If the fact Kelly Slater clearly seems to think yoga is a useful part of his training hasn’t already had you running to the nearest yoga studio to sign up, here’s a few more reasons for you…
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Strength and flexibility
Let’s start with the easy one. There are many poses in a physical yoga practice (yoga asana*) that are going to be directly beneficial for your surfing ability. You can increase your arm strength in poses like like downward dog (adho mukha svanasana), core strength in plank, your surfing stance and hip flexibility with warrior II (virabhadrasana II), and increase your overall flexibility and accessible range of motion with a variety of other poses. Just type “yoga for surfers” into Google and you’ll see the plethora of poses that will improve your performance in the water. But please, find a good teacher before attempting to practise on your own.
Not only does yoga offer specific balancing poses that will challenge and improve your balance, it’s also fantastic for learning how to ground through you feet, strengthening the legs, improving spatial awareness and finding the centre line of your body. And of course balance is related to focus…
Not that we’d know it from all the blonde beauties pulling seemingly impossible poses on Instagram, but traditionally a physical yoga practise was a preparation for meditation. In working towards meditation we concentrate our attention on one thing to the exclusion of others. Practising this, whether in seated meditation practice, or while practising postures, is a way to increase our focus and attention span. Take this ability to hone your focus into the surf and you’ll be amazed the difference it makes.
One of the greatest teachers alive today, Lesley Kaminoff, says the yoga mat, far from just being a piece of rubber we pull poses on, is actually . What the hell does that mean and how will it help my surfing? When we take time to exclude all distractions and spend time with ourselves practising yoga asana and meditation, it’s magical the things you notice that are normally hidden in the buzz of our modern lives. When we strip back layers you can begin to see clearly your habits and beliefs, and how they translate into your actions. You may well discover limitations, physical or mental, that are holding you back.
Yoga philosophy teaches us acceptance of ourselves and our situation, in any given moment of time. By all means we can strive to change those things we can influence, but anything else we need to accept or we’ll fight an uphill battle that will never be won. And waste a great deal of precious time on it. By accepting physical, financial and geographical limitations, we can direct our attention and energies towards those areas we can change, and have a whole lot more time and mental clarity to work on them.
At the most basic level you’ll find knowing the postures could be quite useful – you can use the poses for your pre-surf warm-up (yes you probably don’t bother, but you should 😉 and post-surf stretch.
You should always begin your practice under the guidance of a good teacher – then you can practise at home. Be sure to take the time to find a good teacher and one that is teaching a style that matches your goals.
*This clarification is made because most classes in the West focus on physical postures or asana but in fact asana is just one component of ‘yoga’ as such. Other components include the yamas and niyamas (a sort of yogic 10 commandments), pranayama (breathing practises) and meditation.