Yoga for Surfers

Posted in /

Yoga and surfing go together like the ocean and the sand, like bacon and eggs, hipsters and beards.

Whichever analogy you want to use, yoga is a brilliant way to improve your surfing skills by creating strength and flexibility in the exact muscles you use whilst surfing.  You can bring your surfing to your mat, and you can take your yoga to your board.

Being a fairly practical person I like to know why I am doing things.  If I understand the reasoning behind what I am doing I am more likely to follow through.

So incase you are a little like me, and even if you aren’t, here are some reasons why incorporating yoga into your life will benefit you both in and out of the water:



It all starts and ends with the breath.  Same as in life.   Developing breath awareness will help you on the physical level by expanding your lung capacity.  Greater lung capacity means more oxygen to your cells, which means better efficiency of the body, leading to longevity in the water and less fatigue.  It also means you’ll be able to hold your breath for greater lengths of time.  Pretty handy when that monster set comes out of nowhere and you’re forced underwater for a bit longer than you’d like.

Mentally and emotionally it helps to calm, to bring you into the present moment.  The more space in your mind, the more time and space in your life.  When you’re in the present moment time seems to slow down.

It is said that if one can control the breath, one can control the mind.  If we can control the mind we come closer to controlling the body.



Surfers are known for having some pretty impressive muscles, guns in particular.  What you don’t see are the muscles of the core as they are internal (nope, those awesome six packs are not actually part of the group of core muscles).  “Core” is a word used almost as often as “Namaste” in yoga, we dedicate a fair amount of time strengthening these muscles in the studio.



Here’s something you might not know.  The muscles work by “contract inhibition”.  As you contract and activate one muscle, something we’re doing constantly out in the surf, it’s opposing or antagonistic muscle relaxes.  The more flexible that opposing muscle is, the less hard the active muscle has to work.  And that means…longer surfing time before fatigue starts to set in! Winning!

I will always encourage you to learn how to do these poses correctly under the guidance of a qualified yoga instructor…such as moi 😉 …not just to prevent injuries but so that you can gain absolute maximum benefit from your yoga practice.  Inside and out.

You can find me in the studio at Serenity Eco Lodge on Jl. Nelayan, Canggu (see below for my schedule).

But for those times when you just can’t get there I am going to share with you some of the most beneficial poses for surfers.

Hold each pose for several breaths, but come out at any time if you feel pinching or jarring pain.  Move slowly in and out of each pose.  Remember to keep your breath smooth and even. If you’re struggling to breathe, ease up a bit.  Always work within your own range of limits and abilities.


  1. Downward dog: Adho Mukha Svanasana

Why:Adho Mukha Svanasana - Downward Facing Dog

It stretches the shoulders and calf muscles, builds strength while toning the arms and legs, lengthens and straightens the spine helping to prevent and relieve back pain.  Added goodie is that it relieves stress by helping to calm the nervous system.


  1. Begin in extended child’s pose, arms out straight at a suitable length.
  2. As you inhale, keep the arms straight as you lift up into an all fours position.
  3. Roll those shoulders back and down, feeling the scapula coming together.
  4. Exhale and tuck the toes under, lifting out of your wrists push back.  Raising your hips to the ceiling, keeping your knees bent as you work on lengthening and straightening out the spine.  Inviting the heels to the ground at the end of the exhalation.  You should be looking like an upside down “V”.
  5. Inhale to come back to all fours position.
  6. Exhale as you ease back into extended child’s pose, releasing and letting go of the posture.
  7. Repeat 3 – 5 times.


  1. Plank Pose — Uttihita Chatarunga Dandasana

Why:Uttihita Chaturanga Dandasana - High Plank Pose

Tones the abdominal muscles while also strengthening the arms and spine.


  1. Following your Downward Dog come back into an all fours position.  Wrists directly under your shoulders, knees and feet hip width apart.
  2. Gaze is down between your hands to help keep your spine lengthened, no crunching through the back of the neck.
  3. As you exhale draw your abdominal muscles back towards your spine (and up if you know how to do so).
  4. Tuck your toes and lift your knees off the ground, bringing the whole back side of your body into one beautiful straight line.
  5. Think about keeping your thighs lifted, contracting those pelvic floor and abdominal muscles to protect the lower spine and broaden out through the shoulders and collar bones.
  6. Hold the pose while breathing smoothly for five breaths, or longer to build up stamina.  But only as long as the breath remains smooth and non-forced.
  7. Exhale to come out of the posture coming back down to all fours and releasing out back to extended child’s pose.


  1. Cobra – Bhujangasana  cobra-pose


Think of your paddle out, we need lots of mid and upper back strength and flexibility when surfing. Cobra nails that.


  1. Begin face down on your mat, resting your forehead on the ground.
  2. Place the hands beneath the shoulders.
  3. Big inhalation to the centre of your chest.
  4. Exhale as you slightly contract the lower abdomen, activate the legs, connect your pubis bone to your mat.
  5. Inhale as you begin to move into the posture.  Pelvic floor is activated to support the lower spine, activate and lengthen through the back, peel your torso off the floor, keeping the chin slightly tucked (no neck crunching, neck crunching bad). All the lift should be coming from using your lower back muscles, the hands are just for support, so no pushing through them to get more lift.
  6. Exhale lowering your chest back to the floor, releasing from the posture.


  1. Warrior II – Virabhadrasana II   Virabhadrasana II - Warrior II


The stance of Warrior II is very similar to the stance we use as we stand up on our boards.  On the mat it can help us with our concentration and balance, it also helps to stretch and strengthen the legs, hips, groin and shoulders. Develops stamina and strength.


  1. Begin in Samasthiti at the top of your mat.
  2. Turn as you step your right foot back to a comfortable distance.  Hips are now facing the long edge of your mat (keep bringing your awareness back to these guys throughout the posture, they tend to want to face the front.  Any pinching in the knee, adjust the right foot, usually forward).
  3. Left foot becomes your “lateral” stable leg, keep leg activated and strong.
  4. Turn right foot out 90 degrees, heel usually inline with the arch of the left foot.
  5. Inhale as you raise your arms overhead.
  6. Exhaling releasing them down to shoulder height as you simultaneously bend your right knee, coming down into your lunge.  Gaze focused beyond your right middle finger.
  7. Quick peek down to ensure you can see your right big toe, if not your right knee has extended too far over your right ankle.  Either ease up a bit, or widen your stance.
  8. Inhale to come out, activating the pelvic floor, raising the arms overhead.
  9. Exhaling lowering the arms alongside your body and straightening out that right leg.
  10. Repeat 3 – 5 times, then onto the left and repeat again.


  1. Eka Pada Rajakapotasana/ One Legged King Pigeon Pose  Eka Pada Rajakapotasana - One legged Pigeon Pose

Why: One of THE best hip openers we do in yoga. Awesome for all that time we spend sitting on our board looking forward to the next wave.  It also stretches the thighs, groin and psoa muscles while releasing the chest and shoulders.


  1. Begin in an all fours position
  2. Bring your right knee up between your hands, placing the ankle near your left wrist.  Extend your left leg out so the top of your foot and knee cap are resting on your mat.
  3. Work on squaring those hips towards the front of your mat, balancing your weight evenly between the left and right side..
  4. Flex you right foot.
  5. With every inhale think of lengthening your spine through the crown of the head to create space in the spine.  Gaze down softly.
  6. With every exhalation release gently further into the posture if it is available to you, using your hands to walk yourself down.
  7. Stay in the posture for up to one minute.
  8. To come out tuck those left toes under, lift the knee and press back into Downward Dog.
  9. Repeat on the other side.

…little hippy side note: We tend to store a lot of emotions in our hips, so if yours are particularly tight you might want to look a little deeper at something you might be holding onto.  Energy work such as Reiki is fabulous for this.


So those are my top 5 poses I believe every surfer will benefit from.  There are sooo many more and I love them all…except maybe Salabhasana (Locust pose).  For some reason that one just irritates me.

I have designed a 1.5 hour Vinyasa sequence bringing them together in a lovely fluid flow. Just like the ocean.  Lovely and fluid.

For those of you local to Canggu and surrounds you can find me at Serenity Eco Lodge on Jl. Nelayan on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays & Sundays.

I also do private lessons, both in person and via Skype.

So come to your mat to bring your surfing to your yoga, and take your yoga to your surfing. Really experience just how beautifully the two are paired.  Like the sun and sea.




9:30am : Beginners
11:00am  :  Naturopathic Yoga – Endocrine System


9:30am : Naturopathic Yoga – Digestive System
11:00am  :  Yin-Yasa for Surfers


5:00pm : Yin-Yasa for Surfers
1:15pm   : Naturopathic Yoga – Nervous System (Restorative-Yin)

What’s this “Naturopathic Yoga”?  Read this Blog Post to find out more.  🙂






The following two tabs change content below.

Kirsten Swales

Director and Naturopath at Urban Remedies
Kirsten is a qualified Naturopath, Nutritionist, Medical Herbalist and Yoga Instructor passionate about health. Kirsten loves to help people from all over the world so she is now operating as an Online Naturopath and consultant. It makes her incredibly happy to share her knowledge and help her clients to do all the nourishing things necessary for themselves. Kirsten's areas of expertise include all things Digestive System, such as SIBO, (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth), IBS, Bloating, Food Intolerances, Crohns, Celiacs, Candida and Parasites. Bookings can be scheduled through her website (including a complimentary 30 minute Discovery Call).

Latest posts by Kirsten Swales (see all)



Get the latest Urban Remedies news, nutritious recipes, informative articles and much more straight in your inbox by subscribing to our email newsletter.