Zurf-Yoga: An Introduction

Zurf-Yoga™ is a 30 Asana (90 movement) yoga-style exercise. It has been designed specifically for surfers as their primary form of surf-related exercise.

Rather than being an enhancement to general surf fitness, Zurf-Yoga™ is an embodiment of surf competence. For this reason Zurf-Yoga™ is taught only to those who can surf, who are learning to surf, or intend to learn how to surf.

In terms of fitness demands, Zurf-Yoga™ is less physically strenuous than most styles of Astanga Yoga. It will work slightly harder some specific tendon and muscle groups than a usual Hatha Yoga style practice. It has a flow similar to familiar forms of Vinyasa practice, while appearing a little more structured and also less formalized. It has less contortions than an advanced Iyengar practice, while still emphasising gentle rotations and flexibility in its held tensions. It has no practice pre-requisites, yet involves detailed visualisation similar to the Highest Yoga Tantras. Essentially, if you can surf at any level of fitness, ability or disability; then you can do Zurf-Yoga™ easily.

The instruction of Zurf-Yoga™ is usually done in six classes of groups of five Asanas. Every two classes form a series, with the total set of Asanas being divided into three distinct groupings. A full Zurf-Yoga™ practice can be done as a walk-through in as little as 15 minutes. Obviously, to master all 90 movements and the accompanying meditations, may take many lifetimes.

Like surfing, Zurf-Yoga™ is a dynamic activity that focusses on the ability to recognise continuing shifts in mental, emotional and physical agility. Three traits of Zurf-Yoga™ that make it different are its emphasis on the changing pacing of the breath-work, the dynamic shifting of postural balances, and the sustained changing of the mental focus. Rather than strength and repetition, the point of Zurf-Yoga™ is adaptive versatility through visualisation, tensions and meditation.

One additional pleasant surprise in practicing Zurf-Yoga™  is that it is based around a humorous and sequentially unfolding surf narrative. This makes the sequence, its components, the transitions and the linkages within the series easy to remember. Kids in particular appreciate this aspect of the learning, anticipating the next Asana as part of their own surfing story.

Zurf-Yoga™ is not a fad, its motivations are charitable, and its contributions are made with impunity to the globalised yoga and surfing industries. Those seeking to instruct in Zurf-Yoga™ usually do so for reasons, less associated with commercial gain, and more with their sense of a giving back, in generativity, to many future generations of surf-happy Zurf-Yogis.

To learn more about hosting a Zurf-Yoga™ class or lesson for your organisation – contact the local organisers nearest to your own location.

© 2013

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‘Dedicating the Surf’ ~ Asana # 30

‘Dedicating the Surf’ is the action that completes the surf session and begins a lifetime of a healthy obsession with all that surfing offers. Rather than taking from the ocean and hoping it will provide more, this is the action of appreciation of all that has been given, and all that is as yet in store from a dedicated Zurf-Yoga™ practice.

Overview: Slot the Shades, Smooth the Hair, Relax in Joy.

Technical: This asana has three simple movements completed with great mindfulness. The first raises both hands to the face. The second moves both hands over the scalp and onto the rear of the neck. The third moves both hands, open palms upwards, to the waist. To complete the practice thanks is given for all the beaches we are yet to see, the oceans we swim in, and the waves that we have ridden.

Specific Hints: Massage the temples, crown, neck, and chest in smooth movements (in sequence) to remove all remaining tensions.

Secret Yogi: The secret dedication mantra (TYFTSTYFTD), used to complete the set, is joyously given to all newly initiated Zurf-Yoga™ practitioners.

© 2013 willvarey

‘Entering the Vehicle’ ~ Asana # 29

‘Entering the Vehicle’ is the penultimate move in a surfing session, allowing you to arrive back into the human-made world complete and satisfied. The surfer finds that while material concerns have been washed away, they have not totally gone away. To take the surf into your productive day, there is a moment of appreciation of your body, the boards, the waves, and all the opportunity the ocean affords. This is the enduring meditation of benefit from your Zurf-Yoga™ preparations of merit.

Overview: Lift the Latch, Bow the Head, Chill the Sauna.

Technical: This asana is a gentle lead-in to the series completion.  These simple movements reflect the three dimensions of the yoga body. These are the central line, the vertical line, and the lateral line. Each is stimulated in turn as one single complete form.

Specific Hints: On the completion the palms are facing downwards, middle fingers extended.

Secret Yogi: Imagine these movements as a trilogy of three. Contained within them are the complete recollections, of all you have learned in your Zurf-Yoga™ sessions.

© 2013 willvarey

‘Finding the Keys’ ~ Asana # 26

‘Finding the Keys’ is a now outdated innovation on an ancient tradition. Folklore will tell you of a time when surfer’s cars were never locked. With few possessions, the accepted code was that surfer’s would not ever steal from surfers. The hiding of the key later became a secret knowing, held only by trusted surfing compatriots, who also hold a Zurf-Yoga™ practice.

Overview: Explore the Chassis, Clutch the Key, Brush the Gravel.

Technical: This asana is one posture. The forward knee is raised. The back knee is flat to the ground. The forward arm is flat to the mat to the elbow. The other arm is extended and inverted. The posture is held indefinitely. The release is standing.

Specific Hints: Learn where to place the front foot in relation to the opposing knee. Dropping the opposing shoulder allows for the correct posture.

Secret Yogi: Use the twisting of the wrist to extend the tendons, feeling the counterpart tensions in the opposing hand’s fingers.

 

Quote: “The distance between a man and his happiness, is measured by the number of keys he holds on his keyring.”

© 2013 willvarey

‘Climbing the Cliffs’ ~ Asana # 25

‘Climbing the Cliffs’ is the recognition that even when back on the shore, the surf adventure still requires more. In surfing you must manage your fatigue, leaving enough in reserve for your well considered return. Just like in life, we don’t always exit the same way as we entered, and navigating this safely is part of a Zurf-Yoga™ practice.

Overview: Exit the Rocks, Find the Trail, Check the Scene.

Technical: This asana is three discrete easy movements. The first involves rotations with the arms extended above the head. The second transfers weight alternatively to each leg. The third involves a bilateral standing turn. This enables a combination of stretches and twists as a warm-down.

Specific Hints: The single leg postures involve different hand movements, so remembering these avoids confusion.

Secret Yogi: The thought held on ending in complete satisfaction, is how awesome the waves still look, while extending your best intentions to those newly paddling out.

© 2013 willvarey

‘Making the Reform’ ~ Asana # 23

‘Making the Reform’ is the skill a surfer has in looking to the non-existent, and making it abundant. When faced with a long paddle-in between closeout sets against an outgoing rip, a subtle change of mind can mean a ride to the beach. The session-ending cry of ‘taxi’ signals the intention to take all that is available in an extended ride home. The additional points for moves on the face come easily to those with a Zurf-Yoga™ practice.

Overview: Pump the Flat, Work the Face, Float the Foam.

Technical: This asana is one posture within a three movement set. The first adds flexibility by a repeated leg plunge. The second involves subtle torso lifts with simultaneous leg flexes. The third is an equalising stance with hands extended for balance.

Specific Hints: When executing the second set of flexes, circular rotations in each knee-joint simultaneously, will enable the legs and hips to follow.

Secret Yogi: In the moment of floating transcendence, translate the energetic forward speed into a levitating kundalini lift. The more enlightened you are, the lighter, you will get.

© 2013 willvarey

‘Grabbing the Rail’ ~ Asana # 22

‘Grabbing the Rail’ is an aerial move using the transfer of speed and gravity to extend the shape of the wave dynamically. Surfers seeing past conventional limitations, notice how these extensions are really extending the natural. Surfing the wave, that is no longer there, is the Zen koan of your Zurf-Yoga™ meditation.

Overview: Release the Turn, Grab the Rail, Plant the Landing.

Technical: This asana also has three discrete movements. The first is a low arching turn with both hands. The second move lowers and shifts the centre of gravity. The third equalizes the weight in a low crouch. The centre of gravity is kept low at all times.

Specific Hints: Begin with the forward hand pointing to the front of the mat, before moving it through a 45 degree arc to the closing position.

Secret Yogi: If you have no need to pose (or for attention), the grab-rail roundhouse cutback, is the alternative retro move of repose, holding much greater tensions.

© 2013 willvarey

‘Hitting the Lip’ ~ Asana # 21

‘Hitting the Lip’ is when cruise turns to bruise, as to continue the wave, a surfer must choose. When the decision at the close-out is instead to bust-out, the movement into action must come without hesitation or reservation. This is the moment when, instead of heading for shore, a surfer seeks a whole lot more from their Zurf-Yoga™ practice.

Overview: Eye the Lip, Rotate the Rail, Smack the Curl.

Technical: This asana is a complex set of rotations for strength and extension. The torso rotates around a rear knee pivot. The rear arm extends backwards at maximum reach. The balancing weight moves almost fully to the back foot.

Specific Hints: Straighten the rear leg at commencement to transfer weight smoothly without risk of injury.

Secret Yogi: Pushing the front hand down towards the board, places ‘special’ energy on your rear kick pad.

 

© 2013 willvarey

‘Carving the Turn’ ~ Asana # 20

‘Carving the Turn’ is when a surfer magically aligns rail, rocker, tail and trail into a natural arc through the changing contour of a wave’s peaking face. How the releasing of vertical height adds vertical height, and a releasing of down-the-line speed adds down-the-line speed, is the secret flow of a  Zurf-Yoga™ practice.

Overview: Face the Pit, Flex the Rocker, Hold the Turn.

Technical: This one asana takes years of practice. The pivot is forward of the balance point. The tension is on the ball of each foot and the toes. The heels should touch the ground at all times. Flex at the knees with no change to the position of the torso.

Specific Hints: Use the centre of the chest as the balance point, on a line 45 degrees to the floor.

Secret Yogi: Place the hands on the chi-force of the rising wave for stability, and an added push of oceanic-energy as you release.

© 2013 willvarey

‘Exiting the Room’ ~ Asana # 19

‘Exiting the Room’ is the moment surfers know they have made it. A simple recognition to those encouraging you into the wave is all that it is required. This is the moment when outward elation is cool for the too-cool. In this is the recognition that a Zurf-Yoga™ practice is all about celebration.

Overview: Hit the Channel, Pump the Air, Feel the Spray.

Technical: This asana is one posture. It is a release from the previous pose. The arms are vertical with palms open. The weight moves backwards and to the side. The balance point is past the vertical, yet stable.

Specific Hints: Use the arms to create a balancing arch to move your weight to the correct position.

Secret Yogi: Feel the spray on your back as you exit (the green room) and imagine its movement around and through you.

plank

© 2013 willvarey

‘Finding the Line’ ~ Asana # 17

‘Finding the Line’ is where a surfer and the wave begin their real conversation. Even after twenty years of surfing the same wave, at the same break, at the same time of day, every surfer finds that a surprise awaits. The combination of swell direction, wind, surge, tide, and time changes the wave before them. The discovery of the ‘fall-line’, being each wave’s unique signature, is an intuitive part of your Zurf-Yoga™ practice.

Overview: Ground the Turn, Tune the Trim, Gaze the Lip.

Technical: This asana involves subtle transitions into a sustained pose. It is complemented with three balancing movements.  The weight moves to a forward lean point midway between the front and back feet. The rear hand drops to one third height with palm turned downwards. The front hand adjusts 90 degrees.

Specific Hints: Finding the balance point is vital, which is both forward and back, and also lateral.

Secret Yogi: When in the balanced posture, lift the head and look up, to the cresting wave’s summit and feel the rails adjust.

 

© 2013 willvarey

‘Taking the Drop’ ~ Asana # 16

‘Taking the Drop’ is the moment of greatest exhilaration in each surf session. If the take-off is possible, the surfer’s next question is how to make ‘making-it’ even more probable. To borrow from the surfing-yogi, Henry Ford: ‘Whether you believe you can take-the-drop, or not, you are right.’ To know the drop has already been made, by attentiveness paid, is the reward of a Zurf-Yoga™ practice.

Overview: Set the Rail, Feel the Flex, Hold the Line.

Technical: This asana is one fluid transition into a deepening pose. The initial backward extension is a practice in weight transitions. The extended arms enable focus on the central balance point. The deeper knee bend allows all weight to move to the back leg.

Specific Hints: Use full length finger extensions in both hands to enable an easy push into the posture position.

Secret Yogi: Turn the rear hand, fully extended palm upwards, to feel the foam ball closing down behind you. Look only if you dare.

Quote: “The best trip, is the trip inside yourself.” (Carlos Burle)

© 2013 willvarey

‘Meeting the Swell’ ~ Asana # 15

‘Meeting the Swell’ is what defines soul-surfing for surfers. This is when the surfer and the ocean meet as one. It begins with seeing the contours of the forming wave, requires the matching of speed as if catching a runaway train, and culminates in the moment of commitment that represents a Zurf-Yoga™ practice.

Overview: Check the Lines, Match the Speed, Commit the Self.

Technical: This asana is all about smooth transitions. It involves two preliminary moves and an extended posture. The first involves two full bilateral twists. The second asks for an extended prostrated push-up to half-vertical. The main posture has a forward balance point, with a backward push in tension to counteract.

Specific Hints: Notice how the hand position in the sustaining posture is unusual for yoga, but familiar for the surfer.

Secret Yogi: In sustaining the glide, sense into the deeper feeling of the swell, using it to do all the work that is needed, effortlessly.

© 2013 willvarey

‘Counting the Sets’ ~ Asana # 14

‘Counting the Sets’ is the reason why, the most relaxed looking crew, also seem to be ‘right- there’ in the spot when it all happens. There is no mystery why the best looking waves will always have someone in the perfect position. The lull between sets, allows the calming before the storm, to appreciate the patterns, in a Zurf-Yoga™ practicing.

Overview: Stroke the Water, Breathe the Ocean, Find the Moment.

Technical: This asana is the most outwardly tranquil in the Zurf-Yoga™ set. It involves one posture. Sitting, the hands rest on the floor. A sequence of breath meditations are done while being guided. The intensity of breath builds successively.

Specific Hints: The hands are consciously placed, knuckles down, in a relaxed position where they connect with the mat, but also take on no weight.

Secret Yogi: The extension of the spine with the in-breaths is important, where one begins to breathe ‘as the ocean’ – ready for the explosive exhale.

© 2013 willvarey

‘Splashing the Crew’ ~ Asana # 13

‘Splashing the Crew’ is how surfers greet each other in the water with respect. While its true ‘a surfer always surfs alone’, part of the ‘good-vibe’ of surf-lore, is knowing everyone is being watched out for. The one day when you need help in a rip, or even to be gifted the wave of the set, those you can count on most are the other surfers having a Zurf-Yoga™ practice.

Overview: Anoint the Crown, Move the Ocean, Squirt the Clam.

Technical: This asana has an opening and closing mudra around a posture with four repetitions. Begin seated in half lotus. The main move is first to the right, then left, then repeated. The close involves hands clasped, right vertical, left lateral in an extended brace.

Specific Hints: Aim for maximum extension with each arm, the wrists vertical. To maintain central balance the opposing hand can be braced using the knee.

Secret Yogi: When doing the closing move, work the three lower chakras for that special sensation of becoming one with the ocean.

© 2013 willvarey

‘Noticing the Noahs’ ~ Asana # 12

‘Noticing the Noahs’ is now becoming a part of every surfer’s practice. From remote unfamiliar reefs to local patrolled beaches, the wise surfer pays attention to the changing habits of the local fauna and its habitats. The Australian rhyming slang Noah’s Ark refers not to the playful, whimsical, leaping dolphins. When someone calls ‘fin’, those with a Zurf-Yoga ™ practice grin in delight, knowing the ‘men in grey suits’ prefer to stay out of sight.

Overview: Lift the Bait, Watch and Wait, Relax in Laughter.

Technical: This simple pose is mostly about relaxation of the neck muscles. Two sets using both a clockwise and counterclockwise rotation generate a relaxation of tensions. The first set maintains constant eye level. The second set uses a parabolic arching motion for added looseness. The asana ends in a relaxed sitting position.

Specific Hints: Allow an audible laugh at the relaxation point of commencement of the second clockwise set and an audible relaxing exhale on completion.

Secret Yogi: Use your ‘fourth eye’ to maintain vigilance on the space behind you. If you can disengage your head from your spinal chord, this will work also.

Quote: “I like to surf as much as I can, and surf as hard as I can.” (Johnny Boy Gomes)

© 2013 willvarey

‘Setting the Transit’ ~ Asana # 11

‘Setting the Transit’ is a chance for a surfer to relax, knowing they are in position, and not expectantly waiting to be caught on the inside. The local knowledge acquired where the Pines, Pyramids, Cables or Trestles come into stellar alignment means you are adrift on the ocean tide, knowingly.  This is the feeling of a relaxed presence that defines a mature Zurf-Yoga™ practice.

Overview: Scratch the Wax, Turn the Board, Pick the Points.

Technical: This asana combines balance and flexibility. It involves bilateral repetition in two directions. In sitting position the feet are slightly raised and rotated, clockwise followed by anti-clockwise.  The closing hand-mudra completes the move in a sustained tension of clear focus.

Specific Hints: The ankle rotation allows for tendon relaxation. This enables specific moves that follow in the full set and ensures flexibility is present, before proceeding.

Secret Yogi: In the moments of close of the move, use the subtle energetic tension to set up your intention, for the perfect take-off and fall-line perception.

 

zurfyoga13

 

© 2013 willvarey

‘Seeking the Surface’ ~ Asana # 10

‘Seeking the Surface’ can be the difference between the beginning of a great session and the short-end to a long surfing career.  Starved of air, rather than a panic, the swim towards fresh oxygen can be peaceful and transcendent. There is an efficiency and beauty in this challenging stage of a Zurf-Yoga™ practice.

Overview: Push the Reef, Stroke for Air, Feel the Sun.

Technical: This asana has three discrete parts. The first is a transition from kneeling to an open stretch. The second is the stretch repeated three, five or eleven times. The third involves a state of śavāsana in a kneeling position, with hands in relaxation.

Specific Hints: In the vertical stretch, there is a subtle twist of the torso, spine and hands, making this asana different to the more balanced lateral movement of paddling out.

Secret Yogi: In completion, relax, lie back and enjoy the sun on your face, basking renewed in surfing’s profound grace .

zurfyoga4

© 2013 willvarey

‘Diving the Set’ ~ Asana # 8

‘Diving the Set’ is the skilled surfer’s main reward of a smart paddle out. Rather than paddling two lengths forward and pushed six back, the skill of diving the set adds great ease to your break access. The timing of an efficient board-dive is no accident in a well-rehearsed Zurf-Yoga™ practice.

Overview: Brace the Hands, Pivot the Dive, Drink the Surface.

Technical: This asana is one fluid move, with three parts, done as three repetitions, with increasing intensity. The first commencement is itself a strength position. The second has four points of specific balance. The third introduces cyclic vertical movements and a flexible progression through the spine.

Specific Hints: Begin with the hands and toes perfectly balanced, so when adopting the pose the legs will be equally positioned.

Secret Yogi: Feel the base of the wave roll behind your head, neck and spine for a crystal cylinder massage.

rivermouth

© 2013 willvarey

‘Paddling the Rip’ ~ Asana # 7

‘Paddling the Rip’ is when a surfer discovers how good their surf preparedness truly is. The trained eye can tell in a few seconds by the trim and speed, if someone will be a sleek sea otter in the break today (or a floundering flatulent walrus). From short shore-break sprints, to long off-shore channel treks, the paddle-out is the test of core-stamina in a Zurf-Yoga™ practice.

Overview: Set the Glide, Check the Pace, Edge the Crest.

Technical: This asana has one major form, with two subtle variations. It can be done as an endurance exercise with resistance bands for additional strengthening. The positioning of the feet and the head in a gentle arch ensures central core balance. The sequence is broken with a bilateral pause to check stability. An additional movement of arch and relax provides a dynamic quality to the steady simplicity.

Specific Hints: Stretch to the horizon with each stroke for maximum body extension.

Secret Yogi: Pulling inwards with each stroke in an “~”-like motion channels water under your board’s imaginary concaves for added propulsion.

zurfyoga3

© 2013 willvarey

‘Waxing the Stick’ ~ Asana # 6

‘Waxing the Stick’ is a meditative ritual sadly being replaced by deck grip and artificial surfaces. For those who have ever had a leg slip on a steep drop, the benefits of good wax coverage outweigh the rush to be in the water surfing. The meeting of surfer and board when thinking about the placement of feet and hands will show in the wax pattern left by a Zurf-Yoga™ practice.

Overview: Meet the Board, Wax the Seat, Groove the Deck.

Technical: This asana is a variation on a familiar theme. The innovation is in the hand movements. The transition into a left low plunge extends the right leg fully. The right plunge left leg extension similarly stretches muscles often neglected. The alternative hand movements provide extensions into depth and small lateral tensions for micro-balancing.

Specific Hints: By alternating the movements of the hands in turn, the tension in each corresponding leg is emphasised separately.

Secret Yogi: Writing your initials in the grooves of the wax provides an extra flourish to your signature moves.

© 2013 willvarey

‘Hitting the Beach’ ~ Asana # 5

‘Hitting the Beach’ is the liminal moment for surfers between leaving the carpark and entering the water. In one way, the physical preparation for a great surf all happens in this space. To avoid an early paddle-in with leg cramp, torn cruciate ligaments, or painful snapped hamstrings, the modern surfer now does warm up stretches as if waiting for their competition heat. As Patanjali would often say in his Zurf-Yoga ™ practice: ‘The surfer who warms, is the one who performs’.

Overview: Zip the Suit, Check the Crew, Attach the Leash.

Technical: This asana is actually three advanced moves in one sequence. The first move stretches the reach of your arm extension bilaterally equally and in a forward and back direction. The second safely stretches the thorax muscles to maximise torso rotation. The third loosens the tendons in the upper and lower legs to prevent cramp and injury.

Specific Hints: The exhalation of the breath completely, three times, will advance your rotational extension significantly.

Secret Yogi: For the advanced student only, place your leg-rope on the alternative leg, then do the entire remaining yoga sequence in a mirrored ‘switch-stance’.

© 2013 willvarey

‘Cruising the Coast’ ~ Asana # 3

‘Cruising the Coast’ is how most surfers spend precious pre-surf time, getting to the place where local knowledge says conditions will be best. The act of driving can be a workout for the prepared surfer. One aims to be relaxed, yet poised ready, for the surfing ahead. Straining to catch a first look at the swell it’s important to appear super-cool. With the accelerator down, no traffic around, cruising with knowing – means its going to be a Zurf-Yoga ™ day.

Overview: Hit the Road, Change the Gears, Check the Waves.

Technical: This is a complex asana involving a difficult opening stance and three simultaneous transitions. The primary pose consists of a half sit to the left with right leg extended in a heel support. The arms are bent at chest eight. Palms facing in. The first transition is left palm down. The second transition is right elbow out. The third transition is a turn of the head to the right. The three actions, when done together, support and enable a deepening of the supported half sit pose.

Specific Hints: Ensure your feet are adjacent when beginning for maximum balance benefit. Use the positional spread of the arms to provide stability.

Secret Yogi: When doing the head turn, imagine you are driving past a Rincon to Malibu seascape of corduroy horizons, to which you will show absolutely no emotion, as if it happens every day.

© 2013 willvarey

About ~ It’s ‘ZurfYoga’

“A Yoga for Yogis Who Surf”

In 2005 I found myself travelling more and more for work. Being away from the waves for most of a very long winter, when the day for a dedicated endurance surfing session came, the usual fitness just was not there. Not feeling on my game my favourite long-waited-for waves, went left unridden. After thirty years in the water, I found I needed to learn a new surfing skill.

As my surfer friends always say: ‘The only thing that makes you surf-fit, is surfing.” Every surfer knows it’s true. The localised muscle groups used for surfing are so specialised. They change in each surfer and for each board. What really makes the difference to having a great surf, is the ‘apithologia’ of the state of your muscle, motivation, and mind.

To ensure you can surf anywhere, anytime, at all levels, we made a yoga for surfers. To feel like you never left the water, knowing always a great surf is only a yoga-mat away, there is now Zurf Yoga™. It’s the way surfers like to stay surf-fit.

© 2013 willvarey