Were you paying attention? If you’re a surfer-yogini crossbreed like me, you probably noticed. International Surfing Day (ISD), the unofficial day on the summer solstice celebrating surfing and ocean conservation has serendipitously been joined by another special world day. The United Nations officially announced June 21st as “International Day of Yoga.”
Normally ISD falls on the solstice, however this year Surfrider Foundation announced it would fall on June 20th. No matter what, we still think that it’s pretty amazing they are sitting right next to each other in the lineup.
Is India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who promoted yoga to the UN as a way to increase wellness and tackle climate change, secretly a surfer too? Does he know how interconnected the ancient practice is to the ancient art of riding waves?
In his maiden speech at the 64th General Assembly, Modi said, “By changing our lifestyle and creating consciousness, it can help us deal with climate change.” Some might think this is a stretch connecting yoga to environmental stewardship, but if you’ve gone deep into a consistent yoga practice for any length of time, you probably agree. At some point, yogis realize our strongest connection to life is through our breath. And our breath is connected to the air. And the air is connecting everything.
Why is it that some of us feel the urge to preserve the planet while others don’t give a damn? Is it time spent in nature? As a surfer, every time I ride a wave I feel more respect for the ocean and want to protect it. There are copious amounts of surf-inspired conservation groups to prove that surfers are invested in protecting the health of the ocean (Surfrider Foundation, Sustainable Surf, Save the Waves, Surfing for Change, Surfers Against Sewage and Surfers for Cetaceans to name just a few).
Yogis cultivate this feeling of non-violence towards nature through their practice, developing an inner awareness of our sacred connection to everything in existence. There is actually a name for it: Ahimsa.
Ahimsa is based on the idea that all living beings have the spark of divine spiritual energy, so if you hurt another being–including animals–you are, in fact, hurting yourself. Yogis practice Ahimsa whether they are aware of it or not. From beginners to the most advanced yogi, the roots of yoga burrow deep into infinite spiritual realms that no one will ever be able to fully grasp with our capricious minds.
Yoga uncovers what is already there within us, exposing us to our light, transforming our symbiotic connection to nature into a real experience, which is accessible to every human being. Through practicing sustained effort in the asanas, our temperamental tendencies turn toward right action.
Surfers are getting more involved with beach cleanups and seeking out alternative, eco-friendly surf gear. When you spend intimate time with the ocean, paying close attention to her every movement, anticipating her next gesture and feeling her moods, you can’t help but fall deeply in love. Wave riding becomes a surfer’s practice of ahimsa as they develop this love and respect for the ocean.
At its core, yoga was developed to help us get into a state where we can surrender our thoughts, bringing stillness to the mind. Yoga is referred to as a moving meditation. Surf & Abide Founder Shawn Zappo speaks of surfing as a moving meditation as well. “When our wave comes to us,” he says, “that is when we enter into a state of active meditation, or present moment awareness. We turn and begin to paddle, the energy of the wave starts to run up our center, traveling up our spine, reaching our head, and extending throughout our entire body. We pop up to our feet; it’s as if the mind shuts down, and the subconscious takes over. To surf well, we must put thinking aside, immersing ourselves fully in the present moment.”
Whether you are looking for it or not, surfing almost forces you into a state of meditation. Only a surfer like Zappo would know that your best rides happen when your overactive monkey mind shuts down, allowing you to just be with the wave.