Let’s face it, we all have room for improvement. In coordinating with my husband and avid surfer, Federico Vanno, I have developed an exercise consisting of 10 yoga poses that are designed to improve several aspects of your surfing.
1. Adho Mukha Svanasana – “Downward Facing Dog”
This is one of the most familiar poses in yoga. For this pose, you will need to stand on all fours. Make sure you have your knees directly below your hips and your hands slightly forward in front of your shoulders while pressing your palms in to the floor. While exhaling, lift your hips up while keeping your knees bent a bit. Slowly start lifting your hips up and back towards the sky and continue pressing your palms into the ground. This pose is usually used as a transition between different poses. So during your warm up, and just before jumping in to the water, try to do all the poses that are listed below with the Adho Mukha Svanasana in between. This pose will stretch out your spine while building a lot of strength in your shoulders.
2. Urdhva Mukha Svanasana – “Upward Facing Dog”
To start this pose, lie prone on your mat or on the sand and stretch your legs back with the top of the feet on the floor. Bend your elbows and bring your hands close to your rib cage and spread your fingers apart. While inhaling, use your hands to lift your upper body. Make sure that your hands are right under your shoulders and keep your neck in line with your spine. Your legs and your thighs shouldn’t be touching the floor. Press the tailbone towards the pubis and lift the pubis towards the navel. See if you can hold it for about 10-15 seconds while inhaling and exhaling easily. Note: From your upward facing dog you can roll on to your toes and find your self in downward facing dog. This pose will stretch out your spine, help your breathing technique, and aid in the flow through movements.
3. Chataranga Dandasana – “Four Limbed Staff Pose”
You can transition into this pose from downward dog by shifting forward into plank pose. From plank you will keep your hands on the floor and elbows in while bending them at a 90-degree angle. This is a really hard pose and you will need to make sure that your elbows don’t splay outward. Hold them in by the side of your torso and push them back towards your heels and look slightly in front of your fingertips to keep your neck in line with your spine. When done properly, this pose will set your triceps and shoulders on fire!
4. Utkatasana – “Chair Pose”
Stand tall and inhale while raising your arms towards the sky. Then, while exhaling, bend your knees and try to make your thighs parallel to the floor. Feel the weight of your body and try to lift your toes up. You need to keep your arms up and in line with your ears. Take your tailbone down toward the floor and keep your lower back long. Try to stay in this pose for 10-15 seconds while lightly inhaling and exhaling. This pose warms up your legs, which helps on your takeoffs and longer waves.
5. Vrikshasana – “Tree Pose”
It’s a simple pose, but it’s perfect for improving your balance. Surfers need deep focus and discipline, combined with strength of the body and mind, while surfing. If your foot cannot reach to your groin area, go a bit lower. Hold this pose for about 10-15 seconds while lightly inhaling and exhaling. Repeat and flip this pose by switching feet.
6. Malasana – “Garland Pose”
Separate your feet wide enough so that you can squat comfortably. You should have heels touching the ground. If your heels are far from the floor you can roll the mat or towel under them so that you have support. Have your hands in “pray” pose and bring your elbows on the inside of your knees while pressing your elbows against your inner knees. This pose will open up your hip flexor and strengthen your lower back muscles. This pose is perfect to prevent hip cramping when sitting on board for an extended period of time.
7. Navasana – “Boat Pose”
This pose is perfect in strengthening your core and stretching your lower back. It also requires a lot of concentration to keep your balance. Sit on the floor with legs straight in front of you. Place your hands behind your hips and lift through the top of your sternum and lean back slightly. As you do this, make sure your spine is angled – not round. Do this by lifting your chest up as much as you can. Then, lift your legs up and try to balance on your seat bones. You should have a 90-degree angle between the legs and torso while reaching your arms forward. You can have your legs straight or bent, depending on your ability. Try to listen to your body and do what is best for you. Repeat this pose 2 or 3 times and hold it for 10-15 seconds while lightly inhaling and exhaling.
8. Virabhadrasana II – “Warrior II”
This is a great pose in improving your balance, opening up your chest and waking up your hips and groin area. From a standing position in front of the mat, put on foot in front (pointed) and one foot behind feet behind (sideways) about 5 feet apart. Bend your legs deep in to the front knee and try to keep your knee in line with your big toes. Raise your arms up at shoulder level and relax your neck. You need to engage in your lower belly by dropping your pelvis while making sure your lower back is straight as possible. Repeat both sides and hold it for 10-15 seconds while lightly inhaling and exhaling. Make sure your quadriceps are parallel to the ground.
9. Salabhasana – “Locust Pose”
This is the perfect pose for surfers who want to improve their paddling ability. While exhaling, lift your head, upper torso, arms and legs away from the floor. You should be resting just on your belly, lower ribs and front pelvis. Reach strongly through your legs and keep your toes touching. Don’t let your legs spread apart. Repeat this pose 3 times and hold it for about 5-10 seconds while lightly inhaling and exhaling.
10. Paschimottanasana – “Seated Forward Bend”
This pose is great for relaxing just before jumping in the water. While sitting, simply keep your legs straight in front of you while toes are pointing up towards the sky. While pressing in to your heels, inhale and lift your arms up. Then, while exhaling, fold your body from the hips and try to reach your toes or shins. Use a belt or towel to pull in your toes towards your body if you can’t reach. If you feel pain in your hamstring, try bending your knees a bit. Make sure that your spine is angled – not round.