Yoga for Surfers

On Saturday I went to the second annual SEED Surf Conference, organised by the Surf Science course students, in Newquay, Cornwall. This was a day of talks and presentations on recent sustainable, environmental and ecological developments in the surfing world, given by numerous respected people in the industry. Quite surprised by my invite to speak about the benefit of yoga for surfers, I soon realised that we are still talking about sustainability, just sustainability of our own bodies – we need to look after ourselves before we can take care of the planet. Having surfed for many years and recently returned from surfing daily in Costa Rica, I now feel like I have a greater understanding of the anatomy of a surfer and how yoga can aid surfers – by developing greater strength and flexibility, creating power.

How can yoga help surfers…?

We can strengthen the upper body and back muscles, by practising various poses including arm balances and back bending postures; yoga can help open the chest in back bends and twists – all of which aid paddling. We strengthen all the core muscles to protect the spine and increase the power in turns; we can release tension in the neck and shoulders with targeted stretches; furthermore, yoga can enormously improve balance and coordination through the practise of standing poses and balances – by strengthening the leg and hip muscles and becoming more aware of your centre of gravity. The majority of surfers are holding a huge amount of tension in their hips and hamstrings, which a range of yoga poses can help to release; if tension in the hips is allowed to build up, this can lead to low back pain and an increased risk of injury. So, if you surf a lot, don’t stretch often and have back pain, then it is likely you have tight hips. In addition, focus on the breath in the poses promotes mental clarity, and breathing techniques increase lung capacity.

Mick Fanning, who has practised yoga daily since his hamstring injury in 2004, swears by yoga and proper breathing technique. “Stretching and yoga are part of my daily workout. Yoga classics, such as the tree and the boat, are good exercises for improving your balance. Breathing technique exercises have helped me with my surfing enormously. If you breathe correctly while training or competing, it can have an enormously positive impact on how you control your body and mind.”

I think my session was a welcome break in the day, something a little different, a small opportunity for a stretch and hopefully raised some awareness of taking care of yourself so that you surf better, and for longer.