You Can’t Stop The Waves, But You Can Learn to Surf.
- Swami Satchidana.
Many surfers practice yoga. Many yogis surf. Why?
In a way, surfing and yoga have been connected over a millenia and an ocean with an unbroken and unseen tie between Polynesia and the banks of the Ganges. As Swami Satchindana suggests, this connection is all about the waves.
When we practice yoga, we learn to observe the waves of energy that ebb and flow within us. This is called Prana, meaning the life force.
When we surf, we feel that energy externalized, the life force of nature that washes over rather than within us.
Yoga and Surfing can teach us to ride both of those waves, to tap into nature’s life force. When we practice them together we come to see the boundaries between our own breath and nature’s rhythms diminish.
As Steven Kolcher, a surfing memoirist writes “I didn’t know where I ended and the wave began.”
Bringing things back down to earth, yoga and surfing can, of course, help to build up strength and flexibility that feed into each other. Doing them simultaniously can make you better at either. With this in mind, we have put together five yoga poses that will lift your surfing and your spirits.
1.) Sun Salutations (Surya Namaska)
Sun Salutations are a series of physical poses steeped in symbolic and mythic overtones. By bowing to the primary source of life, we focus on the idea of self-illumination. We recognize external light and our inner light – which corresponds to our heart. This mediation may crystallize self-confidence and faith in one’s instinctive judgment.
Surfing also works to refine our instincts. We tune ourselves to the ocean and make our calls based on both nature and intuition.
Physically, the sun salutations are also a great practice for surfers because they can energize the body and strengthen all of it’s major muscle groups.
2.) Tree Pose (Vrksasana)
This pose takes a dedicated effort to maintain balance and thus works to refine concentration and discipline. It can awaken our will power and an awareness of one’s own strength. A direct gaze and focus is required to achieve our goal. We are reminded to strengthen our roots and expand towards the sky.
Balance is a key element of surfing. Tree pose reminds us of a lesson learnt by anyone who has ever tried closing their eyes whilst standing on one leg. Balance is more about focus than it is about strength. This lesson will serve you well when surfing and in your life.
3.) Warrior Pose (Virabhadra’s Pose)
Yoga is pacifist spirituality, built on a foundation of ahimsa (non- harming). So it might seem strange that this meditation centers on the figure of a warrior. However, if we delve into its metaphoric core the Yogi is a warrior against his own ignorance. In the warrior pose we confront our own weaknesses and rise up out of our physical and mental limitations.
When we paddle towards the horizon, straight towards big waves, we are also reminded of of our limitations. The ocean teaches us of small we really are. Warrior pose can teach us bravery, to be fearless in the face of life’s big waves.
4.) Headstand (Salamba Sirsasana)
Headstand is about lifting into lightness.Don’t let the aesthetically pleasing Instagram photos fool you - a headstand is not easy. In yoga, a headstand offers a safe way to experiment with the unfamiliar - it quite literally turns your world upside down.
It is natural to experience fear when you first try to (carefully) learn this pose. Headstand is not a pose for beginners and it is something that you will have to build up to - perhaps first with a wall or some assistance. In a way, that is the beauty of the pose. It teaches us the determination to strive to be better. It illuminates the value of persistence. Once you fall, you have to try again. This is a lesson learnt by anyone who surfs - whether they be a beginner or an expert. Improvement takes persistence but it is worth it in the end.