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.
As a concept for life, yoga consists of eight limbs:
Yamas are the principles of ethical behavior we should follow in our everyday life. It applies to both our relationships with others and the relationship we build with ourselves.
Niyamas are internal practices that help us to grow and build the self-discipline necessary to progress along the path of yoga.
Asanas refer to the physical practice and the postures that make up yoga. This is the part our western world can most easily understand as “yoga.”
This is the control of breath, which is our life force.
Pratyahara refers to the sense of withdrawal, and in our modern world of information overload, is essential.
Dharana is concentration. It is an essential piece of practicing the next limb of yoga.
Dhyana is meditation, the active process of calming the mind.
Samadhi is pure bliss. It is the enlightenment you work toward through your practice of yoga.
So how do these eight limbs of yoga work with, or even have any relevance to your surfing? Here’s one term that you can integrate into your surfing en route to finding that answer:
Ahimsa literally means “do not hurt people.” We can take its meaning deeper by not being violent in our feelings, thoughts, words or actions against others and ourselves. Simply put, it’s all about having compassion. And yes, Ahimsa is also the reason why lots of Yogis are vegetarians.
So how do we live Ahimsa as a surfer?
It’s no secret that as our lineups become more crowded we also become more aggressive. People shout at each other, bicker, and interfere with the ability of other surfers to enjoy the moment instead of just embracing their time in the ocean together.
We all have our issues and are fighting with own fears, so a lot of egos are colliding in the water. Try to be kind to the people around you. Talk to strangers, salute and welcome everybody without regard to surfing ability. Appreciate the time you have to share waves with absolute strangers. The ocean should be a place of peace.
In the literal sense of ahimsa, nonviolence – not just tempered aggression and feelings – is essential.
You should always care for the health of others. Never put others at risk of physical harm because of your insistence on surfing a wave, even if that other surfer is making a mistake. For beginners, this means giving focus and attention to always maintaining control of your board. Make sure you can handle it from the moment you enter the water until you slip back out of your wetsuit. If not, you are risking the health and the life of others. That includes being mindful of paddling out in conditions that may put others at risk, not just you.
Everything we say or do has a ripple effect. To make an outside change, we need to start deep inside ourselves. Acknowledging our own weaknesses and rough edges can develop more empathetic behavior toward others.