Ever considered a surf yoga retreat? Here’s why you should
Calling all ocean lovers, your ideal yoga retreat is no longer the stuff of dreams. In fact, combining surf and yoga is nothing new for those in the know. The trend, which has prevailed on Morocco’s shores for years now, has begun to spread around the globe. Each year, more surf yoga retreats are popping up on the coasts of Costa Rica, the bays of Belize and the surf towns of Sri Lanka, leaving surf yoga enthusiasts and inquisitors alike spoilt for choice to combine the two pursuits.
What’s more, is you don’t even have to be a seasoned surfer to get involved. Most retreats hold space for both pros and newbies alike, offering lessons for those who are yet to find their confidence on the waves and hire deals for those who just want to grab a board and get out there.
But what makes these two activities such a popular combo? Here’s why…
Meditation and the ocean
There’s no denying that the ocean has a mystical ability to calm even the most frazzled of nerves. Whether it be simply standing in front of that immense expanse of blue, the repetitive rhythm of the waves or the feeling of the water washing away the sand from your feet - it’s difficult not to succumb to its calming powers.
Sat upon your board in the ocean, the water lapping against you under the sun’s rays, patiently waiting for the next wave to serve you that much-awaited adrenaline, presence becomes easy. Whilst you’re on that board, it’s difficult to think of much else other than that next wave, how you’ll line yourself up to catch it and glide toward the shore, only to paddle back out at a quarter of the speed you came in.
Like yoga, surfing for many manifests into a form of meditation through movement. The repetitive, seemingly mindless actions, allowing the practitioner to truly connect with their body. It’s that blissful plateau between effort and relaxation that gets you into the flow state both on the board and the mat.
Putting your pranayama into practice
If you partake in any other sports, particularly those of the aerobic kind, you’ve probably noticed the benefits of pranayama on your cardiovascular performance. Paddling the surf is no different. Indeed, it can be just as, if not more tiring than your regular 5k run. With the sea pushing against you and only a sliver of a surfboard beneath you, combined with the mental calculations rushing through your head in order to catch an upcoming wave - your heart rate will rise more than you may assume.
If you’re keen on spending more than an hour in the water, your pranayama will play a key role in managing the combination of mental and physical exertion the sport demands. Not only that but it also lends itself to keeping calm in the case of an inevitable wipeout, where it’s essential to resist the instinct to panic underwater.
A humbling sport
Just as in yoga, surfing requires practice. Lots of it.
There’s no doubt that surfing will put every ounce of your training to listen to your body into practice. Surfing requires the same patience required each time you step on your mat. Just as your body is unique each and every day, so are the waves. The familiar juxtaposition between a great practice followed by a tired sluggish practice will come into play in the sea just as it did on your mat. There will, no doubt be days where the waves aren’t in your favour and you’ll struggle to catch a single wave and others where you’ll seize the moment perfectly on multiple occasions. It’s this unpredictability that will prove the biggest lesson in mastering the surf.
The perfect compliment
It’s no secret that surfing can be pretty hard on the human body. A couple of hours in the sea and you’ll soon realise what a work out it can be to take on the surf. What’s more, the two have some core similarities. Take one surf lesson and you’ll soon recognise the similarities between a Sun Salutation B and the movement of popping up on a surfboard.
So what better way to compliment your time on the board than with some yoga stretching to warm you up and cool you down so that you can get right back on the board!
Warm up suggestions
When preparing your body for a session in the sea, there’s a careful line to tread between strength and flexibility. A degree of both will put you well on the way to a good day on the waves but over-stretching is to be avoided. If you’re prone to injuries or in recovery make sure you give allot a little extra time to the problem area.
Cool down suggestions
If you know you’ll be itching to get back on your board the moment you set foot on the sand, you need to give your body some love. Make sure you’re giving your upper back and shoulders some love after a morning spent in the sea. Some gentle cat-cows, rag dolls and core strengthening backbends should do the trick. The secret here is to feel into anywhere that needs a little extra care when you move through these poses. Pay attention to any niggles here to ensure they don’t manifest into anything more.
No doubt you’re now hook line and sinker on intertwining a little surfing into your next yoga retreat but now wondering how you go about embarking on one. The trick is to prioritise location, waves are not made equal and although those pristine beaches may look tempting, it’s worth researching how popular they are with the surfer community. All the usual yoga retreat research rules apply but ensure that you opt for a teacher with a shared passion for yoga and surf. If it’s your first yoga retreat (of many, we’re sure), make sure you check out our article on ‘How to pick your first yoga retreat’.