Yoga and surfing. How often I’ve popped up from Chaturanga to into Warrior II or, when a wave is closing out, into an impromptu Warrior III. Lately, I’ve begun to envision my surfboard as a mat on the water, especially now that I live in Kauai.
Here, the ocean is one of the most dominant forces around us. The moon guides the sea and in this winter season, She creates swells of over 50’ that roll towards land with the thickness of redwood forests.
I’m self-conscious on the sea. Having recovered from a 13-plus year battle with an eating disorder, the mere “showing up” of being in a bathing suit while paddling around others is a triumph in and of itself. I honor my body for all that she does for me, how she brings me on adventures, and the ways in which she lives up to the moxie I wholeheartedly embrace.
What’s more, I’m also a recovering perfectionist who up until now has liked to maintain the illusion that nothing is every wrong and I’m never anything but expert at whatever I try. So, I humbly accept that there is no such thing as perfection on the water, but rather a creation of art through allowing joy to come forward.
Even after five years of practice at this sport, I’m still as much of a newbie as the day I began. And, given that yoga has taught me to reflect upon myself with much more kindness and compassion, I could look at this with the Zen perspective of “Beginner’s Mind” or I could beat myself up that I’m not much better than I actually am. I choose the former, especially because Mother Nature reminds me of presence in how the elements are always changing.
No two waves are the same and this present moment is the only real moment, the only one that matters.
Being on the sea humbles me, especially when I’m tumbling in the whitewater. It inspires bliss when I catch an epic left. It shows me grace and gratitude when I have an easy paddle out in between sets or coming up for air, safe and sound if I don’t make the drop. Surfing reminds me that it doesn’t matter what anyone else is thinking, because if I can’t get out of my head and drop straight into my heart, then I lose everything about the moment. And this moment? This moment is about what the spinner dolphins, migrating whales, and creatures in nature innately know how to do — have fun.
It finally hit me how much my “need to achieve” mentality has carried over onto my board. It took me a very long while in my yoga practice to shift from pushing myself to do every hard pose in a power practice to easing up and understanding that for my fiery pitta personality, the practice that is actually best to balance me out the most is a cooling restorative one. I don’t have to fight or struggle all the time. I can allow life to meet me where I am and in that space and embrace an unfolding of beauty and boldness..
While I’m not trying to be a pro surfer, I do want to become a better expert at myself. So I put on my bathing suit. I grab my board and Velcro the leash around my left ankle, because I’m goofy foot. I find the channel in the ocean, paddle out, and find my place in the line-up. Then, I repeat affirmations that I can indeed do this as I pick the wave that’s right for me. And, as they say in Hawaii, “We go.”
In yoga, something inevitably transforms from the moment we start our practice to the completion of it. It’s similar with surfing. There really is nothing like that just-surfed glow, because from the moment I paddle out to when I get back on land, I always feel better no matter how I did.
Just being in the ocean reminds me that everything is all right.