by Becca Klewstigh, ERYT200 / RYT500 / Kook / Goofy Gurfer
My first time surfing was a salty mess. I fell off the board a gazillion times and swallowed so much sea water I thought I must have emptied the entire Pacific Ocean. I laughed and I cried, sometimes (mostly) at the same time. After hours in the ocean I was sunburned, had bruises I could not remember getting, and the following day I was sore in muscles I didn't know existed. And I was in love. I couldn't believe it had taken me 21 years to find this passion, and there was no doubt I would continue chasing waves for the rest of my life.
I embarked on the path of yoga years before my surfing journey. But from the first wave I caught on a beautiful beach break in Playa Hermosa, Costa Rica, it was clear to me what a perfect combination the two are. One of my surf instructors once said that riding the waves of the ocean is riding the energy of the universe: waves are created by swell, swell is created by air pressure, air pressure is created by the heat of the sun, and the sun is created by the universe. How utterly amazing is that?! In yoga we are working with this energy as well, tuning into the subtle vibrations of the universe by directing our practice to go within.
There are many connections between surfing and yoga, both leave me feeling nourished, refreshed and amazed by the wonders of nature. These are three of the most profound lessons I’ve learned, and relearned, from my years as a surfing yogi:
Never give up, always let go
One of the first things I learned that day in Costa Rica is to never give up, but always let go. This is an old concept from the the Yoga Sutras by Patanjali, which in Sanskrit is called Abhyasa and Vairagya. No matter how many times the ocean kicked my ass, no matter how many times I wiped out and got dragged under the waves, I never stopped trying. One of the beautiful things in surfing, just as in life, is that there’s always another wave coming. If not right now, in the next set or next swell. Every wave is a new possibility to try again; there’s no point in getting attached to the one that already passed by. Just because you fell off the last wave, doesn't mean you will on the next one.
In our yoga practice, every asana and every meditation is an opportunity for a new experience. It doesn't matter if you could or couldn't do a pose last week. Or if you had your best meditation yesterday, but today your mind can't stop running circles around you. What matters is to show up on your mat everyday, to do your best and let go of any expectations and judgments.
This too, shall pass
A close cousin to the previous topic is the notion that everything is impermanent: nothing lasts forever. That includes the wave you just fell off (yes, this happens a lot) and that is now tossing you around like a rag doll. Firstly, the good news is unless you surf waves big as a house, you will never be held under for more than a few seconds. Secondly, by keeping this in mind, it’s easier to stay calm(er) and relaxed when a wave is holding you down - there is no need to panic because you know it will soon be over and you can get to the surface without fighting the power of the ocean.
This lesson have been reinforced countless of times in my yoga practice. When we are in the midst of an emotional storm, both on and off the mat, it can be really (like, REALLY) hard to not get wrapped up in whatever is facing us right there and then. If we can remember that emotions are fleeting, they come and they go, we can maintain our cool and wait for them to pass without taking drastic or dramatic measures. Just like waves, fighting our emotions will only rob us of energy and time, and can potentially create a dangerous situation we in a clearer state of mind would avoid.
Change your attitude, change your life
The third and last lesson I want to share with you is something our master trainer Everett often says during our Bali yoga teacher trainings: "You can't change the waves of the ocean, but you can learn to ride them." There have been so many times I've been sitting out in the line up waiting for the “perfect” wave, thinking “this one is too big, that one is too small, Im in the wrong place, maybe the next one”. Spoiler alert: the perfect wave never came - because there isn't one! And while I was waiting for the wave of my dreams, I let all these other completely fine waves go just because I thought they weren't “the one”. Instead of doing the best with what I got offered, I missed out and ended up with nothing.
You can't always change the circumstances and situations in life, but you can change your attitude towards them and what actions you decide to take. There is no perfect moment, THIS is the moment. If you get an opportunity to do something you love, go for it! Even if it's not exactly what you expected or how you imagined it to be, you can create the life of your dreams by changing the way you approach yourself and the world. Attitude is everything.
Are you hooked on surfing or interested in trying? Join us for our 200H YTT in Canggu, the hip surfer town on the west coast of Bali. Spend three weeks immersed in yoga and enjoy your days off in the ocean. Find out more here!