How is surfing yoga, you might be wondering. They couldn’t be more different, you might be saying. Friends, allow me to guide you through an arbitrary exposition of how surfing is totally yoga. Let’s begin.
Similarity #1: UNUSUALLY INTENSE ENERGY PURIFICATION
Yoga is a very unique physical activity in that it works out the whole body in an incredibly balanced and “wise” way – I attribute the unusual whole body sensation many claim to feel after a practice to this exact point. Many times, when I complete a practice, my body feels light and clean: re-energized. Different. Not sore, weak or tired, like from a work-out, but…shifted. It’s a subtle feeling. And a novel feeling – one that I’ve never felt before taking up yoga.
I think this feeling is so unique because yoga really intensely purifies the body’s energy in a way that few other activities can. The yoga does it through an ancient system of asana and pranayama evolved to unblock the nadis – the energy channels in the body. But surfing purifies the body’s energy just as intensely thanks to the magical healing properties of the waves!
Surfing – like yoga – gifts one with a very unusual, lovely whole body sensation absolutely unique to surfing. With yoga, the sensation is one of lightness and ease, whereas the feeling I get after surfing is one of deep but soft exhaustion. A friend likened it to the feeling you get after a really intense cleansing bath, detox and massage.
Even though the muscles you use in surfing are fairly limited, your entire body gets pummeled and tousled by the waves, and the salt water has incredibly healing properties – the minerals in the water literally draw the stress from your body, while the free electrons in the water negate the unhealthy positive charge we accumulate due to our extensive use of electronics, and get used by our body to neutralize free radicals – yep, those things that cause aging and inflammation. Surfing is one giant spa! You know the infamous “surfer’s glow?” Now you know it’s real!
Similarity #2: SAVASANA
Second of all, yoga and surfing both have a savasana:
In yoga, a proper practice is sealed with savasana: a permissive, cultivated rest, a time to let go. In surfing, there is also a “savasana” of sorts – the nap that demands to be taken. No other sport or exercise I know of has a nap associated with it, but the surf nap is famous and every surfer knows about it – when you get out of the water, you eat and nap in whatever order your body demands. In yoga, the rest is offered, suggested – often ignored! How many of you do yoga at home and do not cap off your practice with savasana? You know who you are! But the surf nap will get you even if you resist – getting tossed around by giant waves is no joke and sleep will find you!
When you work, you need to rest. You need not only to rest, but rest well. Yoga and surfing both recognize this important truth.
Similarity #3: MAXIMAL MEDITATION
Most people begin doing yoga for the physical reasons. Your teacher will tell you to sync breath and movement and you’ll try half-heartedly….but the more you do yoga, the more your practice naturally evolves into a moving meditation. You begin to realize that yes, the breath is the secret, the drishti is the secret, the bandhas are the secret. Yoga is full of secrets, and most of them consist of turning our awareness to things that we were not previously conscious of, or in tune with.
Meditation is most often centered on the breath, the rhythm of the inhales and the exhales. Well, in the same way that yoga brings you to the breath of the body, surfing gently insists that you focus on the breath of the ocean: the waves, the sets, the lulls, the motion of the water underneath you. You know who catches the most waves? The surfer most in tune with the rhythm of the waves. You know who catches the least waves? The distracted surfer, the one gabbing away with her friends in the line-up….ahem, not me, of course! 😉
Surfing teaches you how to be attentive to the present in the same way yoga does – gently, but incessantly. Both surfing and yoga have natural “metronomes” that are very conducive to creating a meditative state, and both yoga and surfing encourage the development and inhabitance of a meditative state more so than other physical activities.
Similarity #4: THE DESTINATION IS THE JOURNEY
OK, here’s the thing with both yoga and surfing – there are no plateaus unless you decide to stop moving forward – and even then I’ve found that most often the yoga and surfing propel you along despite yourself…. You will never be at the end of your journey. Yoga has an infinite amount of increasingly difficult asanas, and if that’s not your jam, there’s the eight-fold path to enlightenment. You will never be bored, you will never say, all right, that’s all there is to this.
Same with surfing – the learning curve is excruciatingly slow – at least for me. You start with the training wheels ( best inflatable paddle board ) and slowly build up to the real deal. Everyday there is something that happens that keeps me interested. Everyday there’s a win here and a challenge there and the end is nowhere in sight. There’s an infinity of waves to surf and they’re all different. And I’m cool with that. It feels good to be riding something bigger than me. I know that I’ll get to the end of me before I get to the end of surfing or yoga.
So I charge! Or I don’t – doesn’t matter. There is no end. I can hurry or waste time, either way I’m still exactly where I should be – getting somewhere else is not the point! Yoga and surfing are great for teaching you to detach from goals or expectations and just be exactly who you are right now, exactly where you are right now. They both give the present of the present like nothing else.
Similarity #5: SOUL
Few sports/activities claim a spirituality in the way that both yoga and surfing do. Yes, many sports have cultures and communities that approximate a spiritual component, but yoga and surfing make an explicit, unapologetic claim to being an immersive way of life and an authentic connection to source.
Some quotes to back me up – from the Bhagavad Gita: “Yoga is the journey of the Self, through the Self to the Self.” And from Point Break, the little kid in the surf shop tells Keanu Reeves: “Surfing’s the source. Change your life, swear to god.”
Well, that brings us to our last point:
Similarity #6: THEY CHANGE YOUR LIFE
Yoga and surfing both changed my life. And that’s the definition of yoga I’ll leave you with: is it making you happier, more peaceful, more alive, more in love with yourself and with life? Then I think it’s probably yoga, in some form or other.
Mark your calendar! Celestyna will be a special guest on #yogachat this Friday, June 20 at 10am PST. Get #yogachat details here.