Like it or not, yoga looks a lot different in 2015 than it did in 1980, 1960, or 1800. In many ways, yoga has transformed along similar lines to the world at large. The practice has been pushed, pulled, squeezed, and stretched to fit an ever changing cultural and material landscape.
One of the more interesting phenomena is the development of yoga as a “lifestyle.” Yoga is now not only a practice or a spiritual tradition, but also an identity and an aesthetic.
The aesthetic associations of yoga are vast: yoga and raw food, yoga and fitness, yoga and travel, yoga and fashion. You even hear about crazy people finding the yoga of surfing.
Yoga and surfing?
You heard that right. While typically associated with a sun-bleached, laissez faire life filled with hard partying and aggressive competition, surfing has experienced its own cultural metamorphosis. It is now starting to reveal its true heart which has always shared in the yogic tradition.
Need more convincing? Here are three reasons yoga and surfing are the perfect match, destined for the marriage they now enjoy.
1. Intimacy with Nature
Nothing compares with bobbing amongst the waves in the early morning or late evening; one can look out to a dramatic coastline looming in the distance and see the sun just emerging or receding on the horizon. For surfers, this connection to nature is on a par with the thrill of riding the wave itself.
Surfing is a merging: a profound shredding of previously held boundaries between man and nature. ~Brad Korpalski
The intimacy and contact with nature in yoga doesn't necessarily share the same "environment" with surfing, but it is equally strong; this connection is different in form but not in quality. We are nature, and yoga reminds us of this. In asana, meditation, and simply by breathing, we experience new depths of the self, and this is yoga.
2. Loss of Mind
As in any activity where the whole self is fully engaged, surfing and yoga present emphatic “beyond mind” experiences. The old adage, “if you think, you die” certainly applies to surfing, though in most cases, not quite so dramatically. The circumstances in the water don’t allow for too much mental activity; instead, behavior becomes a fluid relationship between doing and knowing.
The practice of yoga is to travel to the edges of the mind, to peek beyond thought, and to touch the universe at its core. This is the same method of fluid thinking employed in surfing. Relinquishing control is key to both surfing and yoga. The harmony and power of each practice are harnessed through profound presence, not mental effort.
3. Expansion of Self
In both practices, the ultimate result is an expansion of self. With the shattering of boundaries between self and nature or self and other, by the recession of mental control, and in the harmony of presence, the self expands.
When we lose previous ideas of who we are, our connection to truth surfaces. This expansion might not always be conscious, but it is always there under the veil. It pierces our experience and evolves our practice.
Find Your Yoga
While yoga has morphed beyond its traditional roots, we can look closely and find the true yogic core in any incarnation. In some ways, our very modernity is urging us to feel yoga in all things.
Go and find your yoga anywhere—on the mat, on a surfboard, and wherever yoga speaks to you.