I have a confession to make. Make that several confessions…
1) I have a fear of deep ocean water.
2) I have a fear of big fish in said deep water.
3) I have let these two fears keep me from doing something I have wanted to do for as long as I can remember…
That is, until last Saturday when I threw caution to the wind (and myself in to the waves) with Salty Dog’s Surf+Yoga Experience.
I didn’t want to continue touting the intense connection between yoga and surf based merely upon things I’d read and what others have told me. I wanted to know it intimately, first-person, salt-water-up-the-nose and all.
And so I found myself at the surf’s edge, with 10 other yogis, lying stomach-down on a board, getting land instruction from Odysea Surf and Kiteboard School’s Kevin Murphy. And I was damn good at swimming through the sand and pushing my body up into a low, ninja surfer stance every time Kevin yelled “now pop up!”
Until we headed out toward the ocean. Suddenly my heart rate quickened as I watched my fellow yogis fearlessly plunge into the sea and start paddling out. How are they doing that?? But my instructor didn’t give me much time to get anxious. He helped me carry my board into the water and before I knew it, I, too, was paddling out with very little opportunity to over-think it.
Instead, it was suddenly all about getting beyond the crashing waves, and, much like a tough wave of a power vinyasa sequence, I was far too focused on my body and breath and the physical and mental challenge of it all to be thinking about the water getting deeper. In fact, when I finally made it out past the breakers, I’d never been so happy to find myself in deep water, blissfully releasing to float on my board while I waited for a wave – the child’s pose of surfing. This is where my fear of big fish should have tapped me on the shoulder, but instead, I was feeling one with the sealife – even the bigger, toothier variety. I couldn’t make myself be afraid if I tried. I was good.
And again, and again, and again.
I won’t lie – I did get pummeled a number of times. But finally – and with about as much grace as a hippopotamus – I rode a wave! My ride was brief, but long enough to feel the power of the churning sea beneath me. I understood then why people do it – why someone would paddle out, wait, and wait, and wait… (and then wipe out several times) for the chance that they might get to connect with the power of the ocean. It’s like the call of the waves was always there, and your first surf allows you to start hearing it. (Interesting side note: my first yoga class left me with a similar fascination.)
The bonus lesson: continually being new to things is so important! Trying something for the first time is an incredibly valuable experience, not only in its power to enrich our lives and to challenge our minds and bodies, but also in its ability to increases our empathy.
Every time I throw myself into something new, I’m reminded vividly of what my brand new yoga students must feel like at their first class. Mine was so long ago that it’s easy to forget the fear, the insecurity, the need for encouragement both from my instructor and from myself, how humbling it is! Experiencing being a new student at anything makes one a better teacher of everything.
The morning was indeed epic. After surfing, we were hungry and parched and extremely grateful for the cooler full of coconut water and snacks and Meg’s yoga cool-down. Much like trying a new arm balance or inversion in class, surfing can leave you feeling wild and scattered, and a few asanas were just the thing for opening muscles that would likely be sore the next day, and refocusing and grounding the mind.
Equal parts strenuous and invigorating, The Surf+Yoga Experience left me feeling intensely alive, with even greater love and respect for the sea, a deeper understanding of the common threads that link surf and yoga, and a hearty desire to do it all over again.
Nice pictures and a truly inspiring story! Thanks!
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