Surfing does wonders for your upper body and back strength, but when it comes to mobility of the chest, all that internal rotation can wreak havoc on the shoulder girdle. If you’re a regular surfer then repeated movements with a hyperextended back create imbalances in the body. If left uncared for, this leads to muscular tension and later on limits your range of motion.
It’s very common for surfers to have limited mobility in the anterior deltoids and pectoralis muscles, or upper chest and shoulders. That’s where yoga can relieve tension by targeting specific muscles. Whether a total beginner or advanced yogi, you can benefit from just a few minutes of these moves before or after your surf. Your paddling will be all the better and you’ll avoid any neck spasms from the constant left-to-right head rotation you naturally come into during a session.
So if you hit it hard on your last week-long mission to Indo — as we all do — take a few minutes to do these three simple yoga moves.
Pose 1: Gomukhasana Bind (Cow Face Bind)
How To Do It: You can do this pose sitting, kneeling, or in a cross-legged position to give yourself an extra hip stretch.
Start by raising your right hand and placing it between your shoulders, or thereabouts, palm facing down (as if you wanted to pat yourself on the back). With your left arm, make sure you are internally rotating the left shoulder to place your left hand behind your back (think “palm of the hand facing out”).
You may not get the full grip of both hands from the get-go. If you have tight shoulders and a tight chest, simply grab a strap or towel (pictured) and practice inching your hands closer to one another. To get the full benefit of this stretch, make sure your shoulders are level and rolling back. There’s a tendency for your lifted arm to hike your shoulder up to your ears, so try and pull the shoulder blade down and onto your rib cage and gently squeeze both shoulder blades together. This will allow for a deeper stretch in the anterior deltoid of your left arm (your inner left shoulder). Stay for 10 or so long breaths, trying to maintain a straight spine, then switch sides.
Benefits: This pose works the rotator cuff muscles by strengthening the rhomboids and stretching the pectoralis muscles: those chest muscles we tend to be notoriously tight in from hunching over desks, keyboards and, you guessed it, the repeated motions of paddling.
Pose 2: The Double Whammy (Shoulder + Hip Stretch)
I like to call this a double whammy because it has the dual benefit of stretching your upper and lower body in all the right places. Start off by sitting on the ground, place your hands behind you, fingers facing forward towards your feet.
The more you shift your sitting bones towards your heels, the more of a stretch you will feel in the upper chest and shoulders. If it feels okay, cross your right ankle on top of your left knee (as pictured above) to feel the stretch in your right glute and hip. Make sure you’re flexing your right foot to protect your ankle joint. To intensify the stretch, simply push your chest up. Stay here for 10 breaths or so before switching to the other leg.
Benefits: There is an actual Sanskrit name for this pose, but all you need to know is that your shoulders and hips will be singing sweet songs of relief after this one. Consider it the combination of a reverse tabletop for your arms, and a seated eagle pose for your legs. In other words, this pose stretches your upper pec muscles, chest, and biceps while working on your glutes and hip flexors. It can get quite intense, so ease into it and make sure you’re breathing.
Pose 3: Triceps Pull + Neck Release
How to Do It: Place the back of your right hand behind the small of your lower back or higher up if it’s comfortable. You’ll want the palm of your hand facing out. With your left hand, gently start to pull your right tricep forward, keeping the resistance in your shoulders. You should get plenty of sensation already within the back of your triceps but if you want to deepen, simply straighten your spine and press your chest up. To get the neck stretch, simply drop your left ear to your left shoulder. Relax your jaw and hold for 10 long breaths. Switch sides.
Benefits: This pose is quite simple in nature but very effective to release tension in the sides of the neck all the way down to your triceps and shoulders. Make sure you’re pulling gently as the smaller muscles around the posterior deltoid (back of the shoulder) can be quite sensitive.