Combining yoga and surfing for a tristana of benefits

I know it probably has to do with the 74 degree water here in Southern California lately, but I’ve been surfing a lot more than usual — at the expense of morning yoga practice.

As far as I can tell, though, that’s totally OK.

You can choose to parse yoga’s benefits however you want. I think a pretty good way is this tristana: physical health, mental health, spiritual well-being. And I suppose it is worth saying that, from my experience, Ashtanga maximizes these best.

There’s the vinyasa and asanas, the stretching and the strengthening that’s good for the body. There’s the breathing and mental focus that’s good for the mind and emotions. The spiritual effects perhaps can vary with the user. (Let’s just say I’m guessing there is more likely to be spiritual benefits from Ashtanga than Y7.)

For me, surfing combines all those, too. There’s the paddling and the heart workout when you’re on the wave. There’s the calm in between sets, moments of quiet while enveloped in nature. (This morning’s sunrise in Venice was a fiery orange that blazed the glassy water.) And the spiritual effects can vary with the surfer.

Also there’s this story from Outside magazine that talks about the benefits of surfing:

Nick Caddick, a psychologist at Loughborough University in the UK, spent 18 months studying the effects of surfing on British soldiers. One of Caddick’s subjects had been hatching concrete plans to hang himself from a tree in his yard, but every time he went surfing he put it off for at least another week. “Regular surfing,” Caddick wrote in a paper published last year, “was necessary for disrupting the cycle of PTSD symptoms that would otherwise remain a continuous or uninterrupted source of suffering.”

The reasons for this are not well understood. Rogers developed Ocean Therapy with psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s flow theory in mind. The physical exertion and intense focus required to surf often produces flow states, which flood the brain with neurochemicals like anandamide and serotonin, the same substances found in antidepressants. In addition, it’s believed that when people are submerged in water, their bodies alter the balance of epinephrine and dopamine to the levels achieved during meditation.

Some of that sound familiar?

It does to me. And while I didn’t need more rationales, it’s further reason why my sense of being able to blend yoga and surfing — do one a day, at least — into a foundational practice makes sense.

At least while the water temp remains in the 70s.

Posted by Steve