Yoga Bites: Make the most of gnarly waves and little ones

By Sarah Hundley August 13, 2012 09:35 pm

Yoga Bites appears every four weeks.

Everything everywhere moves in waves. Wave motion is the movement of life. Everything in the universe vibrates in wave-like patterns: sound waves, light waves, radio waves, ocean waves, seismic waves, heat waves, brain waves, peristaltic waves — even our breath, blood and heartbeats move in waves.

Here on the coast summer equals Lake Pacific, and deprived surfers tend to go a bit bonkers.  (Thank goodness this is also the Wild Rivers Coast where summer also equals river season!)  In perfect surfing paradise, head-high waves would peel for miles, one glassy peak after another. But in surfing, as in life, you’ve got to have the flat spells and micro swells to appreciate the excitement of the crazy, epic times.

Life is like a wave.  All waves come with crests and troughs, ups and downs, highs and lows. These ups and downs are the constant play of the polarities of life. Day follows night, fortune follows misfortune, and rain follows sunshine.  It is our attachment to having the “good” and our aversion to the “bad” that creates suffering.


Yoga is the art of riding the waves of life skillfully, of finding our balance and keeping our poise amidst the turbulence of life’s ever-shifting waters. We can learn from our reflections on the mat so that we can surf the waves of life more gracefully, flow with change, and ride high on opportunity.

As we surf the waves of life we will have some epic rides and some gnarly wipeouts, sunny days and stormy days, long quiet lulls and swells of immense pleasure and pain. We cannot control any of this. What we can control is our response to each unfolding moment. We can create some spectacular rides by responding positively to whatever waves come our way.  And remember, good or bad, no wave lasts forever.

If we are the surfer, life is the wave, and yoga is how we ride life’s rhythms, then our attitude is the surfboard. Which attitude do you want to pull from your quiver today? Can we stay centered in a state of observation, acceptance, and appreciation? Can we face our fears, focus forward, paddle like the dickens, and commit to the drop? Can we remain grateful for the lessons that each wave presents? Can we truly allow life to unfold as it may? Each day we practice we get stronger, we get smarter, and our intuition tells us which way to flow.

The next time you are on your mat, imagine that you are floating on a surfboard out at sea, gently rocking and rolling on top of the water. Focus solely on the present moment with all of your senses. Mind-surf perfect waves as you lay on your belly centered on your “surfmat.” Paddle for the coming wave; breathe deeply as you use your whole body to propel yourself toward shore.

Arching your body like a banana, stroke one arm over the other and dig deep. Feel the water between your fingers. You can belly-ride this one or pop up to your feet by bringing hands under shoulders, pull the navel in toward the spine while pushing up to a half push-up on knees (hips in line with spine), activating and accessing your deep core lines place both feet under your hips as smoothly and quickly as possible. One foot will naturally lead. Start here.

Practice makes possible. For Silver Surfer Pose, press into Warrior II with the front knee over the ankle, back leg straight, feet grounded, toes in line with knees, and spine tall. Let your tail and shoulders become heavy while your low belly, heart and head remain buoyant. Bring hands together at chest, and exhale to turn and dive deep onto or inside the front thigh (maybe as low as the ankle) with your upper body.  

Press strongly into your feet and inhale to float up. Spin your heart to the front as you reach your arms, palms still together, overhead, now in a side bend over your back leg.  Allow your body to express itself naturally, fluidly.  Repeat seven or more times, then ease back onto your belly again, paddle, paddle, paddle, and pop-up switch-stance, now with opposite foot forward. Remember alignment rule numero uno: If it feels good it probably is good, and if it feels bad it probably is bad.  Trust your body’s wisdom and flow in a way that makes you smile from the inside out.

If life was only paddle, paddle, paddle and charging big waves, when would we take the time to watch the pelicans soar, the osprey dive, or the whales breach? When would we watch the sky’s colors dance like liquid light on the ocean’s undulating surface, smell the pure sea salt air, feel the offshore breeze tickle skin while the sun’s rays bring warmth? When would we listen to the woosh of the waves breaking on shore, the chattering of the birds, the splashing of the fish, the barking of the basking sea lions?

Feel the tides and fog roll in and out like the breath. Gazing beyond the horizon to limitless potential, then back to land where cares and woes now seem so far away, appreciate a fresh point of view.  Let’s celebrate the waves of life in all their glorious diversity, offer thanks to the Ocean Gods, and have faith that there’s always another wave coming. Carpe fluctus! Seize the wave!

Sarah Hundley, a certified yoga instructor and massage therapist, owns Shambala Studio in Crescent City. Email her at This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it