It’s seems that finding balance in all aspects of our life’s is key! I’ve learnt that this is no truer than in surfing especially if you want to improve and stay in the surf for longer.
Here in the UK, especially in the depths of winter and even now in the spring the average water temp is only low double digits. Being a pro surfer is unbelievably awesome and hands down has to be the best day job in the world but surfing all day everyday can have its draw backs, believe it or not!
Your body can only take so much, your shoulders and hips really being the focal point for all this exertion as you paddle back out completely exhausted and cold but willing yourself to try a little harder and maybe leave the water with a feeling that something at least some small aspect of your surfing has improved.
But sometimes and more often than not with our climate and chilly waters you feel like all your trying to do is protect yourself from the harsh elements as you spend hours trying to perfect a certain turn or air waiting patiently for that one opportunity, that wave of the day, tightness starts to build up in your hips from sitting on your board as the cold reaches your very core and mild hypothermia sets in.
I have tried many different forms of training and recovery techniques to aid my surfing over the years and although some have attributes I have learnt from and use still to this day I found that I always come full circle ending back at what seems to be the perfect complementing balancing act that will not only help keep your body in check preventing injuries but will improve the key fundamental movement patterns and flexibility of the body whilst strengthening body and mind simultaneously.
It’s these attributes that Yoga has and I’ve yet to find a practice that rivals it and now more than ever having a qualified Yoga teacher as a fiancee I’m really starting to improve my yoga practice and learn just how dialled in this ancient art form is and how good it can be for us.
Incorporate a little Yoga into your daily life and watch how very quickly your body starts to readjust its self, injuries and tightness will start to fade, with a little focus on your breath your mind will feel calm and present creating space and clarity of thought, your entire body and well being will feel energised and with a little hard work, effort and belief will slowly be transformed.
So here are my top 8 tried and tested Yoga for surfers postures that will help aid flexibility in key areas throughout your body that are probably suffering from all that time out in the surf. There’s an intro from instructor Philly then my take on the deal. Cheers and enjoy … Alan Stokes
1 – Downward Dog
Plant the hands, root down through the heels and lift the hips up to the sky. Lengthen through the crown of the head, elongate the spine. If your hamstrings are tight bend the knees to keep length in the spine. Rotate the upper arms outwards creating space between the shoulder blades. Here, I am pressing forward and up on the sacrum to lengthen and bring Alan’s weight back into the spine.
This pose really allows my shoulders to get a good stretch and open up at least 80% of your surfing is actually just paddling around chasing waves so our shoulders take most of the strain. It will allow your head to hang lightly letting out all the tension around my neck caused from all that paddling and trying to see when the next set wave is coming.
2 – Lizard pose
Super hip opener! Toe heel the front foot out to the side of your mat and allow the knee to fall out to the side, coming onto the side of the foot. Lift the heart forward, and if you have the flexibility in the hips come down onto the forearms.
I actually feel like a lizard doing this one which is kinda fun but its one of the best Yoga positions to help undo all that inward back leg bending as we bottom turn and drive our weight onto our surfboards rail and fins this inward knee rotates the hips and loads them up repetition over time causes tightness. These are the groin muscles that allow you to remain in control of your board through manoeuvre like tail slides or hard carving hacks and if not stretched properly will ultimately lead to a groin strain or tear.
3 – Pigeon
Keeping the hips level, try and bring the lower leg parallel to the front of your mat. Keep the foot flexed to protect the knee, heart forward and breath into the hip opener. If the hips are low to the mat, exhale onto the forearms and maybe fold completely over the front leg. If your hips can’t stay level, use a yoga block to help.
Our piriformis muscle and other external hip rotators are like our engines these big muscles that run up the backs of our legs and bum give us all our power and speed as we move up and down over our boards generating drive along a wave. They can become incredibly tight and overused and can also pull and add pressure to our lower backs so this is definitely a pose to relax into and get a good big stretch.
4 – Boat Pose
Make sure you are lifting from the crown of the head and keeping the spine long. Engage the abdominals and shoot energy out from the hands and feet. If you have a lot of abdominal strength, you can begin to straighten the legs but making sure the spine stays straight.
This pose will allow your deep abdominal core muscles to fire and strengthen, it will also take pressure away from the lower back. These are the muscle we use through twisting movements on a surfboard like that big round house cut back you did last surf or a quick snap off the lip. These muscles are fundamental in stabilising your body and keeping you upright, the stronger these muscles the more likely you are to land that next big move.
5 – Reverse warrior
Make sure the front knee is stacked over the ankle, and front heel is aligned with the arch of the back foot. Reaching to the back of your mat, rotate the heart up to the sky, stay strong through the legs to create a good base.
We spend the majority of our time laying on our boards paddling around, this pose is perfect to get a big stretch from your hip up your side and into your arms. It will also allow your hips to open as you rotate your chest towards the sky and will challenge your balance and increase leg strength.
6 – Twisting Warrior pose
Lunge into the front leg so the knee is stacked on top of the ankle and come onto the ball of the back foot. Arms together in prayer, bring the elbow to the outer thigh pushing palms together to rotate up to the sky. Keep hips square to the front of your mat. Tuck the tailbone and keep the back leg strong and active! Squeeze the legs!
Another pose that will strengthen legs and challenge balance this time also helping stretch abdominal muscles and rotation of the torso. Lifting the head towards the sky and pushing palms together really helps loosed over tight shoulders and neck muscles.
7 – Seated side twist
With each inhale think length through the crown of the head and each exhale think twist towards the back of your mat. Keep shoulders away from the ears and make sure you are not allowing the shoulders to hang forward, draw them onto the back body lengthening the spine.
Watch any surfer on a wave and you will see that even from a fairly beginner level we have t start rotating and twisting are upper body to compensate for what the wave is throwing at us , then add some fairly advanced turns and airs into the mix and you have some pretty incredible upper body torquing. Add this great pose to relieve tight hips and lower back tension. A great way to stretch the outside hip and upper leg all the way up into the upper back and neck increasing spinal rotation.
8 – Triangle Pose
Again, rotate your heart to the sky! Make sure your front heel is aligned with the arch of the back foot, keep the front leg straight and engage your quadricep to lift the kneecap.
Similar to the reverse warrior this pose will create a deep stretch that will allow those tight paddle muscles to relax ,your hips to rotate and open allowing better movement through extreme turns. The very nature of this pose will also help in any rail grabbing movements like rail grab carves or back side tube riding. This pose will also challenge your balance and strengthen your legs.