TKV Desikachar, son and student of T Krishnamacharya, friend and teacher of The Yoga Institute’s Founding Director, Michael de Manincor, used to regularly teach that yoga is not only good for general health and well-being, it can help improve many areas of our lives, including our golfing ability. He never mentioned surfing, but the same applies….
Read on to find out……
Strength vs Flexibility
Any repetitive activity that builds strength can come with its challenges of flexibility. Suring is no different.
Too much strength can cause inflexibility and too much flexibility can lead to instability. This is particularly important for surfers as it’s essential to stay quick and agile, as well as have the strength and stamina to paddle either out in rough surf or to gain speed quickly to catch waves.
What to make flexible?
Thoracic & lumbar spine (upper and lower back)– cat/cow pose, focusing on mobilising the top segments of the spine to ensure mobile paddle position. Lower (lumbar) spine also can become tight and overworked, and will need a good stretch and release.
Hip flexors & Hamstrings – low lunge, tucking the tail bone to access lengthening of hip flexor and tilt the buttocks back in the forward bend to release hamstrings.
What to make strong?
It’s important to move dynamically in and out a few times to prepare the body before building strength by holding.
Legs (particularly quads and glutes) – chair pose, pressing into the heels to help engage buttocks
Abdominals & arms – Plank pose and apanasana, controlled movement to build strength
Back – cobra to strengthen and stabilise the back
Breathe for Big Waves
The breath is a very powerful tool to assist with stability, energy and stamina. The more effective we breath, the more effective your ability to surf. The key is to moving and maintaining long, steady rhythmic breathing.
Whether or not you are used to surfing big waves, most surfers would have experienced times when they wish their breath could go on for longer.
The main aim of pranayama is to consciously extend the breath, making it smooth and steady will not only allow you stay under water for longer but also access a sense of calm in your body, even under pressure. The breath effects ever single system in your body.
When working with the breath, it’s important to work gradually for it to be sustainable, but also to avoid creating and negative impact on the nervous system (fight or flight).
- Anuloma Ujjayi – lengthen the exhale
- Vinuloma ujjayi – bring the inhale to meet the exhale
- Breath Retention on exhale
- Breath retention on inhale
Each step of this process can take months and advised to work with a professional who is skilled at working with advanced pranayama techniques.
Under Water Calm
As divers can testify, the slower you breath, the more focused you become and the longer you can stay under water for, it is no different with surfing. Yoga can help you to maintain and calm and focused mind even in the most stressful of situations, including being dragged under a wave.
Written by Natalie Bowcutt