Soul Surfing: 5 Yoga Poses for Catching Waves


By YJ Editor  |  

Yoga poses that build core AND make you a better surfer? We’ll take ‘em.

Vinyasa teacher 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 is the perfect complement to catching waves. In fact, many pro surfers (including Laird Hamilton and 11-time world champion Kelly Slater) swear by yoga as their secret weapon.

“Yoga helps to increase flexibility, improve balance and gain core strength and awareness,” and a strong core is the perfect starting point for surfing, says Christensen. “Yoga teaches us presence to remain calm and to return to our breath again and again no matter what the outside circumstances, all tremendous skills to have while out in the water.”

Are you new to surfing or an experienced board babe? Either way, adding these 5 poses to your regular practice will help you reap big rewards on and off the beach:

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Goddess Pose with Eagle Arms
Step your feet approximately three feet apart. Turn your toes out approximately 45 degrees and spin your heels in. On an exhale, start to bend your knees until your thighs are parallel to the ground. Make sure your knees are over the center of your foot. Raise your arms straight ahead to shoulder height, palms facing one another. Cross your right arm on top of the left and bend and hook your elbows. The backs of your hand reach for one another or wrap around your wrists. On an inhale, lift your forearms up a few inches and, on an exhale, reach the forearms away from you, spreading your shoulders on your back. Engage your core by drawing your navel in and up, and add this pulsing rhythm into your legs as well. Inhale, straighten the legs a few inches, exhale, sit deeper as the hips lower toward thigh height. Repeat the pulsing arms and legs simultaneously for 5 to 7 breaths. After the last one, slowly free the arms and straighten the legs. Repeat on the other side.

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Warrior II to Side Angle Pose
Step your feet wide apart and raise your arms up to shoulder height. Your wrists should line up over your ankles. Turn your right foot out 90 degrees and turn your left foot perpendicular to the right. Inhale, engage your core and exhale bend into the right knee. Be sure that your knee is gently pressing open and tracks over the center of your foot. Bring your attention to your back foot now and ground the outer edge of your foot up the entire leg (stay here for 3 breaths). On your next exhale, bring your right forearm to your thigh and stretch and reach your left arm up to the sky. Lengthen the sides of your body while turning the underbelly of your waist and chest up to the sky. Breathe into the sides of the body and the entire length of your spine for 3 to 5 deep breaths. Repeat on the left side.

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Plank Pose
Plank is an excellent pose for gaining strength and stability in your core and your shoulders. This will help you build the power for your pop-ups (surf-ese for getting on your feet). Start on all fours, placing your hands directly under your shoulders. Gently spread your fingers apart, grounding all four corners of your palms. Tuck your toes under and lift up behind your knees to straighten your legs. You want your hips and shoulders at approximately the same height. Draw your abdominal wall up to support the entire length of your spine. Your tailbone lengthens in the direction of your heels as your pubic bone moves toward your navel and your navel extends toward your heart. Keep your neck long and breathe. Start with 30 seconds and build up to 90.

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Anahatasana (Heart Chakra Pose)
Start on all fours and begin to walk your arms forward, lowering your chest and forehead toward the ground. Keep your hips right above your knees. If there is no pain in the shoulders, press into the palms, lift the forearms up off the ground and melt the back of the heart. Remain in the pose for 5 breaths.

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Locust Pose (Salabhasana)
Lie on your belly and place your hands right under your shoulders. Your legs are either together with the ankles touching or hips-distance apart. Lengthen your buttocks toward your heels and extend and reach through your legs and spread your toes. Inhale and, on an exhale, press the pelvis down and lift your hands, chest and feet off the ground. Lift with the whole of the spine not just from the back of your neck and keep the legs active and strong. This will help keep space in your lower back and keep you from compressing and jamming up the lower back. Try coming up and down for 3 rounds on your breath. Inhale up, exhale to lower and, on the 3rd round, hold the lifted posture for more breaths.

–Dana Meltzer Zepeda