16 Apr Waves of Flow by Troy Abraham
13 years ago, I wandered into a yoga class to get more flexible for surfing. After my first class, I left feeling high, and went from not being able to surf to landing frontside reverse airs. It was magic, everyone who surfs should do yoga…
Well, actually, that’s embellished, at least part of it… What actually happened was a friend recommended I try yoga because it is “so sick for surfing and snowboarding.” I had grown up on the beach, and spent a lot of time in the snow, and what initially drew me into class was the prospect that all the times I might fall snowboarding and scorpion kick myself in the head might hurt a bit less if I was flexible-er. I was a decent surfer and thought yoga could help me improve my ability to do more “surfing” rather than just “trying to get better at surfing”.
And I did leave my first class feeling high. That’s the only way I could explain it. I would say it was something like how I felt after a great wave. So I craved more of it and was immediately hooked. Eventually I found a DVD series entitled Yoga for Surfers and that seemed like an obvious choice. Turned out, I got a lot from the DVDs and used them pretty regularly: a little pre-surf routine, a little stretching on the board and a bit of decompression after a surf. Felt pretty damn good too!
Let me get to the point: When I first stepped into the yoga room, I thought it would be a cool thing to try to benefit my surf life. What it became, was something of a positive virus, that infected my every sense of being. Truth is, I didn’t land any frontside air reverses, but that didn’t matter. As I came to find the practice of yoga more and more in my life, I noticed that I was actually enjoying myself more, and feeling more immersed in the moment. High. I’ve often said that yoga is one of the best highs you can legally deal, and it’s fairly easy to come by. That said, here’s the roundup of 5 great reasons you need to add yoga to your surf lifestyle, or reconnect with it if you’ve been away…
5 reasons you need yoga in your surfing
- Let’s not beat around the bush, there are physical benefits: strength and flexibility are nice things. Being flexible in the water might mean you are able to tuck into that tiny tube, or maybe just let your stance benefit from a bit more bend in the knees and more style. Perhaps a little drop wallet is in your repertoire? Whether on purpose or not, you need a bit of core strength to recoil from a layback of any sort. And yoga delivers flexibility and core strength. And for that matter, functional body strength. Depending on the intention, the physical practice of asana can be tailored to give more of a stretch, more strength or both.
- Breath. Whether you’re aware of it or not, you are breathing. Always. Automatically. When surfing, we are often breathing more heavily. In yoga, practicing pranayama is training ourselves to be more aware of our breathing, and to learn to regulate it. Why should it matter to spend energy regulating the breath if it happens on its own anyway? The quick answer: prana or life-force as it is often known in yoga can be broken into pra-anu – or first unit. Essentially, it is the most fundamental nutrition we ever take in, and we will always be taking in. So while many of us put a tremendous amount of time and energy on how we eat, we hardly pay any attention to how we breathe. If we give more attention to how we breathe consciously, we can radically affect our unconscious breathing, which in turn allows us to be more calm, relaxed and able to respond. Remember the constantly changing waves?…
- More waves, anyone? I have yet to meet a surfer who would prefer to not have more waves, so I’ll assume you are interested. Practicing yoga gives a complete mind-body-spirit holistic integration. Since there is no separating any of these pieces, it would make sense that a “workout” that touches the whole would allow the whole to go on longer. When the physical benefits come into play, the body is more supple and more enduring. With the mind practice, and with much of the studies of neuroplasticity and the benefits of meditation, we can stay calmer, longer, using less energy to burn through our repetitive thoughts. This, in turn gives us more focus, more concentration and more of the high we seek in life; Presence.
- Who doesn’t love presence at Christmas Time? More presence is the key to a more fulfilled life. We often speak of Flowstates, where we have experiences that transcend time. A dedicated practice can keep us more prepared to step into Flow more often, and a 20-year psychological experiment conducted by the master of flow, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, concluded that those with the most flow in their life, are the happiest people. He also stated that yoga is one of the easiest access points into flow, so having a dedicated practice can produce more flow intrinsically, as well as preparing us for it more often.
- Better choices. Ever had a gut feeling? Unsure of whether to trust it or not? A committed practice can get us more in tune with our enteric nervous system, which is now being studied as our “second brain” and allow us to hone in on its communication with the brain. Now, gut instincts aside, have you ever tried to refine your diet/lifestyle/habits? The more rooted in a practice you become, you may find that you don’t need to change anything, but rather, your natural instincts begin to change toward more healthy choices automatically. When you naturally start putting better fuel into your body and mind, you become more connected in general, and as we complete the circle, this lends toward more connected surfing.
- Bonus Reason! Adding a little flow to your pre-surf game gives you time to survey the sea. If you move for only 5-10 minutes right as you get to the beach, you’ll be able to see where the banks are, what the wind is doing, where to sit etc. And when “that set” comes in as you’re stretching away, you develop a deeper sense of patience, not needing to just rush out to get wet, but actually savouring the scenery, and realizing that there are more out there for you! This pre-surf routine may even start to edge into a gentle meditation…
Now, as convincing, or not, these reasons may be for you to get into, back into, or just plain consider the practice, they are just words on a page. Go out there and have a crack at it and see for yourself what yoga can do for your surfing. Maybe even be so bold as to see what it can do for your life?
Article by Troy Abraham