Helps to bring back more harmony into the line ups: the Yoga philosophy.
You may have heard about it a few times already: yoga and surfing are a good combination. both require a good degree of both strength and flexibility. This is true, although yoga is mentioned mostly in relation to its physical benefits. But there is so much more! Yoga, as a whole, is a lifestyle and not only a physical practice.
Yoga in its completeness, as a concept for life, consists of eight limbs:
- Yamas: these are the principles of ethical behavior we should follow in our everyday life, regardless of whether we are talking about relationships with others or with ourselves.
- Niyamas: these are internal practices that help us to grow and give us the self-discipline and inner strength necessary to progress along the path of yoga.
- Asanas: this is the physical practice, or the postures we do. This is the part our Western world mainly understands as „yoga“.
- Pranayama: this is the control of breath, which is our life force and in yoga terms is called „Prana“.
- Pratyahara: this means the sense withdrawal, and in our modern world of information overload is more essential than ever.
- Dharana is concentration. To be sure, you´ll need a lot of this to prepare yourself for the next limb, which is called Dyhana.
- Dhyana is mediation, the active process of calming the mind.
- Samadhi is pure bliss: let´s say the goal of our yoga practice – to be enlightened.
After this short introduction to the eight limbs let´s explore what they mean for a surfer or how to integrate them in your life as a surfing being.
Ahimsa literally means „do not kill“ or „do not hurt people“.
This goes further in the sense of not being violent in feelings, thoughts, words or actions against others or even against yourself. It´s all about having compassion towards others and yourself.
And yes, Ahimsa is also the reason why lots of Yogis are vegetarians.
How to live Ahimsa as a surfer:
In the overcrowded line ups these days we see the mood getting more and more aggressive. People are shouting at each other instead of just enjoying being out there together and in doing so they harm others as well as themselves.
We all have our issues and are fighting with own fears – so a lot of egos are colliding out in the water. Try to be kind to the people around you. Talk to strangers, salute everybody – without making differences regarding the surf level. Appreciate the time where you can share waves with absolute strangers.
The ocean, at least, should be a place of peace.
On the other hand you shouldn’t blame yourself if you don´t progress as fast as you want, if you don´t get to complete your maneuvers. Keep on practicing. Most importantly keep having fun while practicing.
Another point is nonviolence on the physical level.
You should always care for the health of others. Don’t risk their well-being by finishing your „cool“ cutback even though someone is duck diving millimeters away from you.
As a beginner you should always be able to control your board. Make sure that you can handle it from the moment you enter the water until you slip back out of your wetsuit. If not, you are risking the health and the life of others.
Don´t push yourself into spots or waves you are not yet ready for. You´ll harm yourself and others around you.
Everything we say or do has a ripple effect. To make an outside change, we need to start deep inside of ourself. Acknowledging our own weaknesses and rough edges can help to develop more empathetic behavior towards others.
Satya actually means „truth“ or „not lying“.
Practising satya means being truthful in our feelings, thoughts, words, and deeds. In other words being honest with ourselves and with others.
How to live Satya as a surfer:
The most frequent example is one we all know: Lots of beginners want to get a shortboard, even though it isn’t the right choice for them. Me included. Years ago I switched on a shortboard to early and I know it would have been better to make progress on a bigger board at least for a few weeks. And although they know it deep inside, they lie to themselves by assuming they can handle a shorter board. It looks cooler. They lie to themselves and don´t do themselves a favor. (Shaper Nuno Matta mentioned this problem in his little story as well).
Instead of admitting that they should get a board that suits them, they get frustrated about the prolonged learning process, which could be faster with a bigger board. This frustration has an effect on your surroundings – there we go again with the ripple effect.
The same goes for spot selection.
Sometimes you see people in spots where you can already see by their paddling – it´s obvious that they don´t belong there yet.
Here one should always be honest with oneself: Am I really ready for this spot? For this wave? Can I handle it, or am I just sitting there blocking others, being an obstacle for them and getting frustrated because I am not getting any waves; just seeing other surfers staring at me and frowning.
You can always talk to others about your fears, about being nervous in that unfamiliar area. About the conditions or properties of that respective spot.
My teachers during my Teacher-Training in India: Deepak Yowala and Sudhir Rishi.
Asteya means „not stealing,”. This is a subject everyone should understand: Don´t take what does not belong to you. This refers to material property as well as intellectual property.
It also means not disappointing people who have shared confidential thoughts with you. Asteya comes as a result of lacking something: the belief that you need material things and external elements to be really happy. This leeds to greed, which throws your mind into total disturbance.
How to live Asteya as a surfer:
The most annoying part of surfing these days:
People are getting so greedy that they sneak around and steal waves, that according to the rules, belong to other people. This is the number one reason that a relaxed atmosphere in the water changes into a place full of aggression and anger and it’s totally unnecessary.
Some people seem to be unsatisfied with themselves and seem to need to take the fun (here we go again with stealing) of the whole group that just wants to enjoy the waves and the atmosphere out in the line up. Rather, as said proposed before: try to enjoy sharing the waves with people you´ve never met before. I know its hard to wait for the next wave, even on good days – but try it. It can be also fun – maybe even more, because of the collective positive vibes.
What is even worse: people that are dropping in all the time, stealing waves and risking the health of others at the same time. There are enough waves for everyone. Let´s enjoy the time in the water together, not against each other. Don’t show the same behavior big nations do when they start a war just to gain more land.
We practice Brahmacharya when we consciously use our energy to express our true nature. We direct it away from external desires and instead, towards finding peace and happiness within ourselves.
How to live Brahmacharya as a surfer:
Getting to the core of surfing, enjoying the time we spend out in the ocean, riding waves to empty our minds, to get relaxed. Being in contact with nature and not competing with others or acting out your daily life frustrations. Actually, surfing should be seen like a mediation, getting rid of the bad stuff thats going on outside, getting closer to our inner selves, recognizing that so many things are actually not as important as we thought they were.
At the same time surfing is becoming more and more commercialized.
There are so many products and labels riding the wave of the surfing lifestyle. Someone is not cooler or a better surfer just because he is wearing a Quicksilver shirt or something like that. These labels also are not the most sustainable.
Aparigraha means not requesting what isn’t ours. It’s a kind of non-attachment, being free of desire. Not exploiting others.
It’s different from Asteya, which asks us to avoid stealing, motivated by greed. Aparigraha refers to the greed that is mainly rooted in jealousy.
Aparigraha, in its essence, helps us to discover our own selves so that we no longer feel the need to wish for what someone else has, or to be what someone else is.
How to live Aparigraha as a surfer:
Concentrate on yourself.
Don´t compare yourself with others the whole time you are in the water, even if another person is better at surfing than you are. „Stay on your on mat“ as we say in Yoga. When you compare, you start to wish you were surfing the waves the way others do and this steals your joy. Keep your gaze inwards. Work on your own surfing and be happy about the little improvements you make wave after wave.
On the other hand, don’t be greedy. I see a lot people surf a wave and afterwards paddle straight back to the peak, ready to grab the next one, not considering that it´s actually the turn of the next person.
They jump the line, not adhering to the rules that dictate somebody else to be the owner of the wave.
Rather than taking too many waves, maybe experience the fun giving a wave to somebody else and enjoy their smiles while catching them.
Aparigraha is also about not being attached to material things.
In surfing most of us already lead a simple life with very few things, but you can always go further. Ask yourself: do I really need this fifth pair of sunglasses? A 30th shirt, a 10th wetsuit, another board, and yet another board?
All in all kindness, truthfulness, abundance, and self-reliance—living a life following these Yamas are the foundation of the inner quest that makes us whole.
I don´t mean to start a crusade, it’s just a proposal or let’s say, my own thoughts or interpretations about how to integrate the Yamas and the Niyamas (I am going to give you a closer look at these in another article) into a surfing life.
What are your thoughts?
Please feel free to leave your opinion in the comments and let’s discuss them!
This article also appeared as a guest article on Wanderlust.