Surf Yoga retreats are taking the world by storm and have grown into booming businesses from Bali to Costa Rica, Morocco, Portugal, Sri Lanka and…. you guessed it, South Africa! Surfers are increasingly turning to yoga as an additional pastime, which has resulted in the complete integration of yoga into the tropical surf subculture. Surfers like Kelly Slater and Gerry Lopez are showing us that finding your flow is not just for the yoga mat. But who would have thought that perfecting your Chaturanga pose would help you when surfing? There are, in fact, infinite reasons why the art of yoga and a gruelling water sport go hand in hand.
Both are more than just “exercise”
Surfing and yoga are both intense immersion experiences which force you to focus on your breathing and your “oneness” with the universe. They afford you a space of mental clarity that influences your way of life and spiritual well being. Both are powerful forms of meditation which direct your attention fully to the present moment.
Yoga improves your overall physical strength and flexibility
Surfing is rarely a perfectly symmetrical or well-balanced workout. Depending on the conditions, you might use certain muscles more than others or work one side of your body more rigorously. Surfing can also be hard on the body as paddling requires a lot of power from the arms and shoulders. Yoga works all those muscles that aren’t used frequently during a good surf session and stretches out the muscles that are overworked and tired.
Yoga improves performance on the board
Lessons learned from yoga, such as breathing, balance and patience, can all be transferred directly to surfing. Your performance on the board rests primarily on good balance and strong mental awareness of your surroundings. Good breathing practices help you oxygenate your blood for better physical endurance and strength. Yoga also improves your core strength, which is vital for many manoeuvres on the waves.
The repetitive use of certain muscles during surfing can result in stiffness or cramping. Whilst surfing, the neck, shoulders, lower back, hips and knees are particularly at risk. Yoga helps to keep these areas supple and strong, preventing injury and joint damage.
Guest writer: Pia Rebelo, Hong Kong.