyone loves a quick pick-me-up.
The main success of this posture will come in learning that it only becomes possible when you're comfortable and calm. You can take this learning into your surfing: A big swell is great, but when the surf is bigger than you're used to it’s necessary to stay calm!
This pose may seem difficult, but stick with it and you’ll feel light on your hands in no time. Yoga acknowledges that progress comes with practice and time, and that’s all you can give to surfing. Crow is useful for popping up, but the balance and focus required is crucial for progression.
Difficulty Level: 4/5
Pose 4 - Warrior 1- Find your focus and strength
Another great posture for all surfers, because you can do this at your own level - you can get into it as deep as you want.
Warrior 1 is a great pre-surf posture
Why do this?
It is really up to you to keep your alignment and see how deep you can get. The longer you hold it, the more of a tingle you will feel from your fingers to your toes. Once again, it’s all about staying calm (make sure you’re not tensing your jaw) and breathing through the sensation… you may even find more space than you originally had and be able to deepen a little bit further.
Switching on the legs is great for preparing the mind for generating a bit of speed on the wave, and, to those who are progressing, for the big turns!
Rather than depending on drive to get through it, depend on sustaining physical strength and this will help stamina and ability throughout a surf. Pushing for an extra wave or two delivers that warrior strength which is euphoric for both mind and body.
A quick how to
Start in a very wide stance, right foot facing forward, left foot perpendicular to the right.
Keep your hips square and lift your arms straight up. Look up between your hands for a focus point.
I have a tendency to bend my back, so if you’re like me, make sure your taking your weight in your core rather than your back.
Bend your front (right) leg, keeping the knee over the foot and push back through your back (left) foot.
- Hold strong like a warrior and breathe through it.
Difficulty Level 3/5
Massive thank you to Emily at the amazing Urban Zen Yoga for her inspiration and crazy talent!