Try using a surfboard as the ultimate yoga prop during your pre-surf warm up!
Words by Jemima Knight / Instagram surf_yoga_avocados
Straps, blocks, balls and blankets… sometimes we get so reliant on our props that it just doesn’t feel like yoga when we practice without them. And yes, these can all be amazing tools to deepen stretches or prevent injuries, but there are also great benefits of practicing without. It helps us become more aware of our body’s limitations – just how far we can naturally go in a pose and which muscles we need to engage to prevent injury all on our own.
However, you don’t want to bring a pile of props down to the beach for a pre-surf yoga warm up, so why not rely on the ultimate surfing-yogi’s tool – your board. Here are some poses that can really benefit from using your surfboard.
1. Downward Facing Surf-Dog
If you struggle in Down Dog due to tight hamstrings, then you might be missing out on the amazing benefits that come from really stretching out in your back in this pose. Place your surfboard tail-down in front of you, holding firmly onto the rails. Walk your feet back until your arms are fully extended, bend at the waist and continue stepping back until your straight back is in line with your arms and your hips are stacked above your feet. Inhale as you lengthen your spine, and exhale as you sink down into your shoulder joints. Hold for 5 delicious breaths!
2. Standing Forward Fold & Twist
You’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a million times: the most common direction given by yoga instructors for forward fold is to keep your back straight. It’s so tempting to push ourselves that little bit further down to try and get our head closer to the ground, but this often results in curving the back instead of bending at the waist. This puts harmful strain on the spine and reduces the benefits of folding forward. A great way to make sure you’re keeping the length in your spine is to place your surfboard horizontally across your back, holding it in place with your arms. Inhale as you open up your chest, and exhale to fold at the waist. You’ll notice the middle of your back starting to curve against the surfboard as you reach a certain point – stop there! This is your natural point of correct forward fold. In time, this point will be lower and lower in the fold as your flexibility increases.
Continuing from the forward folding position, twist to the side on your exhale, looking up at the sky. Repeat on the other side, before inhaling back to standing.
3. Standing Back Bends
The fear factor is a major player when it comes to standing back bends. If you’re working on this pose, or even building up to the more advanced move of bringing your hands down behind you into Wheel, then your surfboard could be your best friend here! Place the board tail-down behind you, then reach your arms up and back until you’re holding the board at the nose. Walk your hands slowly down the rails, sinking into the back bend and letting your head fall back. Remember to keep the board in a straight upward position to keep it stable! The most important thing in this pose is to keep your stomach muscles engaged to protect your back and build your strength. When you’re ready, walk your hands back up the board until you arrive safely in standing position.
4. Surf Goddess
The real benefits of this pose come from squatting deep, engaging your thighs and tucking your pelvis in to elongate your spine. Placing your surfboard on your knees and giving yourself the challenge of keeping it balanced in a table-top position will remind you to keep that 90% angle in your knees and quit taking the easy option. Keep your knees stacked over your feet to protect your joints. This pose will help you build the thigh muscle and knee support you need for deep bottom turns and heavy drops, as well as opening up your hips to improve your overall flexibility.
Give it a go next time you’re warming up on the beach!
For more surf and yoga tips follow Jemima on Instagram surf_yoga_avocados
Photo: Vinko Lah