Updated: Sep 30
Yoga for surfing?
In the 1970s, “Mr. Pipeline” Gerry Lopez espoused balancing his high-octane barrel riding with peaceful yin yoga.
Not only did it improve his surfing; it can improve yours as well.
That's why countless surfers today — from pro to Average Joe — start sessions with stretches and warm-ups rooted in yogic postures to keep the joints limber and muscles ready for action.
The benefits of yoga for surfers are tried, tested, and proven to benefit surfing, so whether it’s for stretching and strengthening the muscles or calmly connecting to the present moment, here are five of the best poses in yoga for surfers.
Cat/Cow to Thread the Needle (Back & Shoulders)
Cat/Cow begins in tabletop position on hands and knees with neutral spine.
Inhale the navel toward the spine, arch the back up like an angry cat, and round the chin into the chest.
Exhale to reverse the spinal arch, raising the chin up and relaxing the stomach downward like a happy cow.
Repeat these spinal waves with a conscious breath to connect your mind and body and ground your spirit in this moment as only yoga for surfers can.
Return to a neutral spine after several waves, and on the next inhale raise your right arm to the sky, following with your gaze.
Exhale and thread that hand behind the left arm, drop the shoulder to the ground and keep hips square as you reach to the left for a deep shoulder stretch.
Unfold the same way you entered and repeat on the other side.
Tree to Warrior III (Balance in motion)
Begin with the basic one-legged standing Tree pose with the bent leg’s foot at calf, knee, or thigh and arms raised overhead or in prayer at chest.
Transition to Warrior III by bending at the hip and gazing at the ground while reaching the non-standing leg behind you at hip height and both arms reaching forward.
With a 90-degree angle at the hip between the standing leg and the extended torso, engage the core as you reach energetically in both directions.
This yoga for surfing practices balance in motion on transitions with the breath (inhale Tree, exhale Warrior). Repeat on the opposite leg.
Humble Warrior (Deep Leg, Glute, & Shoulder stretch)
The foot placement for Humble Warrior is the same as Warrior I: front knee bent and foot facing straight forward, back leg straight and foot is angled slightly out (45 degrees).
Raise both arms straight up, and sweep them down and back behind you as you swan-dive forward, interlacing fingers with palms pressed together as you fold at the hip to bow the chest toward the knee.
Align your torso and place your rib cage inside the bent leg.
Tuck your chin and hang your head as you raise the interlaced hands up and forward.
Breathe here and let this yoga for surfers honor the waves of which we are proud to be warriors.
Pigeon (Hips & Knees)
From Down Dog, bring the right knee to right wrist and let the right shin settle in front of you.
Stretch the left leg straight behind you with the top of the left foot down and lower your seat to the ground (assist with a yoga block under your seat as needed).
Lean forward propped up on your elbows for a hip and glute stretch, or reach forward into a fold to go deeper.
Add some side-body stretches to this yoga for surfers by slowly walking your hands to the left and right.
Higher intensity options: sitting upright in Pigeon, adding a slight back bend with Cactus arms, or bending the back knee for Mermaid Pose.
Return to Down Dog to switch legs and repeat.
Forward Fold (Deep stretch & yin energy)
Taught in a yin yoga for surfers class by Gerry Lopez himself, stretch the legs and elongate the spine while fostering healing yin energy with a long, relaxed Forward Fold (nose to knees, legs straight in front).
To make the body organically more flexible with time and breaths, set up by inhaling the arms overhead, then exhale reaching towards your feet.
Stack forearms under knees to narrow the distance, inhale your heart forward with a bend at the hip leading with the chest, then exhale deeper into the fold.
Breathe calmly through any discomfort (don’t force it or judge yourself, use a pillow or strap as needed).
If it feels right, remove one of the forearms from under the knee for a deeper fold that may feel easier already.
You may eventually remove the second forearm, or maybe you’re still breathing in a double-stacked assisted Forward Fold.
As the icon of yoga for surfers Gerry Lopez said: “Try those variations if you like…or stay right where you are. Yin is all about yielding. Yin is all about staying right where you are, if that works.”
The Bottom Line: Yoga For Surfing
Yoga for surfers is a fundamental tool in keeping our bodies surf fit into our golden years.
While the point of yoga is far more than just muscle maintenance, the mental clarity and spiritual calmness intertwined in yoga for surfers fits the feelings only a surfer knows like a glove.