The surfing community is well aware that there is a natural affinity between surfing and yoga. Both are vehicles for attuning to the present moment and transcending the patterns of the ego, and the physical practice of asana has the potential to soothe aching muscles and improve mobility on the surfboard.
But many surfers aren't sure where to begin or what type of yoga they should be doing. I have spent the past year working with surfers in the Philippines, tailoring sequences to meet their very specific physical needs. Many of the surfers I teach recognize their body's need for downtime and ask for sequences that allow them to release the tension that has built up in their bodies from all the paddling and pop-ups. And I always tell them the same thing: It's all about Yin Yoga.
Yin Yoga has become synonymous with long hold sequences in which the yogi explores each posture for roughly three to five minutes. Bringing the body into stillness allows for the less elastic tissues in the body such as the fascia, ligaments, and even the bones to be stressed. In the short term, this allows for a restorative releasing of tension that has built up in the body. As the breath deepens, the body responds by opening up. Over time, with continued practice, improved flexibility can occur.
One of the more challenging aspects of Yin Yoga is not necessarily limitations in the body but the way the mind will initially try to resist the posture. The key is to simply meet the body where it is in that moment, finding the edge of the posture and continuing to deepen the breath. Recognize that any sensations being felt are simply a signal that the body is starting to loosen up. We can bring our awareness to the sensations without judgment, bringing all of our focus to the present experience and allowing the breath to root our awareness in the here and now. Whenever the mind starts to wander, gently draw it back to the posture and the breath and continue to give yourself over to the posture, releasing any resistance moment by moment.
Here is a simple sequence to get you started. Although this is tailored for surfers, anyone can use this sequence to restore harmony to body and mind.
Take a moment to first of all connect with your natural breath waves. Recognize that the body and breath work in tandem. Feel each inhale create space and expansion in the body and watch the body respond to each exhalation, witnessing it release and soften. Start to deepen your natural breath cycles, cultivating Ujjayi breath. Seal the lips and inhale and exhale through the nostrils while creating a slight constriction in the base of the throat.
This will give the breath a rich ocean sound. Watch the body and mind respond to the deepening of the breath and continue to cultivate this throughout the sequence.