This morning I took my first surfing lesson. Being a dedicated yoga practitioner and teacher, I felt confident that my practice would help me in this new endeavor. When my instructor, Tom, talked about surfing, it sounded a lot like yoga philosophy to me.

Being one with the ocean, not fighting the waves, staying calm and relaxed, finding balance: these were familiar lessons that applied to my asana practice as well as all of life.

I was excited to meet this challenge and bring the yogic principles to the surfboard. My fiancé, Albert, and I signed up for a lesson together. He had only been surfing once before, so we were both very eager novices.

The first thing Tom taught us was how to pop up, that is, to go from laying on your belly to a standing position on the board in one easy motion. It’s sort of like going from Cobra to Trikonasana with bent knees. The pop ups were easy — my asana practice had definitely prepared me in terms of upper body and core strength. We practiced a few on the shore, and then we went into the water.

Tom was confident that I’d be able to stand up right away since I had a yoga background. “It’s all about staying balanced, relaxed and focused,” he said. He explained the importance of using one’s energy efficiently so as to not get fatigued unnecessarily. The way you position your board in relationship to the surf as well as the way you use your arms to paddle are important factors.

Tom told us to meet any white water head on. That is, if you see a big wave coming toward you, point the nose of your board into the wave; this is the way to meet it with the least resistance.

He also told us that paddling against the current is futile and draining; if you find yourself caught in a riptide that’s taking you away from shore, you’re supposed to swim parallel to the shore until it releases you, then you can easily paddle your way back. This is called “going with the flow.”

I’ve have days on my yoga mat when my mind is racing and pulling me like a rogue current. If I fight it, it gets worse, and I get frustrated and drained. If I let go and just observe the thoughts without resistance, they will release me just as the riptide eventually does.

As I began paddling out into the ocean, the waves became a metaphor for my mind. The white water represented fear, and each time I met it head on instead of running away from it or trying to avoid it, I understood the wisdom that says that once we face our fears they lose power over us. If we avoid them or run away from them they become bigger and more powerful.

Comments are closed.