As we flew home, I reflected on the week of surfing and yoga...
Surfing isn't easy. In fact it's flipping hard. Yet, as all great coaches do, the teachers at Lanzasurf Surf School make it a meaningful challenge, in which you learn more about life than just 'how to surf.'
Surfing requires focus, good energy, and awareness of other surfers and the ocean. The feeling of finally standing up on the board, after learning the technique is exhilarating. Let's face it, there's something about surfing that makes for great happiness.
It's important to consider the amount of body knowledge that surfing requires.
Over the course of the 5-day Intensive Certificate program, my body started to feel not only more alive, it also felt more toned, while physically tired out. Each night we practiced yoga to stretch and relieve the onset of muscle soreness.
I quickly found that I was most comfortable in the beginners' group and certainly not ready for more advanced surf.
My fellow beginning surfers, Audra (a lovely Lithuanian woman from Ireland), John and Daisy (from England) and I commiserated about our bodies and what we were feeling: both mentally and physically.
Daisy and Audra both agreed that they were quite sure that they hadn't the actual upper-body, muscular strength necessary to apply the techniques that we were learning.
As a Certified Personal Trainer of 15 years, I quickly scanned their movement patterns and posture. We beginners were feeling worn out, and what was the thing that we all shared in common? We were all slouching. I pulled myself up, threw my shoulders back, and drew my belly button inward (pull your naval to your spine, while exhaling, and you'll get the feeling). Excited to share my joy, I exclaimed,
"Guys! Guys! That's not the problem. It's not that we're not strong enough." Everyone looked at me, quite surprised. We certainly felt weak and the worse for wear. "Look at me." I demonstrated this new movement pattern. I stood up tall. "Look. Look how we're standing!"
I patted Audra on the back of her shoulders and said,
"Squeeze my hand with your shoulder blades. Stand up tall and throw your shoulders back. Does that feel different?"
"Yes!?" She looked at me, intrigued.
"Now pull your belly in. Don't splay your ribs like that." Audra followed my directions. Daisy and John followed our lead and also stood up, quite tall, packing their shoulder blades back and down.
"Isn't this different?" We stared at each other. I slouched back down again, "It's computer posture!" I saw recognition flash, and the wry grin that goes along with agreement. "It's because of our modern culture." I demonstrated how people sit at computers with their heads forward, and their wrists curled over the keyboard, then I mimed holding a cell phone and texting. "We're all shaped like this all day. This is not good alignment. It's not functional!" Daisy agreed,
"Yes! This is quite different, I feel taller now."
I was thrilled by the mutual feeling of empowerment and understanding.
I went on, "We're experiencing the feeling of weakness that goes along with faulty movement patterns and improper muscular skeletal alignment. Think of a car. If the alignment was off on your car, the steering wheel would shake and you really couldn't drive very fast without ruining the car. Our bodies are just protecting us, we could get injured if we kept trying to surf with poor alignment."
Daisy chimed in, "Yes, I have terrible wrist issues, from my computer. I've been told that I must correct my posture. It's just so bloody hard."
"Yes! Yes it is! But remember, that standing up tall, and pulling your abs in will activate your core, and help to stabilize our shoulders. We do this, and our bodies will be more efficient. It won't be so hard, you'll see."
"I believe you. What you're saying makes sense," Daisy nodded, looking more upbeat. She was much taller than she looked 10 minutes earlier, when we all felt so down-trodden. John, too, was standing super-tall.
"Imagine what it would be like, if we prepared for this? If we had really identified which muscles were long, and out of shape, and needed toning up... and also had worked on stretching out our tight muscles, in preparation?" I looked into their eyes, and all eyes were smiling.
"I think that would be brilliant." Daisy encouraged me.
"I could send you the exercise program ahead of time, just simpler things that you can do. They're called, 'corrective exercises,' and we could train, and then come back here, next year, stronger! And you can take your workout home with you, after surfing, and bring the exercises back into your regular life, and truly live the lifestyle."
"I have a pain in my back, that is chronic," Audra offered. "It is a pain that doesn't go away. It's like a knot."
"Yes! That's the human design flaw. That's what one of my client call it. Is it right here?" I dug my finger in, as gently as possible, right near her shoulder blade, about half way down her spine.
"That's it! Sometimes it hurts so much, it takes my breath away."
"Yes, yes, I used to get migraine headaches, from that pain. That's called Levator Scapulae. By training your core muscles and your rear shoulder girdle, it will stop overcompensating."
"I just want it to start hurting."
"I can teach you how to fix that. We can go over a few exercises via Skype."
As we walked up the beach to the next class, I was excited by the realization that Pongo Power could help even more people globally, in addition to the people we work with in Brooklyn.
Later in the week I visited Daisy and John at their Bungalow, down the street from Lanzasurf, and we sat down for a glass of local red wine and an interview.