While every surfer doesn’t practice yoga, it’s a general belief that the two can be a good combination. Both require a good degree of strength, flexibility, balance, and a long list of physical and mental characteristics that are trained through regular practice. Perhaps the strongest similarity between the two is that they are each more of a lifestyle than a simple activity.
So how do the philosophies, or yamas, of yoga work with, or even have any relevance to your surfing? I once introduced the eight limbs of yoga along with the first of yoga’s five yamas. Here’s are a few others you can integrate into your surfing en route to finding that answer:
Satya actually means “truth.” Practicing satya means being truthful in our feelings, thoughts, words, and deeds.
How to live Satya as a surfer:
The most obvious example is one we’re all familiar with: The beginning surfer who is in a rush to get on that shortboard, even though they’re not quite ready.
Years ago I made the switch to a shortboard too early, and I now know I would have been better off by allowing myself to progress on larger boards. Although these surfers know it deep, they lie to themselves and assumed they are ready to ride a more challenging board. It looks cooler. So instead of moving slow and steady, they end up frustrated by the prolonged learning curve they’ve chosen.
In surfing, we should always be honest with ourselves. Am I really ready for this board? For this advanced wave? And so on. Not only are you impeding your own progress without being truthful, you’re affecting the experience of others surfing around you.
Asteya is a Sanskrit word that means “non-stealing.” Simple. Don’t take what does not belong to you, whether it’s material property or intellectual property.
Asteya comes as a result of lacking the belief that you need material things and external elements to be really happy. This leads to greed, which throws your mind into total disturbance.
How to live Asteya as a surfer:
People are often greedy in the lineup, stealing waves from others. It’s the number one reason a relaxed atmosphere in the water can easily change into a place full of aggression and anger.
As I’ve proposed before, embrace sharing waves with people you’ve never met. I know its hard to wait for the next wave on a great day, but try it. It can potentially make the whole session more fun by creating positive vibes for and with others.
We practice brahmacharya when we consciously use our energy to express our true nature. We direct it away from external desires and instead, towards finding peace and happiness within ourselves.
How to live Brahmacharya as a surfer:
Surfing can and should be seen as a mediation, ridding ourselves of the bad energy outside of ourselves while getting closer to our inner selves. In the process we recognize there are many stressful things in life that may not be as important as we allow them to be.
At the same time, it’s no secret that surfing is becoming more commercialized. Brands and labels ride the wave of surfing as a lifestyle, but somebody is not necessarily cooler, a better surfer, or even enjoying surfing more simply because they have the latest gear.
We can get to the core of surfing by enjoying the time we spend out in the ocean and riding waves to empty our minds. We can give more attention to being in contact with nature, rather than putting the frustrations of our daily lives onto other surfers we share the ocean with.
Aparigraha means not requesting what isn’t ours. It is being free of desire and having no attachments. It’s different from asteya, which asks us to avoid stealing that is motivated by greed. Aparigraha refers to the greed that is mainly rooted in jealousy.
In its essence, it helps us to discover our true selves so we no longer feel the need to wish for what someone else has, or to be what someone else is.
How to live Aparigraha as a surfer:
Focus on yourself. Don´t compare yourself with others, even if you believe another person is better at surfing than you. “Stay on your on mat,” as we say in yoga. When you compare, you start to wish you were surfing the waves the way others do and this steals your joy. Keep your gaze inwards. Work on your own surfing and be happy about the little improvements you make wave after wave.
Aparigraha is also about not being attached to material things. In surfing most of us already lead a simple life with very few things, but you can always go further. Ask yourself, “do I really need this fifth pair of sunglasses? A 30th shirt, a 10th wetsuit, another board, and yet another board?”
All in all, these follow kindness, truthfulness, abundance, and self-reliance—living a life following these yamas are the foundation of the inner quest that makes us whole.