YOGA FOR SURFERS: RECLINED DOUBLE PIGEON POSE
As surfers, we tend to do a lot of repetitive motion and spend a lot of time in certain positions that can create imbalances in our bodies. Two of these—the arched-back paddle position and standing on a board with our feet perpendicular to the stringer (often with the majority of our weight and power on our back foot, and with our front foot turned ever so slightly forward)—create tightness and imbalance in our hips. This can affect our ability to surf and do other activities well, and also contribute to lower back pain. Thus, it only makes sense that surfers should spend a bit of time every day loosening up our hips and ensuring that they are flexible and healthy. Our monthly yoga pose does exactly that and should become a part of your daily routine. Five minutes in the morning and evening will do wonders for your hip flexibility—and you might as well do five minutes on the beach before you paddle out as well. It’s a relaxing pose, and nothing gets you in the mood for some waves like lying in the sand! Supta aginstambhasana (also known as reclined double pigeon or reclined fire log pose) is a passive stretch that allows gravity to do most of the work- but this doesn't mean it's easy. Prepare for the pose by lying on your back and getting comfortable. Do some deep, focused breathing to get yourself settled, both physically and mentally. Then hug your knees to your chest and pull them toward you with your arms. Rock back and forth along your spine a few times until you come up to a seated position. Start in a simple cross-legged seat. Then, with the help of your hands slide your left ankle on top of your right knee/thigh so that your lower left leg is stacked on top of your lower right leg. Make sure that your left ankle does not settle into the crease of your right knee—it should almost feel like your left foot is hanging off the side of your right thigh. With your legs in this position, slowly lie down on your back and breathe deeply. If you have any knee concerns (such as medial meniscus or MCL injury), move carefully and cautiously. This pose, or any pose for that matter, is not worth reinjuring yourself. You can lessen the intensity of this pose in two ways:
- Roll up two towels separately, and prop one under each knee/thigh.
- Maintain the initial cross-leg shape with one shin set in front of the other, instead of stacked on top of each other.
You may find that your hips are quite tight and that the legs cannot lie flat on top of each other. This is not a problem! We all have different bodies and levels of flexibility. Remember you only need to go as far as it takes to feel the stretch. Someone with more range of motion may need to go a little further, whereas someone with less range of motion doesn’t need to go as far as to feel that sensation.
No matter where you are on that scale, don’t forget to breathe steadily. The longer you stay in reclined double pigeon, the deeper you will feel yourself settling into this pose. You may feel a release in your hips, back, and buttocks, and find that your legs are gradually able to sink lower than when you began. Hold the pose for two minutes, breathing deeply and slowly the entire time. Then gently release the legs so that they’re both extended out on the ground once again and repeat the pose with the other side (left leg under and right leg over). Once you’ve done both sides, return to Shavasana (corpse pose), return to Shavasana (corpse pose), which is simply lying on your back with your legs extended comfortably on the ground.
Close your eyes and breathe deeply as you feel the spaciousness in your hips. Take a few more breaths as you consciously focus on softening all of the muscles in your body, starting at your feet and moving up toward your head. Then, once you are fully relaxed, slowly roll to one side and use your hands to press yourself up to a sitting position. From there, you are ready to start your day, paddle out for a surf, or crawl into bed- it all just depends on what you have planned after your stretch! Kilty Inafuku teaches yoga classes on the North Shore (at the North Shore Yoga Co-op and Paumalu Yoga), in Honolulu (at Power Yoga Hawaii Piikoi), and in Kailua (at Yoga by the Sea). She also hosts and guest teaches at various yoga events on the island and leads retreats both in Hawaii and overseas. For more information, visit www.kiltyyoga.com.