All surfers know that surfing is one of the most healing forms of expression and exercise there is on this earth. Salt water contains healing properties that are beneficial to the mind, body, and spirit. As much as surfing can be cleansing to the soul, it also can put stress on our muscles and joints. Releasing the tension built up from surfing is an important part of the surfing process. Paddling, duck diving, dropping in, maneuvering, wiping out, and even sitting waiting for waves all contribute to stress on the body, despite how much fun we have while we surf. In my experience, yoga allows for a quick recovery as it relates to the specific needs of a surfer. Through yoga, I have learned to actively focus on letting tension go, mitigating the likelihood of adverse effects moving forward.
One of the effects from longer surf sessions is the shortening of overused muscles and compression in the joints. To counteract this compression, engage your body in an inversion, specifically in a wide down dog, which helps to bring blood flow into the heart, as well as a long stretch through the muscles along the spine, neck, sides of the shoulder and through the back of the legs.
1. Start by standing and taking in a sizeable inhale as you lift the hands on your sides, reaching up high until you are looking into the sky.
2. On your exhale, fold forward with relaxed, bent knees to soften the tension or resistance through the back of the legs and spine.
3. With your hands on the ground, and shoulders broad, move to place the legs as wide as it is comfortable for you, so as to feel a stretch through the groin, not a strain.
4. Reach the hands a few inches forward to lengthen the spine while engaging your inner thighs.
5. Press the outsides of your feet into the ground in order to stabilize your body and ground your feet into the earth.
6. Take a few breaths here, bringing oxygen deep into the lungs, expanding the diaphragm and rib cage. Each time you exhale, completely let go of the tension in your neck.
7. With the hands and legs still on the ground and spread apart, shift your weight to one side, into a side lunge by bending one knee and placing both hands in front of the leg that is straight and extended. The opposite leg, which is bent, should only be bent as far as it feels good for you.
8. Take a few breaths here, again completely releasing the head and neck.
9. Now switch sides, shifting your weight to the other side by extending the leg that was bent, and bending the leg that was just extended. Do this while shifting your outstretched arms to the other side.
10. Make sure to keep slight engagement in the inner thigh of the extended leg to support the knee and surrounding attachments.
11. Take a few breaths here, again completely releasing the head and neck.
12. With your feet still outstretched apart, shift your weight of your torso back to center, grab ahold of the outsides of the feet with your fingers tucked under the soles.
13. Reach your head to the ground and slightly engage the inner thighs.
14. Breathe deeply, completely letting go of any unnecessary tension or trauma in the body and mind.
15. Slowly inch your feet back to shoulder width apart, bend the knees and with a flat back, inhale and rise up to a standing position.
The purpose of these poses is to open length through the spine, leg, and lateral muscles, all of which aid with paddling and surfing. The goal here is to only release as far as your body allows. Keep in mind that some people have a tendency to injure themselves in yoga or stretching by doing more than what is necessary. Keep a gentle and steady flow with your breath and engaged muscles and look to prolong your surfing lifestyle.
More tips on post surfing health to come! Visit my website at www.surfintoyoga.com and follow me @rochelleballard on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.