Yoga, Water, and Waves: Experiencing SUP Yoga

Have you ever tried stand up paddle boarding (SUP)? Ever done yoga? Can you imagine putting those both together? I couldn’t either, until I tried it.

SUP YogaI am not a Yogi. However, I have been practicing yoga on and off since I was 16, but it’s always been at home. This summer, my yoga practice has withered down to maybe once every 2 weeks and always with P90X (my favorite is X2). I’m not super flexible and can’t do crazy insane poses, but I’ve always found yoga to be challenging, invigorating, and sometimes relaxing. I think doing some sort of regular yoga is key to maintaining flexibility and core strength as we age.

So after a friend’s invitation to try a two hour stand up paddle boarding yoga class with Wild Roots Yoga, I decided to head out of my comfort zone and try it.

Since I had never tried stand up paddle boarding either, just getting on the board was a challenge.  I had to quickly learn the basics of paddle boarding and paddle out to our yoga (and distraction-free) zone.  Our instructor Jessi was very patient as not everyone had taken her class before.  After dropping weight to anchor our boards to the bottom of the lake, we started with some simple sitting poses. Sitting on the boards, moving with the waves, was very relaxing (not so much when we were standing!).

Eventually we got on our hands and knees and later plank position. This is where balancing on the board became tricky. Mind you, during this whole class, no one wants to be the person that falls off their board. It’s not a big deal when it does happen, but it’s just that no one wants it happen to them. Being that I wore workout clothes (versus a bathing suit) I was determined not to fall in.

While trying to control and steady my balance with one knee and the opposite hand on the board (bird dog plank), I started to sweat. Controlling your balance is hard enough on the ground, but on a paddle board, it’s much more challenging! I managed to do that pose, along with others, always trying to steady my shifting balance. I’m happy to say I tried all of the poses (even crow) except wheel (or backbend) because I was already fatigued and wasn’t sure I could stay on the board. I wimped out with a variation of wheel with my head and shoulders on the ground (bridge pose). My friend, however, was a bad ass and rocked the pose.

SUP Yoga
My friend masters the wheel on the SUP.

Overall, I found SUP yoga about as hard as I imagined it would be. Yoga itself can be difficult, combining strength with flexibility, stabilization, and concentration. Balancing on one foot can be hard, depending on the pose. Trying to perform the same moves on a paddle board, while in water, adds an even more challenging balance dynamic. The obvious exceptions are the poses lying down.  When lying down on your back, the poses (at least to me) are the same level of difficulty. What makes these poses unique is that they are very relaxing, with gentle waves rocking you. During corpse pose, I almost fell asleep!

I also found it interesting that the wiggle that occurred on the paddle board was helpful with some poses and made things harder for others. Some poses that are a bit more challenging for me at home seemed to be easier, like chaturanga (I have a terrible left shoulder). Balance poses were obviously much difficult. The key is getting used to the fact that the board is going to wobble and move. This is definitely an awesome class for building foot, ankle, leg, and hip strength and stability.SUP Yoga

If you’re an intermediate yoga enthusiast and have stand up paddle boarding nearby, I recommend you give combining them a try! What’s the worst that could happen? You’d fall in. Fortunately for me, I never fell in, but I got close a few times. But if I took the SUP yoga class again, it’s bound to happen.  And it’s ok! It’s all just part of the practice.

Have you ever taken an SUP yoga class? Let me know in the comments!

Happy Travels!


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