Release deeply into your overworked muscles and tissues after surfing with Yin yoga
As a surfer, you might naturally be drawn 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 stamina, it’s also important to remember the post-surf aftercare to release your hard-worked muscles and joints. This is where a post-surf Yin yoga routine can come in.
For some Yoga Pose ideas for your surf warm up click here.
Why choose Yin yoga for surfing
Yin is a very complimentary style of yoga for surfers as it can help towards improving the ROM (range of motion) at your joints and releasing the build-up of excessive tension in your tissues. Yin uses long-held static floor poses to release, not only tight muscles but also the whole web of connective tissue that wraps around every muscle and bone in our bodies. The long-hold times in the poses give your more ‘plastic tissues’ such as your fascia, tendons and ligaments time to gently give and hydrate.
How to approach a Yin yoga practice after your surf
Try not to worry too much about what the pose looks like when practising Yin yoga. The most important thing is to feel the stretch in the target areas for each pose. How you access that aesthetically is not so important. Use any props that you might need to be able to sustain the pose in as much stillness as possible for 3+ minutes. Setting a timer for each pose allows you to forget about the passing of time and just centre into the state of surrender. I also like some nice chilled out music or the sound of ocean waves to help me in the letting go process.
When entering into the pose, resist the urge to pull yourself into it too deep too soon, as this will switch on the major muscles. Instead, try to come to a 60/70% edge of the stretch and then let time and gravity do the rest of the work for you. Focus on releasing mentally and physically into the pose by letting go of any gripping and resistance that may be occurring. Focus simply on the flow of your breath and the sensations in your body and mind as they occur. The more you manage to relax, the deeper the level of myofascial release you’ll potentially achieve.
Caterpillar: 5 mins
The perfect pose to counteract what is essentially hours spent paddling about on a surfboard in Cobra pose. Caterpillar pose stretches the whole myofascial backline of your body, from your heels to your head.
Allow yourself to round forward through the spine in this pose. This will help access a stretch in hard to get to QL muscles, buried deep in your lower back. Or focus more on stretching out the hamstrings by straightening the legs out. But remember that you don’t want to be ever forcing the stretch. If your legs are trembling you’ve gone too far! In which case, pull back until your hamstrings are ready by softening the knees slightly and popping a prop under them to break the backline up.
Supine figure 4: 3-5 mins each side
Your glutes and hip rotator muscles buried deep in your buttocks, are put fully to use when out surfing. This pose is great for getting into those muscles and also helps you to spread your back along the floor helping to soothe it.
Cross one ankle over the opposite knee, with your bent knee open to the side. 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 around your thigh, so you don’t have to raise your upper back off the floor to reach behind your leg.
Cat pulling tail: 3-5 mins each side
This pose has a lot going on in one stretch, making it a bit tricky to work out the best approach for your body the first time you do it. Play about with the pose until you settle into a place of stillness.
From lying on your side, bend your bottom leg so that you can and reach behind with the top hand to grab your ankle or foot. This will give you a nice stretch in the quads and hip flexors. 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. Straighten the top leg out to also access a stretch in the hamstrings of that leg. You can bring a spinal twist into this pose by rolling more onto your back and towards your back leg. Finally, you’ll get a chest opener from the arm that is reaching behind for the quad stretch. Great for a counterpose to paddling.
Phew! I told you there was a lot of stretch for your money in this one. Once you’ve done one side in Cat Pulling its tail, roll onto your belly and do the first side of Broken wings below.
Broken wings: 3 mins each side
All that paddling about for waves makes for tight upper back and shoulders. 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. Walk your hands out as far either side as you need to feel the stretch in one or all of the target areas mentioned above. You can also play about with where you position your arms 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. Observe the effects of the practice so far and where you can feel the Qi (energy) flowing more freely.
For some maintenance stretches that you can perform whilst still out surfing click here.
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. This spinal twist, which also includes internal rotation of the thigh bones and an outer hip stretch, is a nice counterpose to straddling your board.
Lying on your back bend both knees drawing them into your chest. Cross one leg over the other like you were sat at a desk, or if you can, wrap the leg around the other calf. From here drop both knees to the side away from your top leg. It’s highly unlikely that your knees will touch the floor here so don’t worry if they’re floating, just pop a prop under your knees to support them.
To take the stretch into different places along your side body and spine, experiment with the distance of your knees to your torso. You may feel this stretch anywhere from the IT band, outer hips, obliques (side stomach muscles), QL (Deep core/ Lower back muscles), or even all the way up through the intercostal muscles between your ribs and into your shoulder. Raising overhead the arm opposite to your knee direction will help encourage this stretch into 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.
For more stretches for the outer hips click here.
Bananasana: 5 mins each side
Talking of the aforementioned intercostal muscles…wow do they get fired up when you’re surfing! Surfer’s rib anyone? Bananasana is the perfect way to get some stretch between those achy ribs and give your whole side body a yummy stretch out. Your lats, obliques and some of your rotator cuff muscles will also appreciate a nice long marinate in this lovely side stretch.
Lying on your back, stretch your arms overhead and walk your elbows and feet in the same direction so that you’re making a banana shape out of your body. Keep both buttocks and shoulders on the ground and maybe even cross one foot over the other to feel it more in the IT band area, running along the outer edge of the leg.
Finish your practice with a nice long Savasana 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, where your body and mind press the reset button ready for your next day out on the water. So lie back, meditate on the awesome waves that you’ve been catching that day, relax and enjoy!
For some chilled out tunes for your practice connect to Emma’s Spotify account.