Yoga often doesn’t just stand alone, but is a super balancing programme for many sports. Zoé tells us today why surfing and yoga go so well together for her and even has a few yoga exercises to support you while surfing. We particularly like the diversity of yoga. Thank you so much Zoé for your great article!
I’m Zoé and I currently live in south-west France where I pursue my passion for surfing, do all sorts of things with media, have a surf magazine called Strange Seas and offer yoga classes. Before I stood on a surfboard for the first time, I regularly got on my yoga mat. When the moment came to stand up on a wobbly board under my feet, propelled by a wave, I benefited from having the balance, strength in my arms and resilience from yoga as a basis.
At first glance, yoga and surfing don’t seem to have much in common. Surfing takes place in the sea and is a dynamic action sport. Yoga focuses on the inner experiences and the connection to the divine self. But a closer look reveals some commonalities that link surfing and yoga. When I surf, I go into the water and interact with a different element than on land. As soon as I paddle out to sea, my thoughts become quiet, everyday life disappears into the vastness of the ocean. Only the sea and I remain. A connection that can be felt intensely when surfing a wave. I feel very small in all this water, but I also feel like I belong and am one with nature.
It feels similar with yoga. Here it is the breath that connects me with myself. I feel my body, observe my thoughts and look within. Be present in the here and now, breathe the air of the atmosphere that connects us all. Yoga can be a tool in many ways to prepare for surfing, to improve and to act more mindfully.
Asana practice for surfing
What is probably most obvious is that asana practice strengthens the body, stretches and mobilises the muscles. Surfing is a physically demanding sport. Standing up on the surfboard requires a lot of coordination, balance and some strength. The paddling is also a challenge. Movements in yoga that do not otherwise occur in everyday life can prevent injuries. Because the body is often put into unusual postures by slipping off the board or playing with the waves. During take-off and paddling, mainly arm and torso muscles are used. Chaturanga is a great asana for this, as is Adho Mukha Svanasana (downward facing dog), Ardha Pincha Mayurasana (dolphin), Bhujangasana (cobra) and Shalabhasan (grasshopper).
When standing up on the board, the back foot of the front standing leg is pulled forward. You’ve probably heard the phrase ‘put your foot forward quietly’ in a yoga class. It’s similar to surfing, except that the touching down of the foot beforehand not only leads to a sound but usually to falling into the water. Therefore, transitions from Three Legged Dog (Eka Pada Mukha Shvanasana) to Anjaneyasana (low lunge) or Astha Chandrasana (Crescent High Lunge) are great to practice putting the foot forward without touching the yoga mat.
Then, when both feet are on the surfboard, the leg muscles are fired up. Probably the most similar asana to Surfstand is Warrior 2 (Virabhadrasana II). Here the quadriceps and gluteal muscles are strengthened.
Regular surfing uses muscles on one side, as you always have one stance (with right or left foot in front). Yoga can help to balance out any imbalances that have arisen.
Above all, it feels really good to stretch with yoga exercises after surfing. Child’s pose (Balasana) can relax the back after surfing, Paschimottanasana (seated forward bend) stretches the backs of the legs and calves, and Eagle Arms (Sukhasana Garuda Arms) stretches the upper back, shoulders, forearms and trapezius muscle.
Mindfulness while surfing
Surfing can produce different feelings. With me it is sometimes fear, sometimes frustration. Predominantly joy. But what if it’s one of those not-so-pleasant feelings? Then yoga helps me to be aware of these feelings, but not to let them become part of me. I observe, look inside myself to see where this feeling comes from and then adjust my actions. If the waves are too big for me, I get out of the water. Yoga has taught me to observe body, mind and thoughts, even when things get noisy, so as not to cross boundaries. I prefer to approach bigger waves with mindfulness, time and calm.
The sea looks different every hour, so you always have to adapt to the conditions. No surf session is like the other. It’s a constant up and down, ebb and flow, and I carry that over into my life as well. It’s a constant up and down, but it always stays in flow and it keeps going.
Zoé offers an online yoga class for surfers every week, where she responds to the needs of surfers and explores the connection to the water with the participants. You can read more about various surfing topics in her magazine strangeseasmag.com.
You can find Zoé in private here on Instagram: zoe_katha and if you want to read more of her articles, check out her magazine directly on Instagram at strangeseasmag. Thank you so much for your words dear Zoé.