Yoga for Surfers: Get Up and Stay Up

Cristi Christensen, co-founder of Yoga Surf Camp, a 180-minute workshop that combines beachfront yoga with surf lessons at Exhale Center for Sacred Movement in Venice, Calif., says yoga gives surfers the focus they need to charge a wave full force and the strength and flexibility they need to stay up. Plus: Must-do poses for building a strong core.
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Cristi Christensen, co-founder of Yoga Surf Camp, a 180-minute workshop that combines beachfront yoga with surf lessons at Exhale Center for Sacred Movement in Venice, Calif., says yoga gives surfers the focus they need to charge a wave full force and the strength and flexibility they need to stay up. Plus: Must-do poses for building a strong core.
CristiChristensen, side angle pose, utthita parsvokasana

Yoga Surf Camp Founder Cristi Christensen on How Yoga Helps Surfers Pop Up on the Board … and Stay Up

Cristi Christensen, co-founder of Yoga Surf Camp, a 180-minute workshop that combines beachfront yoga with surf lessons at Exhale Center for Sacred Movement in Venice, Calif., says yoga gives surfers the focus they need to charge a wave full force and the strength and flexibility they need to stay up. Plus: Must-do poses for building a strong core.

YJ: Does yoga make you a better surfer?

Christensen: Yoga connects you first and foremost to your breath and teaches you how to stay calm, centered, present, and focused in sometimes uncomfortable and challenging positions. This is an extremely important skill out in the water, as there is this juxtaposition between charging for a wave full force and remaining calm, cool, and collected at the same time. Presence is key! Yoga helps to strengthen your mind-body focus to ride the waves. The point of power is always in the present moment and yoga continues to bring you back to this place of power again and again. Yoga also helps improve flexibility in the spine and the shoulders, and develop core strength and balance.

YJ: How does yoga help surfers cross-train?

Christensen: Yoga is the perfect cross-training for surfers, as it will stretch out and re-balance all the muscles you use while surfing, making them more subtle and reducing recovery time between sessions. It can also help reduce your chance of injury, as your body will be more balanced with its strength and flexibility. Yoga helps to build strength in areas that surfing doesn't address, most importantly your core, which you absolutely need to catch and ride the waves. Having a strong core will help you with overall strength, energy, and balance.

YJ: Why is a strong core so important in surfing, and how does yoga help?

Christensen: The core is the powerhouse of your body and is essential for all dynamic movement. Postures like Boat Pose and Plank Pose strengthen the front core of your body while poses such as Locust Pose and Cobra strengthen the back body while helping keep the spine fluid. Then you learn to utilize this core power and awareness to stay rooted and grounded in standing and balance poses such as Tree Pose and Warrior III. This is applied or functional core work, which is what will translate to your surfing. Awareness and connection to your center will help you pop up on the board, find your balance, and stay up.

YJ: How does yoga teach surfers how to breathe?

Christensen: Breath plays a huge role [in surfing]. If you are shallow breathing, chances are you have disconnected from yourself and the present moment. You will find yourself tense, anxious, and fearful, which is death to any surfer. Yoga being a breath-based practice teaches you that you have to stay in your body, connected to both your breath and the moment. By simply taking a few deep, long, rhythmic breaths, you can transform the energy of fear into a more usable source of fuel -- one that is composed, calm, and focused.

YJ: How does surfing make your yoga practice more dynamic? 

Christensen: Surfing helps you develop tremendous strength in your back and shoulders that yoga alone does not provide. It also builds stamina and provides cardiovascular training, by getting your heart pumping while you’re paddling out and in the waves, and gives you the courage and power to go for it … the belief in yourself that you can do anything on and off the mat.

Click here for Christensen’s top 5 must-do poses for surfers.

Ahnu YogaSport Tip: FIRE UP YOUR CORE

Christensen likes poses like Boat Pose and Plank Pose to strengthen the front core of the body, and poses like Locust Pose and Cobra to strengthen the back body while helping keep the spine fluid. Click here for more essential core yoga poses.

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