By Mallory Mae
With big-wave season approaching, we should consider the inherent risk of musculoskeletal injury that come as a result of surfing. Such injuries include short and long-term damage to nerves, ligaments, tendons, muscles and bones associated with the humbling moments we realize disconnect between feet and foam. Yoga offers a great form of cross-training exercise as the practice simultaneously builds the strength, flexibility, balance and coordination required in surfing. The practice of yoga is generally described by progression through various postures combined with deep breathing exercises, which promotes flexibility and strength- leading to increased injury resistance.
Many forms of yoga exist, some more physically demanding than others. All forms promote unison between exercise, breathing and meditation. The goal of yoga practice is to strengthen connection between body, mind and spirit through increased strength, flexibility and mental clarity. Styles of yoga differ by combinations and routines in which stretching postures and breathing exercises are performed. Some common styles of yoga found in the area include:
- Iyenga: a style of Hatha yoga that focuses intensely on alignment and posture accuracy. Iyengar incorporates the use of different props for participants to achieve accurate alignment in various stretching postures. This approach allows each person to push personal limits and meet individual goals. Iyengar is great for all experience levels.
- Bikram Yoga: the defining characteristic of Bikram Yoga is a classroom heated between 80-110°F. Following strict routine- each practice includes the same 26 postures worked through in the same order, incorporating few short rest periods, over a course of 90 minutes. The heat in Bikram is thought to aid in toxin removal and promote deep stretching while the practitioner strives for increased endurance and stamina.
- Ashtanga Yoga: commonly recommended for students with experience, Ashtanga Yoga is fast paced and focuses on preforming the same routine postures in-sync with specific breathing exercises. Eliminating rest between each posture creates a physically demanding style of yoga that allows the practitioner to generate heat in organs and tissues leading to production of toxin-eliminating sweat.
The combination of exercise (progression through postures) and deep breathing in yoga helps the individual toward greater self-awareness and flexibility by oxygenating, thus energizing, the entire body. The practice of deep breathing enables lungs to achieve maximum vital capacity. This allows the greatest concentration of O2 to enter the blood-stream which, in combination with exercise, increases gas exchange in all tissues, joints, tendons and ligaments. In this way yoga practice increases flexibility, daily energy levels and mental clarity; when at the top of your mental and physical game you can expect to shred with reduced risk of injury, greater confidence and agility
Left: yoga student working through a stretching posture called Sun Salutation. This great pre-surf, warm-up exercise activates all muscles required for strong, dynamic surfing!