All photos by Melody Haas.
Surfers tend to have tight backs and hips from the wear and tear of surfing over time.
From paddling, to sitting on the board, to compressing and extending while riding waves, surfing can wear especially hard on the hips and back. However, maintaining strength and flexibility in the hips and back are the keys to good, fluid technique, and they are what separate the average surfers from the good and great surfers.
I am going to share with you an alternative approach to a variety of yoga asanas that I find more specifically meet the needs of a surfer. The repetition of this lunge twist technique over time has lengthened my sessions in the water and has allowed me to continue surfing progressively well into my forties. The truth is, I feel more like a grom surfing today than I did when I actually was a grom.
Follow this step by step guide and be mindful to apply the steps below to both sides. Throughout, you’ll want to feel the opening of your chest and always maintain your focus in the direction of where you are going. Follow your heart opening. As surfers, this technique provides us with the flexibility, strength, and muscle memory to open up the turns with more fluid power and agility. We can be more dynamic in our movement. Whether it’s taking off on the wave, looking for the next section to hit, pushing through your turn, air, or rebound, keeping the upper body open and flexible while looking where you are going is surfing 101.
One of the things I have observed growing up and getting older as a surfer, are all of the life lessons that surfing has taught me over the years. Being mindful and in the moment. It is wise to look ahead and in the direction of where you want to go; to have a target, aim, goal, destination, whatever you want to call it. But, most importantly, enjoy the journey…
To begin, start with tuning into your breath, your intentions, and gratitude.
1. Stand with your feet together and arms down. Step into your classic lunge, with your toes facing forward, and with a slightly wider stance. Make sure your legs are far enough apart to maintain stability. Instead of keeping your front bent knee at 90% linear, bring it out an inch, slightly lateral, to emphasis the focus of contraction into your gluts and hip rotators.
2. Place your hands on this front bent knee to stabilize and begin tuning into the asana, taking three deep breaths in and feeling the contraction of all of the muscles in your legs and in your back. With a focus on your breath into your diaphragm, expand the ribs through your back, sides and chest. The goal here is to have an open chest, while the head and face is relaxed.
3. Bring your hands up laterally, and level with your shoulders. Inhale, expand your chest, make a fist to contract the back of the arms, your upper back muscles, as well as the legs and buttocks.
4. As you exhale sink your hips, deepening your lunge and releasing the strong contraction through your back and buttocks. Release the grip in your hands and separate the fingertips, stretching them out. Repeat the inhale contraction and exhale release 5-8 times.
5. Bring the same hand that is on the bent knee side down onto the leg and keep the other hand up in the sky to open up the front of the leg, the hip flexor and psoas. Take a few breaths here. Be mindful and aware of how far you are stretching. The suggestion is to stretch at 80% to give your body time and space to open up slowly; over stretching is not good.
7. Pointing the elbows away from you, bring both palms together over the bent leg, into a lunge twist. Press the palms together in prayer, looking through the hands. Keep the legs strong and soften your chest and back. Take a few breaths here.
8. Place the arm on the long leg side down onto the ground and take your other arm up into the sky on the exhale.
9. Imagine a rope in the sky dangling above your floating arm. Grab the rope and pull your body up with the floating arm. This is best done by first inhaling, making a fist, and pulling and contracting the entire arm and upper back muscles as you expand your chest and look up.
10. Exhale and release the grip in your hand and contraction in the back, looking as far into the twist as is comfortable for your back and neck. Repeat for 3-5 breathes.
11. Repeat on the other side. Your transition can be as simple as switching legs slowly with your breathe moving the body or coming through a down dog and switching legs.
12. End bringing the feet together, hands up to the sky on and inhale, and then exhale bring hands to heart center, closing with your intentions, centering yourself.