Post-surf yoga: riding the waves part II

The restorative ability of yoga makes it a nifty companion to counter active bodies, in my humble unbiased opinion. Surfing is tough on the body. My shoulder aches from exasperated paddling linger for days and the hips don't tend to lie either. Yoga releases tension from tired muscles and de-regulates a pumped nervous system. Following on from my pre-surf ramble, this blog continues to delve into the connection between yoga and surfing with a post-surf yoga flow.

Post-surf yoga: what works and why?

Slower, more meditative yoga, utilising long held stretches and known as yin yoga is in my opinion the best form of yoga to follow a surfing session, as opposed to the dynamic style suited to warming up the body (I know, so many types of yoga - here’s a breakdown of popular styles). In yin yoga, asanas (poses) are held for 3-5 minutes and focus is on releasing the web of connective tissue surrounding our muscles and bones, gently hydrating fascia, tendons and ligaments.

It’s perfect post-surfing downtime for the following reasons:

RESTORATION – Tightly wound ligaments and connective tissues are slowly stretched and compressed through yin yoga creating stronger, freely moving joints and limiting body aches.

CALM – Yin yoga relaxes the muscles and slows the heart rate, easing the chaos of the mind and offering moments of stillness and peace. There is no particular goal, no forced stress on the muscles, beyond an encouragement to breathe and let go of tension. A calm mind can master the gnarliest of waves.

MOBILITY – Deep stretches are more effective for flexibility than the shorter stretches found in more active forms of yoga, as they work beyond the muscles into connective tissue, where a lot of movement restriction resides. Improving your range of motion will assist the pops, twists and turns required of the body while navigating swells.

A soothing post-surf yoga sequence (20 mins)

A simple sequence that draws in yin to balance the yang energy that surfing demands. Hold for the recommended time or less and if you experience any pain/tingling/numbness back away. Grab a blanket for extra TLC.

1. Melting heart pose – A chest opening pose that gently relieves tightness through the front of the chest, armpits, shoulders and back. Take your time to feel into it, avoiding the urge to go deep straight away and letting your body slowly 'melt'.

From tabletop, walk your hands forwards and outwards until your arms are outstretched, keeping hips stacked over knees. Gently lower your chest or your chin (deeper) towards or to the ground or to a folded blanket. Hold for 3 minutes, relaxing your muscles as much as possible, melting as per the name suggests into the ground.

2. Shoulder stretch I – In a surf session, you’re likely spend the majority of your time paddling, placing significant demand on the rotator cuff muscles of the shoulder. This shoulder stretch works to release deep areas of tension in the shoulder. There’s a sweet spot to be found, so play around (carefully) with the position of the arm until you find it.

Roll onto your belly with your left arm out to the side (bent or straight) place your right palm down in line with your shoulder, keeping the elbow bent. Using your right hand gently roll onto the left side of the body, inviting a deep stretch into the left shoulder joint. To support the body, bend your right knee, open the hip and place the right foot down behind your body. Deepen by changing the position of the left arm – for more of an outer shoulder stretch keep the arm in line with the shoulder or lower, for inner shoulder stretch draw the arm higher. Hold for 3 minutes on each side.

3. Shoulder stretch II – A deep outer shoulder and tricep stretch that works through tension in the back of the chest and shoulders that can build up through keeping your chest up and paddling.

Lie on your front and thread your right arm under the left, each drawing out to the opposite side with palms up. Rest the forehead on the floor, arms or a blanket. Hold for 3-5 minutes on each side, breathing into the space between your shoulder blades.

4. Pigeon pose – A fan favourite in yoga, particularly among sports enthusiasts with tight hip flexors. Release compression through the pelvis and lower back and improve range of motion in the hips for the turners and carvers among us.

From tabletop, draw the right knee behind the right wrist, allowing the knee to draw out to the side, wider than the hip. Drop the back knee and gently move it further away from the body, keeping the back leg straight and untucking the toes (a blanket under the knee can help here). Gently draw the bodyweight over towards the right glute and heel toe your right foot off to the left side keeping the foot flexed (only if it is pain-free to do so). A blanket or block under the right glute provides support here, as the aim is to keep the pelvis level. Stay with your hands on the floor or walk the hands forward to come onto forearms or forehead. Stay for 3-5 minutes on each side.

Surfing is a high energy sport that requires periods of preparation, rejuvenation and healing. Yoga complements surfing by offering a dynamic way to get the body ready and a restorative way to unwind it: building and energetic balance, slowing the body and tuning the mind. The result: inner and outer balance.

What next?

If you liked the above sequence, you'll love in-person classes. I teach both energetic and restorative weekly classes take place at the Yoga Loft in Whitley Bay, Newcastle along with private sessions around the North East. Book your spot on the mat here or get in touch.

- Claire

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