Regular surfing can take a toll on the body. Even worse, if you don’t have an adequate physique to support the strain that the sport takes on your body, you could be in for a world of hurt. Lordosis, for example, is a back issue that can quickly start to cause problems with many activities, especially surfing. But it doesn’t take extreme bodybuilding to build some basic support to help with the functional demands of something like surfing. All you really need to do is take steps to build muscles that support the weight of your body and protect from injury.
Strengthening the muscles that support your spine is an important part of that process, and yoga, in particular, is a great way to focus on strengthening abdominal and lower back muscles. Go through a regular routine of these poses and you should be well on your way to giving your body the support it needs.
Keep in mind that there will often be a decent amount of overlap between muscle groups with yoga poses, as a lot of yoga techniques target multiple muscle groups.
1. Downward Facing Dog
Downward facing dog is one of the most recognizable yoga poses and is a great exercise to target the lower back.
-Start on your hands and knees with your wrists under your shoulders and your knees under your hips.
-Stretch out your arms and relax your lower back.
-Exhale, tuck your toes and lift your knees off of the floor. Reach your pelvis towards the ceiling and gently begin to straighten your legs. Your goal is to bring your body into the shape of an “A”.
-Hold for a count of anywhere between 5 and 10 breaths, and then gently return to the starting position.
2. Bridge Pose
Bridge pose, as the name suggests, calls for you to make a “bridge” motion with your torso and legs.
-Lie on your back with your knees bent.
-Exhale, and lift your back up, making sure to keep your shoulders pressed firmly into the ground.
-Hold the pose as long as you can, for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Then gently return to lying flat on the floor and take a few minutes to rest.
3. Chair Pose
The Chair Pose is a lot like a squat from traditional strength training. The squat is an amazing exercise that works out a wide variety of muscle groups – the majority of which support your back.
-From a standing position, inhale and lift your arms so they’re perpendicular to the floor.
-Exhale and bend your knees, trying to get your thighs as close to parallel to the floor as possible. Don’t over-exert yourself – you can work on this pose and you’ll improve as your muscles grow.
-Stay in the pose for as long as you can, preferably 30 seconds to a minute. Unlike a squat where you repeat it for multiple reps, chair pose emphasizes holding the pose to build endurance in your muscles.
4. Cat Pose
This pose is generally a little gentler and more accessible to complete fitness beginners. Most all of the poses here shouldn’t be too strenuous, but this one doesn’t take much work at all and has a lot of good benefits.
-Start on your hands and knees. Aim to make a “tabletop” with your back, starting with your back as flat as possible.
-Exhale, and as you breathe out, try to arch your back towards the ceiling like a cat stretching.
-Inhale as you come back to a neutral tabletop position.
-This pose is often paired with Cow Pose for a continuous loop of exercises to build flexibility and strength in the lower back.
5. Cow Pose
As mentioned, this pose is often paired with Cat Pose for a continual and fluid movement.
-Just as with the Cat Pose, start in a tabletop position, kneeling on the floor with your back as straight as possible.
-Inhale, lifting your hips towards the ceiling and letting your belly to sag down towards the floor.
-Exhale, coming back to the neutral position.
-You can see how these two exercises would pair together as a fluid motion to assist your back, with cow pose on the inhale and then moving to cat pose on the exhale. Give it a try, and do two exercises at once!
Now that we’ve talked about some good yoga poses to strengthen your lower back, let’s list some poses that will work on strengthening your abdominal muscles. These exercises combined with the lower back section will serve to strengthen your body’s support system and avoid injury or strain.
1. Boat Pose
Holding this pose will put your abs through a serious workout, leading to some great improvements in muscle strength and endurance.
-Sit with your legs sticking straight out in front of you. Lean back slightly, using your hands to support our body and balancing on your tailbone.
-Exhale, bend your knees, and then lift your legs off the floor.
-Make a “V” shape with your body by extending your legs straight.
-If you’re able to, extend your arms towards your toes so the only contact with the ground is your tailbone. This is a challenging position to hold, so feel free to work up to it.
-Hold the pose for 10-20 seconds, gradually increasing the time up to 1 minute as your physical fitness improves.
2. Dolphin Plank Pose
Just like chair pose, the dolphin plank pose is a slightly modified yoga version of the plank. Planks are a challenging exercise, but they’re great for targeting your core (the muscles that support your body, abdominals included).
-Start in a kneeling position with your arms bent on the ground. You should be resting on your forearm with your arm making an “L” shape.
-Slowly walk your legs backward until you’re almost in a push-up pose.
-Hold the plank for as long as you can. Your abdominals are forced to support your body, so working the duration up over time will result in continual muscle growth and endurance.
3. Extended Puppy Pose
This is a modification of Downward Facing Dog, with the changes helping it better target your abdominal muscles.
-Kneel on all fours with your wrists under your shoulders and your knees under your hips.
-Exhale, and move your buttocks halfway back towards your feet. Make sure your elbows don’t touch the ground during this process.
-Drop your forehead to the ground and let your neck relax. This should create a nice bend between your hips and your neck, stretching your back and engaging your abdominal muscles.
4. Extended Angle Pose
Holding this pose engages your core and works towards strengthening your abs. It requires a little bit of flexibility and balance, but it should be accessible to most people regardless of fitness level.
-From a standing position, exhale and move your feed 3.5 to 4 feet apart. Reach your arms out to the side with your shoulders open and palms down.
-Turn your left foot in just slightly towards the right foot, and angle your right foot 90 degrees.
-Exhale, and bend your right knee over the right ankle, keeping your shin perpendicular to the floor.
-Extend your left arm up towards the ceiling and then bend to the right to try to touch your toes. Ideally, your palm should connect with the floor just outside of your right foot. If you aren’t quite flexible enough to manage this pose, just do as much as you can
-Hold for 30 seconds to one minute and then return slowly up to a standing pose.
5. Marichi’s Pose
This last pose is a great stretch for your core muscles, increasing your flexibility and decreasing the risk of injury. It’s especially accessible to beginners as it doesn’t require a lot of strength, it’s just an exercise that builds some muscle and increases your flexibility all through your abdominals and up your spine.
-Start sitting with your legs extended forward in front of you. Lean back slightly and use your hands to support your weight.
-Bend your right knee and rotate your torso to the right, wrapping your arms around your thigh as you twist.
-Stretch as far as possible without hurting yourself, keeping your left leg straight with your foot pointed up and turning your head to the right to bring the stretch all the way up the spine and into your neck.
I hope you’ve found this informational and educational. A lot of us lead very sedentary lifestyles, but a few small changes here and there can add up to a big improvement in your overall health. Yoga isn’t a very stressful activity, and while more advanced poses can take a lot of athleticism, all the poses listed here should be pretty accessible to a beginner. Start taking care of your body now by building that strength when you’re young, and you’ll be thanking yourself as you start to get older.