I thought I'd share some feedback I've had recently from surfers I've taught yoga to and their experiences of how the it help their surfing.
To kick it off meet Bernie Stringer (Hi Bernie!) - a friend and student of mine who I worked with over a sand/sun/surf-filled summer in France.
Bernie joined my yoga classes on a regular basis for 2 months while I was in France. He's a strong build - typical surfer's V-shaped back which gave him a lot of power but not a great deal of rotation in his torso - and a gifted surfer, so I knew he's be a interesting person to work with. Here's his experience of how his surfing began to change after he'd started yoga;
LFP: What did you originally think you'd be doing in a yoga class?
BS: I thought I would be stretching out my muscles from top to toe, like a post work out stretch but for the whole body… I was naive to think it would be an easy workout though....
After a few yoga classes I started to understand a bit more about how the flow and connection between the breathing and movement is all connected. I could see the similarities between yoga and surfing with the very first class, but after a few more it was very clear to me how it can all be connected to surfing.
LFP: Yeah I could see that you thinking about the connection when you first came to my classes. How exactly did it first start to effect your surfing though?
BS: My range of movement in my joints and muscles improved, which helped me perform not only in the fundamentals of surfing (paddling/taking off) but also with manoeuvres and the techy stuff when I was actually riding a wave. I felt a huge difference in my "body functionality" when I was doing a bottom or top turn and it seemed that my body was able to achieve positions that it hadn’t done before. It sounds unrealistic but believe me its true and I didn't believe how much it would help until I tried it.
LFP: Awesome! That's so good to hear! And which aspects of your surfing did you see began to change?
BS: I noticed a huge improvement in my turns. When you see top surfers perform a turn you start to understand how acrobatic the sport actually is. A good turn is a manoeuvre, which requires the whole body to twist and bend. After a few weeks of starting yoga, I could twist my upper body and shoulders further, which allowed me to accentuate my turns, and make much sharper and swifter movements.
LFP: And I could really see a difference in your practice too. You were taking each asana (position) further each time and connecting your breath with your movement more and more. It was so good to see!
LFP: Nice! before we end is there anything else you'd like to add?
BS: All in all I felt it helped my surfing as a whole. I thought at first it was psychological thing you know like my brain was telling me “ah yeah, I'm doing yoga now so I must be better at surfing” but after a while, I really started to notice how it was actually helping physically and mentally. My improved flexibility made me feel loose and free on my board, and allowed me to perform manoeuvres I never thought I could. My balance improved and I was able to ‘put it on the line’ more, and more often than not I could pull off a turn or manoeuvre without falling. Another aspect I improved on was my flow and decision making on a wave. It seems yoga taught me how to connect with my body and control certain movements. It sounds ridiculous to someone who hasn't tried it, but its almost as if there was nothing to hold me back when I was on the wave. Yoga has removed a lot of stress in my body by the loosening of my muscles, which removed a lot of stress in my mind. The freedom you feel after doing it for a while is surprising. Its almost as if you've turned 10 years old again!
LFP: Go to the top of the class!