Whether or not you are already a yoga practitioner, getting out on a paddle board to practise yoga will give you a fun challenge and the opportunity to explore yoga from a new perspective.
It’s no surprise to me at all that the recent popularity of stand-up paddleboards (SUPs) has led to the rise of SUP yoga – it was pretty much inevitable. After all, what’s not to relish about not just doing yoga, but doing it in our beautiful outdoors, under sunny skies and on the water?
Doing yoga on a floating board is a whole different experience from on a safe, non-moving mat. What we usually take for granted, simply standing and moving without losing balance, is no longer a given. This in itself gives us a challenge, and is part of the attraction of SUP yoga.
Anyone can have a go at SUP yoga, and there are plenty of reasons to do so.
For athletes, SUP yoga is a great cross-training opportunity that will particularly help you with balance, core stability, proprioception and full body awareness.
Simply put: if you need to improve your core stability – get on a SUP and do yoga.
When you start practising even basic yoga poses on a SUP, you’ll find that your every move is amplified and you need to move with careful control and very good balance to keep from ending up in the drink. Poses such as standing lunges require balance not just from back to front, but from side to side and top to bottom. Each movement in one direction requires some form of counter-action or control to maintain balance.
SUP yoga will definitely help you develop greater stability and strength, not just in your core, but through your ankles, knees, hips and whole body.
The unstable nature of your ‘floating mat’ will bring much greater awareness to every part of your body in a pose.
For example, in standing poses it becomes more apparent where you are placing pressure through your feet; and for poses with arms extended you’ll be more aware of each arm’s particular alignment and how this affects your balance.
These are useful benefits for all of us, but are particularly relevant to athletes as it brings a greater focus on the mind-body connection.
In addition to tuning in to your body while in each pose, SUP yoga will also make you think about how you transition from one pose to the next. In regular yoga classes students can easily overlook the detail of transitioning between poses, but on a SUP you are forced to be aware of what you are doing in these important ‘spaces’.
Explore your breath
Breathing is a central aspect of yoga. We aim to remain aware of each and every breath. SUP yoga is a good opportunity to explore what role your breath has in helping you find a balance between stability, strength, stretching and ease in each pose.
If you are doing SUP yoga regularly, try spending one session with particular focus on how you use your breath – this can be insightful and useful to your practise.
Feel the fear and do it anyway
SUP yoga is fun, and for most it’s going to be especially challenging at first. Knowing, even just in the back of your mind, that attempting even simple poses can result in an unplanned swim may add just a little bit of trepidation.
So the challenge is to balance caution with confidence. Embrace SUP yoga as a chance to play and be adventurous, and don’t take yourself too seriously.
The worst that can happen is that you’ll get wet – and hopefully you can laugh at yourself when you do. Another goal of yoga is to shed the ego, and SUP yoga can be a great way to help us do this and practise humility.
When you do master a pose or new move you’ll be rewarded with a great sense of achievement. It always feel s good to accomplish a new skill.
Connecting with nature
Yoga practise is designed to help us let go of our thoughts and worries, to be present in every moment and to relax.
The beauty of SUP yoga here in the Waikato region is that it gives us the opportunity to enjoy yoga in some truly beautiful and inspiring settings, surrounded by nature and lulled by the gentle movement of the water beneath our board. End each session with a five minute savasana (relaxation), and your SUP yoga session will help clear your mind and feel reconnected with your ‘self’ and nature.