Often enough yoga seems to be challenging while standing on your mat, but what about Stand Up Paddle Board yoga (SUP Yoga)? Let’s dive a little deeper into this cool new yoga modality that’s making a splash!
Where did SUP Yoga originate?
It’s said that in Hawaii sometime during the 1960’s, a few surfers took their longboards and canoe paddles out onto the ocean to have a unique experience—combining their love for traditional surfing and canoeing with their love of yoga.
Unlike traditional surfing, stand up paddle boarding requires the user to stand on the board and use an oar to move through the water. It can vary from still water for recreation and fitness to more aggressive waters for racing.
SUP Yoga offers a combination of Hatha or Vinyasa yoga—it’s usually done on calmer waters and with an anchor to keep the board from drifting off. You can practice any almost pose on the board, but add in waves, wind, and being on water vs. land. This will take your Warrior II pose to a whole new level! The great thing is that the instability of the water makes stabilizer muscles work a bit harder adding a new essence of physicality to the practice.
Here are six tips on how to make your SUP Yoga practice fun and relatively dry.
1. Always check for wind and weather conditions.
Going out on the paddle board, especially with little experience to rowing or surfing might be a fun challenge. And if you decide to take on the wind and water conditions, it will be even better. You don’t want to get stuck with strong winds or currents pushing too hard that you get too tired, so take the weather into consideration.
Also, be sure to take a life vest with you, especially if you are not a super confident swimmer. SUP Yoga isn’t dangerous, but always look out for mother nature to make the experience enjoyable. You can sit, kneel, or stand on the SUP board if you get tired which makes it accessible to almost anyone!
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2. Start with some basic poses first.
This might seem silly if you have a more seasoned asana practice, but being on the water is a different experience. Standing poses all of a sudden have movement under your feet and if a small wave passes by, you can experience a splash of water to complete the experience. I like to begin seated with a centering practice and gentle side bends before getting on my feet.
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3. Explore your balance.
Being on the water will challenge your notion of balance, so learn your board, where to stand, and how to find your “ground”. The board has a handle toward the middle and this is where you want most of your weight distributed. For example, when practicing Downward-Facing Dog, your hips should be over the handles while your hands and feet are forward or back. In warrior poses it’s almost the same—you want to learn the distribution of weight to make your balance easier and not tilt the board forward or too far back.
4. Go slow at first!
The fluid water underneath you will make you want to slow your practice down. Going too fast can lead to constant movements which as a result can tilt the board into the water. Find your stability and make your practice extra graceful!
5. Motion sickness?
I’ve led tons of SUP Yoga classes and sometimes you can get a little motion sickness, especially if you’re in open water or the swell is strong. Breathe and relax by taking a seat, looking into the horizon or taking a dip in the water. Sometimes being in the element will help you relax and find your inner equilibrium once again.
6. Enjoy the ride!
Even if at first the warrior poses are difficult or you can’t seem to get that arm balance just right, know with practice comes with ease. My favorite pose in the SUP Yoga world is Savasana—the small waves, sun, and wind create a relaxing rocking motion for the body.
SUP Yoga is a great workout and can also be the most calming practice. Once you get the hang of the balance, weight distribution, speed of movement, you will be hooked. This growing practice will take your asana to a new level and make it not only fun, but you get to enjoy the beauty of nature. SUP Yoga is practiced all over the world so on your next trip find a group or an instructor to go out on the water with. Remember to stay safe, have fun, and be one with the fluidity of the water.