Surfing is a great anecdote and healer to our out-of-balance stress responses and our hormonal systems. When we surf or endeavor in any sport that has potential for stress-inducing situations, we have the opportunity to choose our approach.
We sat down with wellness expert Stacy Guglielmi to talk about chakras, the adrenal system, and how it all relates to surfing. An ayurvedic specialist, yoga teacher, bodyworker and wellness therapist, she offers her insight into chakras, as well as tips and exercises to help soothe your adrenals after a day of charging waves.
[Photo: Alberto Guglielmi]
JDV: Can you describe what you do?
STACY: I am a wellness therapist. I work with everything from the way that you sit, and the way that you walk, to what you eat, to how you think. I consider wellness to be preventative more than curative.
My business is called Conscious Cadence. It means being in the fullness of consciousness, which is experiencing yourself in full awareness. When we bring ourselves consciously into something, we bring ourselves in fullness to it. And cadence is rhythm. The rhythm of our lives is often dictated by society, by the people that we are engaged with, our family, our friends, our work environment. Very often, we fall out of our own rhythm or don’t understand what our own personal rhythm is.
My intention with Conscious Cadence is to support people in finding a conscious rhythm in their life that brings them to the fullest experience of their potential for happiness and ease, and well-being and joy.
JDV: I took a workshop with you that you facilitated about chakras. Can you explain what chakras are, and why it’s important to be aware of them, and their influence in our health and well-being?
STACY: Chakras are in alignment with our physical bodies. A lot of the time when we first hear about chakras, we see a map of the body with color wheels reflective of the location of the chakras, indicating different aspects of the energies. The way that I see the chakras is similar and follows that map. However, I take into consideration the physicality specific to the nervous system. Our nervous system is directly related to that map. Each chakra is related to a nerve plexus. And each nerve plexus is affected by all of our experience on a daily basis, minute to minute, second to second. Each energy center is taking on the impact of a happy experience, a negative experience, a scary experience. A strong, powerful impactful experience. A very easy, steadfast, calming experience. We have all this sensory experience that we are encountering all the time. The chakras tend to specifically hold particular energies in each area of the body.
So for example, in the pelvis. We have all the energy of our hips and our ability to run, our ability to protect ourselves, our ability to move fast, the ability to jump up on the surfboard at the exact second that we need to catch the wave. That energy is, in its essence, the fight or flight system. We engage into adrenal rush. That specific experience will affect us in a specific way.
JDV: How do we gain awareness of how we’re affected in each chakra?
STACY: Practice, understanding, and taking the time to reflect on a multi-dimensional level, of our personal experience. A lot of the time, someone comes to me because something is out of balance in their life. Their favorite thing has become exhausting. Something that was very easy for them has become difficult. A relationship that was nurturing has become unhappy. So my specialty is looking at the whole picture to see what in the equation has shifted. Often, we don’t know why we don’t feel good. And in order to feel better, we need to look at ourselves as a whole picture to understand what is happening.
One of the other parts of coming in balance with your chakras is being able to slow down your mind, being able to pause. We tend to be on a loop. Much of what we think is repetitive. And these repetitive loops don’t allow us to understand what we actually need to feel whole and well. So the pause is your breath. Finding a moment. Conscious awareness of your attention.
JDV: Does surfing rebalance your chakras?
STACY: I consider myself a baby surfer. I’ve been surfing for years now, but I’ve been surfing with an injury, so I’ve been negotiating the water from a different aspect.
JDV: Very humbling, actually.
STACY: Yes, but also very beautiful. My relationship to the water has changed. So I came to surfing with an injury, and that injury didn’t allow me to pop up and stand on the board. So I just started taking my board out and becoming friendly with the waves and learning to be with the waves in a peaceful place and to ride the waves as they come with equilibrium and ease.
[Photo: Alberto Guglielmi]
JDV: Which is the opposite energy to the very competitive side to surfing!
STACY: Yep, I agree. From the more spiritual aspect of my life, I have a teacher who I’ve been learning from who says, when you walk into an auditorium, never take the front row. Always offer out the better seats to someone else. Because karmically, you’re always going to be offered a good seat this way. So if you took this out to the surf break: Always going for the waves and never allowing someone else to enjoy the wave, versus being in the joy of someone else enjoying the wave — that is also part of the experience.
JDV: Mudita! [ Mudita is a sanskrit word meaning “sympathetic joy.” It is described as experiencing joy in the joy of others. ]
STACY: Yeah, more mudita. Really watching someone in their joy is such a gift. They’re separate from you, but you can be in their joy.
JDV: I think of mudita when you hoot and holler for someone. Usually your friends, right? Maybe you can offer that up for a stranger too.
STACY: I’ve been doing that a lot because I’m not always trying to get the wave all the time. So if I see something coming and someone looks at me wondering if I want the wave, not knowing that I’m in this other place where I’m observing, and I’m like, “Go for it!” and watching them light up and you hoot and holler for them, it just increases their joy.
JDV: When I surf in powerful conditions, it can really activate the fight or flight response. What can I do to offset that adrenal response?
STACY: Adrenal rushes are wonderful. They feel good, it’s part of what keeps us coming back. It’s definitely a high and has an addictive quality. The problem is when we start to maintain that high longer than what we physically have the capacity to handle — because we have physical amounts of hormones that support the adrenals — and when that is overtaxed, we will start to fatigue.
We live in a very fast-paced society. We go non-stop. We get out of the water. We go into whatever the next thing is, whether it’s work, parenting, emails, telephone. Again, it’s taking an awareness of what is our level of self-care so that we have the most access to our strength and fortitude.
One thing is simply being aware of knowing when to go to sleep.
JDV: And when is that? When is the optimal time to go to sleep?
STACY: The optimal time for your adrenals is being in bed, with your phone off, by 10 o’clock. And getting up in the morning as the light is coming up. So sleep is essential. When it comes to eating, do not snack in between meals, so that you get full nutritional value out of your food.
JDV: Even after surfing? Because I get so hungry after a long session.
STACY: How long is a long session?
JDV: Two hours. And I eat an hour before the session.
STACY: That’s perfect, you want to have three hours in between having any substantial amount of food. And remember to hydrate first, eat second. You may be hungry but your body needs water first.
JDV: So, good sleep. Eat right. And then?
STACY: And really work with the mind. We’ve already talked about that idea of mudita in the water. Be aware that we are in the water together, and energetically, softening that. Because the competitive energy will fuel the adrenals and exhaust them. So as soon as we feel ourselves getting into that loop of, “I’m gonna get this wave, I’m gonna get that wave,” we are not allowing our system to soften and relax, and that puts us into that fight mode. Physiologically, we’re exhausting ourselves.
Preparation going into the water is really important. Taking time to relax the body, doing some hip openers, some soft lunges, even for five minutes. Settling yourself into your breath, feeling what a full breath feels like. Very often when we are surfing, we don’t exhale fully. We inhale inhale inhale. And so this brings us into the upper body. But it’s shallow breathing. When we exhale fully, we calm the nervous system and the adrenals. We allow the energy into our legs, and this is extremely nourishing. The adrenals and the kidneys are very much affected positively by exhales.
JDV: Can you offer some grounding exercises to calm the nervous system?
STACY: As a practice—
- Take a true rest between sets to feel and watch the swell without the anticipation of catching every possible wave. Simply bring your awareness to your breath with accentuation of long exhales.
- Be in mudita, that state of joy for your fellow water lovers. Joy for others is calming to our nervous system.
- Give yourself five full minutes after you surf to stretch quietly. Lie on the sand on your back hug your knees in to take the pressure of the back and the adrenals. Twist to both sides with your knees together and breath into your lower back like you are blowing up a balloon. With your knees hugged back to your chest close your eyes and give yourself another moment to feel the sand and listen to the waves.