The benefits of yoga are widely known. Physically, yoga promotes strength, flexibility, range of motion and focused breathing – all relevant to
other forms of exercise.
Despite the positives, many gym-goers and athletes still aren’t making yoga a regular part of their workout regime. Here we focus specifically on surfing and look at why surfers should consider adopting regular yoga practice if they want to up their game.
"Not many surfers I know do yoga," says Ross Phillips, founder of global luxury surfing outfitter Tropicsurf, which has an outpost at COMO Uma Canggu in Bali. "But it would help them immensely if they did. I’ve never met a surfer without aches and pains."
Yoga as a form of exercise greatly improves your flexibility and stamina, promoting cardio health and supporting muscle tone. The practice is full of moves that engage the body: the lumbar, thoracic and cervical spines, torso, neck, knees, ankles, hips, pelvis, core and shoulders. Yoga trains those muscles to contract and relax in controlled ways, which helps with injury prevention. "If you're tight, muscles are more likely to pull or tear," Ross says. "It's far safer to be supple."
Yoga also helps with your mental wellbeing. Regular practice creates mental calm and clarity, relaxing the mind and relieving chronic patterns of stress. The art of taking time out to hold a specific pose as you stay still does wonders for your concentration and body awareness.
Professional surfers agree. Future surf Olympian Sally Fitzgibbons holds that just putting aside 15 minutes to sit still and be calm can make an enormous difference to performance: “I like to do this in the water, but it can be anywhere: you just need to register where you are, absorb the beauty of the environment around you, and recognise the beauty in yourself. After a few minutes, you get this sense of connection with the world, a feeling of contentment. With infinite ways to move your body, one of the hardest things you can do is sit still, and be calm in yourself.” Sally hosted an all-women surf and wellness retreat at COMO Uma Canggu last year, where guests learned to surf under her expert tuition. We have more COMO Journeys like this planned for 2022 and beyond.
For a surfer to get the most out of yoga, Ross recommends doing a full yoga practice after a surf session. "Athletes should not actually stretch too strongly as a warm up before any physical sporting activity as it can make muscles vulnerable," he says. Ross also suggests only doing very gentle pre-board yoga stretches such as Downward Facing Dog, Cobra, Pigeon or balance-improving poses, like Tree. "I do a very light warm-up then do my yoga – and some Pilates for core – on the beach when I come out of the waves."
The best part about yoga is that it's never too late to start. Stretching can have a positive impact at any age, whether it’s to improve paddling, doing a radical ‘off the top’, or crouching for the tube. Ross tells a story about one student, a lady in her 50s, who was a total beginner. She had been very career focused instead of looking after her health. She had immense difficulty popping up to her feet, even after a few surf lessons. He saw her a year later and she was surfing really well – an improvement she attributed to yoga.
Fundamentally, the benefits of yoga can help not just with surfing but with any form of sport, be it running, basketball, football or tennis. Yoga is a holistic practice that supports both body and mind. By including regular sessions as part of your exercise goals, you’ll not only be benefiting your performance in the short term, but helping to sustain your physical fitness for years to come.
Images courtesy of Sally Fitzgibbons