Balance, alignment, grace under pressure, strength, power - these words can be used to describe yogis and surfers alike. There are many similarities between the two activities, and in recent years, the incorporation of yoga practice into surfing has become more popular, even leading to some events such as the Soul and Surf retreat in India. Many people call both yoga and surfing a ‘moving meditation,' since they include mental and physical aspects. It seems only natural that a pairing of these two could lead to improvement in both practices.
"To be physically ready, I do a lot of yoga" - Garrett McNamara
McNamara is a surfing legend, constantly pushing the boundaries of the sport. As a big wave surfer, he broke the world record for largest wave surfed in November 2011 when he conquered a monster of a wave in Nazaré, Portugal. As an extremist, he challenged possibility by attempting to ride tidal waves created by glaciers in Alaska. He is an avid yogi who credits his yoga practice with improving his surfing performance, even participating in some yoga videos designed specifically for surfers. If you are a surfer who has never done yoga, or a yogi who has wanted to try surfing, here are some aspects of both that are inextricably linked and may help you transition between the two.
Balance is probably the most obvious similarity between yoga and surfing. Having a clear center of gravity will allow you to balance whether you are trying to hold a difficult pose, or keep your weight centered on a surf board. Yoga also teaches us how to be aware of our body's alignment. Simple adjustments learned in yoga can transfer to surfing by improving your posture on the board and recognize when your body may not be perfectly aligned. The bodily awareness that is developed in yoga will allow you to make slight alterations to your surfing form and create a smoothness in your movement, whether it is from pose to pose, or from paddling to standing.
Though surfing a monster wave can be one of the most exhilarating experiences imaginable, many people also describe the calming, meditative aspect of being alone with your thoughts and your board, reading the patterns of the ocean, and waiting for your next ride. Yoga and surfing both require exceptional concentration, especially when falling from your board could mean a serious injury. Yoga can be of assistance to surfers by providing mental clarity and meditative practice. Beyond that, yoga can also help to boost your self worth and confidence, so that you can have the courage to take the risks you need to move your surfing forward.
Perhaps the most important thing that yogis and surfers have in common is their ability to live in the moment. The whole world melts away, whether you are in the middle of the rhythm of your sun salutations, or in the middle of a barrel wave in the Pacific. Allowing yourself to appreciate the beauty of a fleeting moment is one of the greatest feelings in the world. If you are a yogi, would you be brave enough to bring your poses to the ocean?