Post surf Yin yoga routine for a deeper stretch out
As a surfer you may be drawn instinctively to stronger yoga practices full of chaturangas, challenging core exercises and focus testing arm balances. And whilst there’s no denying the merit of such practices for improving your surfing, it’s also important to remember the post surf aftercare to release your hardworked muscles and joints. Cue Yin yoga; a style of yoga that uses long held static poses with the idea being that you release not only tight muscles, but also the whole web of connective tissue that wraps around every muscle and bone in our bodies. This style of yoga is great for improving the ROM (range of motion) in your joints as the long hold times give your more ‘plastic tissues’ such as your tendons and ligaments time to gently give, as well as hydrating the fascia around them.
Try not to worry too much about what the pose looks like when practicing Yin yoga, just make sure that you can feel it in the target areas mentioned and that you use any props that you might need in order to be able to sustain the pose for 3+ minutes with as little fidgeting as possible. Resist the urge to pull yourself into the pose too deep too soon, as this will switch on the major muscles. Instead try to come to an appropriate edge and then let time and gravity do the rest of the work for you. Focus on trying to release mentally and physically into the pose as much as possible, letting go of any gripping and resistance that may be occurring and focusing simply on the flow of your breath and the sensations in your body and mind as they occur. Setting a timer for each hold will mean that you can forget about the passing of time and really try to let go in each posture in order to get the best myofascial release possible. I also find that some nice chilled out music can help me in the letting go process and makes the practice more meditative.
Caterpillar: 5 mins
The perfect pose to counteract what is essentially hours spent paddling about on a surfboard in Cobra pose; Caterpillar pose stretches out the whole back body myofascial train from your heels to your head. Allow yourself to really round forward in this pose in order to release tight QL muscles in your lower back either side of your spine. Or for more focus on stretching out the hamstrings straighten the legs out, but just remember that you don’t want to be forcing the stretch, so come to the sweet spot of about 70% stretch and then wait for the release to happen over the time spent in the sustained hold.
Supine figure 4: 3-5 mins each side
Your glutes and a set of 6 smaller muscles buried deeper underneath them can get quite a good hammering if you’re putting in some serious amount of hours surfing from all the squat stancing and hip steering. This pose is great for getting to those muscles in and around your butt and also helps you to spread your back along the floor helping to neutralize and soothe it. Hold behind either your thigh or your shin and pull your leg closer into you for a deeper stretch. If you’re super tight, wrap a belt/sarong or whatever you have to hand around your thigh so that you don’t have to raise your upper back up off the floor in order to reach behind your leg.
Cat pulling tail: 3-5 mins each side
This pose has so much going on in one, but can sometimes be a bit tricky to work out how to best approach it for your body the first time you do it. Bend your bottom leg so that you can and reach behind with the opposite hand and grab your ankle or foot, getting a nice quad and hip flexor stretch. Use a belt here if you can’t reach your foot. The top leg comes across in front of you to the other side of your body, giving you a stretch across that outer hip and IT band and maybe even in the hamstrings if you want to straighten the leg out. You can also bring a bit of a spinal twist into this pose by rolling more onto your back. Finally you get a slight chest opener from the arm that is reaching behind for the quad stretch, which works as a counterpose to paddling. I told you there was a lot of stretch for your money in this one! Once you’ve done one side roll onto your belly and do the first side of Broken wings below.
Broken wings: 3 mins each side
It goes without saying that all that paddling about for waves makes for tight upper back and shoulders, so this pose is all about getting into your trapezius muscles, rhomboids and deltoids. Cross one arm under the other and then lie down on top of your crossed arms, walking your hands as far out to either side as feels appropriate for you so that you begin to feel it in one or all of the target stretch areas. To take the stretch further into the sweet spot of your upper back play about with where you position your arms in relation to your chest e.g further up or down your body, as well as how much you tuck your chin. Some people may need to rest their forehead on a prop of some sort. Rest between sides on your belly with your arms either side of you for a couple of minutes before starting with Cat Pulling its tail again on the other side and observe the effects of the practice so far and where you can feel the Chi (energy) flowing more freely.
Twisted roots: 3-5 mins each side
In surfing we spend a lot of time with our thigh bones externally rotated in the hip sockets whilst sitting in the lineup waiting for waves. So this spinal twist, which also includes internal rotation of the femur bones and an outer hip stretch, is a nice counterpose to straddling a board. Lying on your back bend both knees and if you can wrap one leg around the other. If this isn’t available to you just place the foot alongside the opposite calf. From here drop both knees to the side away from you top leg. It’s highly unlikely that your knees will touch the floor here so don’t worry if they’re hovering. To take the stretch into different places along your side body experiment with the distance of your knees to your torso. You may feel this anywhere from the IT band, outer hips, obliques (side stomach muscles), QL (Lower back muscles), or even all the way up through your intercostal muscles between your ribs and up to your shoulder. Raising your arm overhead will help encourage this stretch through the upper parts of your side body.
Take a mini savasana for a couple of minutes after doing both sides, lying on your back with your arms down by your sides extended slightly away from your body.
Bananasana: 5 mins each side
Talking of the aforementioned intercostal muscles…man do they get a beating when you’re surfing! Surfers rib anyone? Bananasana is the perfect way to get some space between those achy ribs and to give your whole side body a yummy stretch out. Your lats and obliques, to mention a couple of other major potential players in this pose, will also love you for a nice long marinate in this lovely side stretch. Cross your arms over head and walk your elbows and feet in the same direction so that your making a banana shape out of your body. Clues in the name hey! Keep both buttocks and shoulders on the ground to really experience the full benefit of this stretch and maybe even cross one foot over the other to feel it in the IT band running along the outer edge of the leg.
Finish your practice with a nice long Savasana in order to allow your energy to flow freely throughout your whole body again and everything to fall back into place after your practice. This is where the magic really happens; so lie back, meditate on the awesome waves that you’ve been catching, relax and enjoy!