Surfboard Pose: Soothe Body and Mind
Surfboard Pose (Salamba Salabhasana or Supported Locust Pose) is a wonderful way to gently release the sacrum and lower back while relieving stiffness in the neck, upper back, and shoulders. Lying on the belly also allows us to let go of subtle gripping in the thighs, groins, pelvis, and belly. Further, it helps to release constriction in the psoas muscles, relieving tension in the abdomen and stimulating the digestive system and kidneys. Surfboard Pose is recommended for those who feel anxious or overwhelmed, or have trouble quieting the mind or keeping their eyes closed.
I do this pose when I have an aching back, when my shoulders and neck are stiff, or when I just feel overwhelmed by the pace and demands of life and want to feel more grounded. It is also recommended for those with mild anxiety as it is a prone pose, which is calming and comforting.
Cautions for Practicing Surfboard Pose
Those with eye problems and lower back issues should avoid Surfboard Pose. If your lower back begins to hurt in the pose, bend your knees and roll off the props, then slowly come out of the pose. If you have a pacemaker, it is recommended that you place additional support under your chest and/or make an elbow rest for your head so there is no pressure on the device.
Finally, although prone poses (face down) can be helpful for people with anxiety, those recovering from trauma may find they feel unsafe. If this is true for you, skip Surfboard Pose for now and practice a supine pose (on your back) instead, such as Reclined Bound Angle Pose (Supta Baddhakonasana) or Empress Pose. And for everyone, if any restorative pose feels unsafe or not relaxing, it’s best to find something else to do.
How to Set Up
- Start by spreading a yoga mat on the floor.
- Toward the lower half of the mat, place a support—a block or stack of blankets folded into narrow rectangles—under your bolster.
- Now place the bolster or rolled-up pillow vertically on the support so the bolster is at a diagonal, like a slide.
- Fold another blanket into a square and roll up the top edge. Place that horizontally on the mat where your pelvis will go.
- Take another square blanket and place it at the end of the mat for a forehead rest. You can also use a neck pillow or folded-up towel to support your forehead.
- If more support of softness is needed under your torso, place a blanket there.
How to Practice
- Sit with your knees bent in front of and facing away from the bolster.
- Bend forward and slide your legs onto the bolster. Place your pelvis on top of the rolled-up blanket.
- Bring your chest down so that it is on top of the mat, and place your forehead on top of the folded-up blanket.
- Place your arms in Cactus Position. You will feel a slight arch in the lower back, such as in Sphinx Pose (Ardha Bhujangasana) or Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana). Breathe deeply.
- If your nose is feeling squashed, make an “elbow rest” by stacking your hands and placing your forehead on your hands so your nose is not touching any surface.
- Make sure you are evenly laid out, supported, and comfortable. Elongate the back of your neck. Allow your head to release toward the floor and let your shoulder blades draw toward one another. Allow your hips to sink down into the blanket and release—try to avoid letting your pelvis pop up. Let your hip joints soften.
- As your breath deepens and softens your back body, your front body drops into the embrace of the ground and props. This helps to calm and soothe your mind and body and activate the parasympathetic nervous system (the relaxation response). The soft pressure at your belly and abdomen induces a grounding effect.
- Place an additional blanket under your lower legs on top of the bolster if needed for support under the knees.
- If it is more comfortable, place an extra pillow or rolled-up blanket under your clavicles.
- If you feel any strain or pressure in the lower back, do this pose one leg at a time, with one leg on the bolster and the other lengthening along the ground.
- Place a rolled-up blanket or sandbag on your lower back for release and a feeling of “containment” and support.
Practicing Surfboard Pose
- Sense all the places you feel your body making contact with the props and the ground. Take several slow, deep breaths to release your weight, melting into the support.
- Bring your awareness to your back body. As you inhale, soften your lower back, hips, upper back, shoulder blades, shoulders, head, and neck. As you exhale, melt into the support, releasing earthward.
- Notice the sensations in your body and any emotions that arise. Notice without judgment, holding them in loving awareness.
- You can also try releasing tension, stress, anxiety, worry, and exhaustion on the exhalation and cultivating peace, self-love, and comfort on the inhalation.
- Stay from 5 to 15 minutes, as long as there is no discomfort. When you’re ready to come out of Surfboard Pose, take your time to lift yourself up enough with your hands to bend your knees. Then roll onto your right side, and enjoy a few quiet breaths before coming up slowly, head last.