sea stoke, issue three

The next time you go for a surf, warm up with the following routine of yoga stretches. It involves eight simple moves, incorporating your breath, to warm up and unlock your body to maximise your surfing performance and may even just make your whole day better.

Words by Rachel Leah Haskovec // Photography/Design  by Gary Parker
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Neck Rotation

Directions

1.  Sit cross-legged with a straight spine. Your arms should be relaxed, with your hands facing upwards and resting on top of your knees.

2.  Starting with an inhale, rotate your head around to the right side and when your head is back and your chin comes towards the sky, exhale the other half way around the circle.

3.  Keep your chest lifted and shoulders back and down, remembering not to hunch your shoulders as you roll the neck.

4.  Continue with easy rotations, you should be reaching the point of gentle tension and following your breath. Do about 5 rotations.

5.  Once you have finished rotating to the right, rotate your neck to the left and continue for 5 more rotations.

6.  The cervical spine has almost 275 degrees of flexibility, much more than our thoracic or lumbar spine, so it’s important to warm it up slowly and gently.

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Benefits

–  Eases tension in the head, face, neck, shoulders and top of the back.

–  Tones neck muscles.

–  Lengthens soft tissues to avoid stiffness and postural problems.

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Standing Backstroke For The Shoulders

Directions

1.  Standing with your feet shoulder width apart, extend your arms down to your sides and then slowly start to rotate your entire arm in a backstroke motion and once it returns to your side, begin to rotate the opposite arm.

2.  Complete 5 slow, backward rotations on each side.

3.  Your arms should be like arms on a clock—up at 12, back at 9, down at 6 and forward at 3.

4.  As a counter stretch, roll just your shoulders forwards without extending the arms.

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Benefits

–  Compliments the forward stroke of paddling while surfing and works the entire shoulder girdle, stretching down into the pectoral muscle and out into the biceps.

–  Improves your posture and relieves tension in the shoulders.

–  Reverses the effects of time spent hunched over computers and driving.

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Sunbursts

Directions

1.  Start with your feet either hips width apart or in the traditional tadasana or mountain pose with your feet together.

2.  Keep your knee joints soft, but engage the quadriceps, lifting the kneecaps. The positioning of our pelvis determines the shape of our lower back, so tilt your pelvis forward, up towards your belly button to flatten the lower back. Keep the naval in towards your spine, with your chest and heart centre lifted and your shoulders back and down.

3.  Make sure you’re balanced evenly on the bottoms of both feet; rock yourself forward and back. Find the equilibrium by feeling the weight of your body sink into the ground while supported by your feet.

4.  Synchronising your breath with your movement, inhale as you start to raise your arms overhead, reaching up towards the sky, touching your palms and gazing at your thumbs. At the top of your inhale, you should be at the top of the pose.

5.  Exhale as you swan dive your arms down towards the ground, hinging at the waist, keeping a flat back and bringing your head down. The crown of your head should be parallel with the earth and your nose towards your knees. It’s not important if your hands touch the ground, but release and relax tension in the back of your neck, by keeping it long and allowing your arms to hang freely. At the bottom of your exhale, you should be bent as far forward as your body will go.

6.  Take an inhale and just look up, keeping your back flat and arms reaching toward the floor, then exhale to come forward again.

7.  Inhale coming back up to standing, reaching your arms above your head, touching your palms and gazing upward towards the sky. This time reach your hands back just out of your field of vision, incorporating a miniature backbend, keeping your pelvis forward to flatten out and protect your lower back.

8.  Take an exhale there and inhale coming back up to standing tall. On your next exhale, drop your arms back down to your sides, bringing your head back to neutral.

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Benefit

–  Exercises and wakes up your entire body, mind and spirit and allows you to find your centre and feel balanced.

–  Helps loosen all the muscles in your back (elongates the spine), chest/abdomen (aids in digestion) and legs (stretches hamstrings).

–  Generates heat, gets your heart pumping and increases circulation.

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Lateral Spine Stretch

Directions

1.  Stand with feet hips width apart.

2.  Inhale and reach your right arm up towards the sky. As you exhale, fold over the left side of your body, gently reaching your left fingertips down towards your left knee.

3.  Keep your chest lifted, making sure the right bicep is just over the right ear. If you cannot breathe with a normal cadence, back off just a little. Breathe there for 5 rounds, feeling your lungs expand with each deep inhale and contract with each exhale.

4.  Inhale coming back up and dropping the right arm down. Switch sides, remembering to always inhale to lift and create space and exhale for twisting or flexion.

– Note: As pictured, this stretch can also be done with both arms extended at the same time, with your palms pressed against each other.

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Benefit

–  Helps to realign the spinal column.

–  Stretches the intercostal muscles (between the ribs) and the thoracic cage, aiding the lungs to take in more oxygen.

–  Stimulates the digestive tract by stretching the abdominal muscles and waist. 

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Axial Spine Rotation

Directions

1.  Standing with feet a little wider than hips width apart, hanging your arms down by your sides, gently start to swing yourself from side to side just moving from the waist up.

2.  Allowing your arms to also swing freely, the centrifugal force bringing the opposite arm around and letting it gently tap your side right where your kidneys are located.

3.  Spot something on the ground behind you and with each turn, try to twist just a micro movement further. Continue to breathe normally and do not hold your breath.  Do this for at least a minute.

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Benefits:

–  Spinal twists strengthen the back and improve range of motion (important because most of the movement in our daily lives is linear, meaning forward and backward).

–  This gentle twisting motion helps release tension and builds the small muscles around the spine which helps with stabilisation and balance.

–  Stimulating and cleansing for the organs, bringing them fresh oxygen-rich blood and promoting healthy functioning of the digestion and elimination systems.

–  This move should be energising without force and is cohesive in bringing together the inside, outside, front and back, left and right sides of our bodies, so they can work together efficiently.

 

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Standing Hip Rotation

Directions

1.  Start with your feet hips width apart. Hold your waist with your hands or outstretch your arms for balance.

2.  Ground your right foot into the earth and on an inhale, lift up the left leg rotating the left hip in its socket. Try to get full range of motion by rotating the hip forward and backward 5 times in each direction and then repeat with the right leg.

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Benefits

–  This will help improve your balance, posture, alignment and overall mobility.

–  Helps combat arthritis, postural problems, bursitis and mechanical back pain.

–  Warms up the biggest muscles in the body—quads, hamstrings and glutes, stretches your adductors and abductors (inner and outer thighs, respectively) and loosens the hip flexors.

–  The more movement in our hips, the less stress our knees take in non-hinging movements.

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Squat

Directions

1.  Stand with your legs about 2 to 4 feet apart, toes angled out 45 degrees.

2.  Inhale lifting your arms either out to the side or out front to maintain your balance. As you exhale, start to bend your knees, keeping them out over your feet. If your knees buckle in, you’re going too low.

3.  Maintain a straight spine, with the crown of the head lifted to the sky. Come down as far as is comfortable and inhale coming up, engaging your legs and gently squeezing your glutes together. Go down on the inhale and come up on the exhale.

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Benefits

–  This stretches the ankles, opens the groins and the back of the torso, tones the belly and can relieve lower back strain.

–  Helps maintain balance and aids in digestive and elimination function.

–  Builds strength in the thighs, ankles, knees and extends the spine.

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Wide leg forward Bend

Directions

1.  Stand with your feet 2 to 4 ft apart. The flexibility in your inner thighs will determine the stance that is right for you.

2.  Inhale to stretch your arms out parallel to the ground and then exhale to interlace your fingers behind your back. Inhale, stretching your hands down toward the ground. Lift your chest and head towards the sky and arch your back slightly.

3.  As you exhale, slowly come forward, hinging at the waist. Keep a flat back and allow your arms to come over your head any amount. Elongate your cervical spine by letting your head hang down so the crown is parallel with the ground and your nose is towards your knees. You will feel this stretch on the inner thighs, the back of the knees, around the entire shoulder girdle and into the chest. Hold here for 5-10 deep breaths. Come up on an inhale.

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Benefits

–  Stretches the back and inside of the legs and opens the hips.

–  Stretches the spine, shoulders and chest.

–  Grounds you and calms the mind.

–  Can relieve mild backache. 

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Rachel’s Facebook page is regularly updated with inspirational musings and yoga-related reads, as well as her schedule as a traveling yoga instructor, which you can check out here. To see more of Gary Parker’s photography, head to Gaz-Art.com.