Kiting is a sport that makes a lot of demands on your body and mind. Whilst you are on the water, you should be concentrated, and your movements need a high level of coordination, especially if you train new tricks. No question that it makes sense to be physically fit, to train your muscles for kitesurfing – on the one hand to have more power for certain moves, on the other hand to reduce the risk for injuries.
But what about the mental part? Yoga might be the key to prepare both body and mind for awesome kitesessions! Learn more interesting facts about this ancient but popular method with its amazing impacts on your kitesurf performance as well as on your overall life.
Kitesurfing and Yoga:
My own experience
A few years ago I was practicing Yoga regularly and I loved it, cause I felt really balanced. But, to be honest, I stopped whilst a stay in Greece when we had wind for weeks, everyday, all day long … I came there and I was super fit from all my Yoga practice. When I look on kite pics from these times I am still wondering how well defined my muscles have been at this time!
But, what happened there: Every evening I was so exhausted from kiting hours for hours that I told myself “Ok, now I am too tired, but tomorrow morning I’ll do a Yoga session, for sure”. Of course I found another excuse on the morning afterwards. And when I was back home again? I wanted to join a new Yoga class, but I found no time or I felt too stressed (excuses, excuses, excuses …).
At the moment I am doing crossfit and bodyweight exercises regularly. I would say that I am quite fit and I feel strong. But I am far away from being that flexible I was when I did Yoga! Beneath that, doing the kind of exercise I do now is not so relaxing. I mean, I feel really good after pushing myself and burning off energy.
But, to be honest – as I am not very relaxed by nature I should better do something to come down. So the best would be to get into Yoga again! I know, I know … I should stop lamenting and instead just do it, without stupid excuses. Let me tell you something: Writing this article is one step forward in my personal Yoga career. There will be a restart.
Kitesurfing and Yoga:
What the expert says
Currently I was talking to Petra Leemhuis, a Yoga teacher who studied Yoga-anatomy and lives in Tarifa. She loves the ocean and started kitesurfing a few years ago. In the meantime she offers special Yoga classes for kitesurfers.
When I told her about my fitness program and that I feel it’s not perfect for me, she explained one very interesting thing I was not aware of before: “Kitesurfing is a sport where your body is tensed a lot. When you do fitness training, you put more tension on it – and this should not be the goal.” Quite logical, isn’t it?
What we all also know is that as kitesurfers we should do a warm-up to prepare our bodies for the action on the water and to be better protected from injuries. But do you warm yourself up before every session, hm? It is a fact, that being stiff reduces your performance on the water – and of course it doesn’t feel good either. Especially when doing grabs like a nose grab, you’ll know how important it is to be flexible. It’s not a secret that regular Yoga practice increases the flexibility of the body a lot – Petra calls it: “Getting the servo-steering of your body back.”
Participants of her classes learn how to use physics to lighten up movements and gain a deeper grounded sensation of their body. The aim is to decompress the spine and all joints and to relax the mostly overused outer muscle body. This will make it easier to use the strength of the deep inner core muscles. A lot of people still believe that core muscles are the abdominals … but that’s wrong, cause core means the deeper, underlying muscles of the central body parts.
Kitesurfing and Yoga:
Getting mentally fit and happy
Ok, muscles and strength. But we should never forget the mental part. Being physically fit is one thing when you want to bring a good performance or to learn something new. But when your mind isn’t “fit”, it will not work properly. The holistic effects of Yoga connect body and mind and make it much easier to stay focused during your session.
Yoga combines relaxation and training. Learning to breathe right is one central aspect of Yoga which is essential for being attentive and coming down. And very important for kitesurfers: “When wearing a harness, you’re mostly on adrenaline-breathing, not on the serotonine-breathing.”
So Adrenaling-breathing is bad? “No, but serotonine-breathing is the more balancing way, and you should know how it works”, Petra explains. So it seems that – although most of the kiters say that their sport already provides them a proper way to come down and to clear the mind – Yoga might make kitesurfing even more relaxed. It will also make your sessions better cause you will be more attentive and feel more connected to yourself, to nature and elements.
Of course Yoga practice will not only affect your kitesurfing days, but your overall life positively. Those who have ever experienced the “flow” state know how uplifting this feels – practicing Yoga regularly brings you closer to this flow thing. Also it helps you getting in contact with your inner self, which makes it easier to define your personal needs and dreams – and to pursue them.
Some may hesitate cause they think it needs a lot of time and practice to reap the benefits of Yoga – but as Petra says, this is a myth. Of course you will not be the super enlightened yogi doing the most complicated poses in no time, but: “The good thing is, that you will feel the effects of Yoga immediately, you don’t have to wait. It’s like pushing a button.” Why so fast? Cause doing Yoga immediately affects our central nervous system.
Kitesurfing and Yoga:
How to start
So, as Yoga not only relaxes and strenghtens your body, but also relaxes your mind, how could it not be the perfect warming up for kiters? Should we all grab a Yoga book or watch any Yoga video and start immediately?
The expert means: “No. A lot of classes or Yoga programms consist of randomly mixed poses, and this may even be harmful! My first Yoga lession was really horrible, cause it was all about performance and the teacher offered no individual modifications, e. g. for stiff people like me.”
Petra also already experienced a shoulder damage through Yoga. “Injuries or bad experiences happen when the different needs of our bodies and the differences in anatomy are ignored. The anatomical background is one of the main aspects when I am teaching. Not every pose is good for everybody – Yoga is individual. And ‘healthy’ Yoga should be adapted to your limits and not concentrate on forcing the body into dictated poses. Yoga Asanas don’t have alignment – but your body does.”
This is why it might be better to start in a small Yoga group and a teacher who responds to his student’s needs. A good Yoga style for beginners (and kitesurfers) should be relaxing but also work the muscles that are not mainly used during kiting – so that as well inner and outer balance get reinforced. “One goal is to stretch and relax the muscles that get strained due kitesurfing.”
Petra teaches “flowing” Yoga styles like Core Strength Vinyasa Yoga and Hatha Vinyasa Yoga and would also recommend Hatha Flow and Yin-Ying Yoga if you are not sure which style suits you as a kiter. “If you are not sure, just inform yourself or ask directly in the studio. And then decide according to your instinct.” Anyway you should be aware that in a good quality yoga class students are not forced into positions that are impossible for them.
However, there is no “wrong” way, cause everyone has his very own Yoga way. Yoga is a wonderful and individual method – not only to strengthen and relax your body, but also to get connected to your inner self again, to feel and use your own potential to the fullest, to train your sensitivity, to root yourself in the earth and to feel more stability in your daily life – relationships, work and much more. It’s an attentive way to come from “doing” into “being”.
If you want to get further tips or think about participating in one of Petra’s classes, you’ll find all the information here: