Photo credit: Janalyn Rose, Sayulita
Practicing yoga balancing poses barefoot is a great way for surfers to improve their balance, stability and body control.
What is balance?
Balance is the ability to move or remain in the same position, without falling over. Good balance requires a high level of proprioception – the sense of knowing where your body is in space without having to look. In your muscles, joints and tendons there are sensors called proprioceptors that are constantly measuring levels of tension, pressure and contraction. This information travels up the spinal cord to your brain which controls the position and movement of your body.
When you catch a wave, it’s impossible to predict exactly what it will do next. You need to be able to respond dynamically, moment to moment, to the demands of the wave, and move as though the board is an extension of your body.
The best way to improve your proprioception—as with building strength, increasing flexibility or mastering any skill—is to challenge it, and yoga balancing poses are the perfect training ground. Balancing poses educate your body to sense where it is in space so that you can react quickly and unconsciously to regain your balance when you lose your centre of gravity.
Here are four balancing poses that can help improve your balance and proprioception skills. Hold them for 5-10 deep breaths, in and out through your nose.
- From Plank, shift your weight onto your right hand and come to the outside edge of your right foot. Open your body to the left stacking your left foot on top of the right and bring your left hand to your hip.
- Make sure your right wrist is directly below your right shoulder.
- If you feel confident, straighten your left arm up to the sky.
- You can look straight ahead or challenge your balance by looking up to your fingertips.
- Your ankles, hips and shoulders should all be in one straight line.
- Hold the pose still for 5-10 deep breaths, in and out through your nose.
- Take a deep breath in. Exhale, come back to Plank and switch to the other side.
Eagle pose also stretches the hips and the upper back muscles.
- Stand in Mountain pose with your feet hip-width apart.
- Bend your knees, cross your right leg over the left and wrap your right foot behind your left calf. Your left knee should point straight ahead.
- Stretch your arms out to the sides, cross your right arm over the left, bend your elbows, wrap your forearms and try to bring your palms together.
- Lift your elbows to feel a stretch across your upper back, and drop your hips.
- Relax any tension in your neck and shoulders.
- Try to hold the pose for 5 deep breaths, in and out through your nose.
- Carefully release the pose and switch sides.
- From Downward Dog, step your right foot in between your hands in Runners Lunge.
- Inhale, drop your hips. Exhale, lift your left foot off the mat and walk your fingertips forward into Modified Warrior 3. You can keep your standing leg bent. Flex your left foot and point your toes straight down. Press back through your heel.
- Take a deep breath in. Exhale, bring your arms back by your sides in Airplane. Reach back through your fingertips.
- When you have your balance, take a deep breath in. Exhale, bring your arms out in front of you into Warrior 3.
- Focus on a point that isn't moving on the ground to help you keep your balance.
- Try to bring your arms, torso and raised leg parallel to the mat.
- Stay in the pose for 3-5 breaths, in and out through your nose.
- Take a deep breath in. Exhale, bend your right knee, bring your hands to the mat and step back to Downward Dog for the other side.
- Come down into a Squat. Touch the balls of your feet together, bring your knees out wide and place your palms on the mat in front of you, shoulder-width apart.
- Lower your upper body between your knees and press your upper arms against your shins.
- Come up to the balls of your feet, spread your fingers wide and press into your palms.
- Squeeze your knees firmly against your upper arms, lift your hips and lean forward so that your weight shifts from your feet into your hands. Keep moving forward until your feet begin to lift off the mat.
- Start by lifting one foot, then the other, then try both together.
- Try to stay in the pose for 5 deep breaths, in and out through your nose.
- When you're ready, come back down into a squat.
Resources for surfers
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