Yoga for Windsurfers: A Perfect Partnership
Yoga is one of the best things you can do to make sure you are fit and ready for windsurfing. Not only does yoga have incredible physical benefits, but it really helps on the mental side, too. Yoga can will help you stay calm and focussed - handy when the wind gets up a bit or you feel slightly out of your depth! And you can even use yoga techniques while you are actually windsurfing, to increase your energy.
Windsurfing requires a heady mix of strength, power, endurance, mobility, stability, balance and fluidity that can all be perfectly developed through a regular yoga practice. You develop full body strength & stamina, as well as balance, core stability & strength and co-ordination. All pretty handy when you are balancing on a too-small board, on an unstable platform of water, with wind and a sail to contend with too!
Windsurfing is certainly a male dominated sport, and the fact that it requires more upper body strength than other board sports is a big factor in this. Yoga is surprisingly powerful for increasing upper body strength, though, especially if you choose the more dynamic styles: ashtanga or vinyasa style yoga, sometimes also referred to as dynamic or fluid power yoga. Far from the common stereotype of yoga just being about super-bendiness and chanting 'om', you will be getting a great full body workout in: performing planks, side planks and push-up variations as part of a flowing sequence, strengthening the lower body, the core as well as the upper body, whilst also increasing the heart rate and improving your stamina and endurance.
Having a strong core is vital for being able to direct power from the sail into the board effectively, and also to prevent back pain. If you are uphauling or carrying your kit to the water you may experience back pain if you are not using your core, as well as your legs and butt, properly. Core strengtheners, such as the aptly named 'Boat', are brilliant for getting the core ready for supporting your on-water playtime!
Lower body strength and balances are great for improving your core, as well as improving your balance, making sure you can get the most out of your time on the water. If you are jumping then you need those legs to be strong and powerful, as well as flexible enough to absorb the impact as you land. The best poses for strengthening the legs are Warrior 1, 2 & 3 as well as the balance-based poses, such as Tree, Half-Moon & Dancer's Pose. These poses also serve to strengthen the feet and ankles, which means you can transfer this leg strength effectively through the board, and ride more fluidly.
Arm balances feature in yoga, too. The Crow is a fantastic shoulder, arm and core strengthener. Yoga can get pretty gymnastic, you may want to build up to practicing poses such as handstands and headstands! But of course, like windsurfing, it is about finding your own 'edge'. You gradually move forward, step by step, improving each time. Before you know it, you are doing things you never thought possible!
The feeling of endless possibility links the practice of yoga and the practice of sports such as windsurfing and surfing. The emphasis in each of these practices, is of focussing on enjoying the moment, feeling at one with your surroundings, and letting all the stresses and strains of daily life drift away. There is always something to focus on, somewhere new to take it, something more to learn. But equally, you can just go into cruise mode and enjoy it where ever you are at right now.
The Sun Salutation sequence is great for getting the entire body warmed up and mobilised before you get out on the water. It is not enough just to get your heart rate up as a preparation for activity (this applies in the gym, too) but you need to be taking each muscle through it's full range of motion, opening up tight muscles dynamically (static stretches that are appropriate after exercise only switch muscles off - not the effect we are after!) so a dynamic sequence is important here. Also the fact that the Sun Salutations and vinyasa style yoga in general is a fluid, flowing sequence, focussing on the breath, helps you to get 'in the zone' and cultivate a sense of calm awareness, and focus.
Linking poses together with the breath is an integral part of yoga practice and comes in handy when you are out on the water. No matter where you are at, it is likely that at some point you will be pushed a little out of your comfort zone - whether that is because the wind picks up a bit, you just get tired, or if something breaks. Being able to stay calm is really important in these circumstances - stressing out only wastes energy when you need it most!
Tapping into the calm, focussed energy that comes from taking a few long, deep breaths, and remembering that it is possible to change your state when you need to, is a useful part of yoga. It's all to easy to fall in, and then have a struggle to get back up, then get into a cycle of wasting more and more energy, making it harder and harder to get back up again! As soon as you calm down, breathe and focus, you find your energy increases and you will be able to get back up on the board quickly. Useful in life, too, when things get stressful!
Yoga is also the perfect way to recover after windsurfing - make sure you end your next session with a few recovery stretches, rather than immediately heading for the bar! Here you will want to focus on calming, rejuvenating and restorative poses. Childs' pose is great for calming the nervous system, and unwinding the body and the mind. Pigeon is great for releasing the hips - windsurfing needs you to have strong but flexible legs and hips, but the act of windsurfing will tighten them. Luckily yoga delivers on all counts!
There aren't many surfers who don't also practice yoga, and the windsurfing community are beginning to catch on to the fact that there is something out there that can increase your time on the water, increase your ability on the water and improve your recovery time so you can get back out on the water sooner! A win-win-win in my mind!
There are many types of yoga, and many people have experienced a class that wasn't suited to their needs, and been put off - which is a huge shame. So make sure you investigate and ask questions before going along to a class, or buying a DVD. If you are going to be sitting next to a load of octogenarians doing some gentle stretches, you probably won't see your windsurfing improve too much (although the octogenarians who have practiced yoga all their lives are surprisingly fit and gymnastic - longevity is another great reason to incorporate regular yoga practice into your life, I want to be windsurfing and doing handstands at 80!).
So make sure you go for the fluid power / dynamic / vinyasa style classes. If you live somewhere where there is a big surf community it is highly likely you will be able to find yoga classes that the local surfers go to, and perhaps even surf-specific yoga classes. These are exactly what you need!
DVDs are a great option, especially if you want to practice pre and post windsurfing - the chances of finding the right class at a time to suit the wind is highly unlikely! With a DVD you can practice exactly when you want to, and you can take them away on trips. I always take a selection of DVDs and my mat with me - in fact if you are travelling with windsurfing kit the mat is useful protection for the board, too!
I am a huge fan of the Yoga for Surfers DVD series. There are 3 volumes, 1 & 2 are great to start with and volume 3 is a challenge to work up to! Volume 1 gives you a pre & post-surf session, and Volume 2 is a 40 minute flow you can do on days when you can't get out on the water. These DVDs really should be owned by every surfer and windsurfer! You can get all of them here: www.x-tremevideo.com or even get a downloadable version if you can't wait: http://www.thesurfnetwork.com/landing/yoga.lasso?tag=yfs. There is also a Yoga for Board Sports DVD by the same people, although I actually do prefer the main Yoga for Surfers series, with volume 1 & 2 you have all you need for different situations. Another surf-based DVD that is great is Eion Finn's 'Yoga for Happiness': http://www.amazon.co.uk/Power-Yoga-Happiness-Eoin-Region/dp/B002SPBFFO. There is the option to do a long 90 minute practice, or choose from the shorter sequences.
It is worth learning some of the basics with a good teacher, though, who can correct any mistakes you might not be aware of. If you need a hand finding the right person, do get in touch and I will happily help you find a class or teacher that fits the bill. I can't emphasise enough how much of a positive impact yoga will have on your windsurfing, and on your life, but it is crucial to find the right class or person, as there are so many different styles and approaches. I want to do all I can do to help you get more yoga in your life, so please do get in touch if you need help!
Written By: Caroline Radway
Date of birth: 01/11/78
Years windsurfing: 13 - eek that makes me feel old and a very slow learner!
Windsurf Level: Wavesailing mostly, or the nearest I can get to it locally when we can't travel west! Still learning to forward - this is the year for sure!
Current location: Southampton
Local windsurf spot: Avon / Witterings, and Cornwall as much as poss!
Caroline runs a fitness coaching business that delivers Personal and Group Training to the people of Southampton who want to get fit, firm and feeling fantastic! She is the creator of the revolutionary Fit Body Fix Bootcamps http://www.fitbodyfix.com, that deliver a total transformation solution to busy people in need of efficient and effective fat loss and fitness conditioning, as well as nutritional coaching, goal getting and more.
Caroline gets all her windsurfing equipment from the lovely Bob at www.4boards.co.uk, whatever you are looking for, Bob can provide it, so check out the website or give him a call!
If you have any questions for Caroline on fitness, nutrition, yoga or windsurfing related topics, then you can contact her by joining the free member site: http://carolineradway.ning.com. It's full of useful fitness and nutrition resources that you can access completely free, as she is passionate about spreading the word on how best to achieve fitness, fat loss and boosted energy levels and vitality in today's fast paced world!