Yoga is a wonderful way to start your day; allowing your body to melt into different asanas as the sun begins to rise, feeling the tension wane from your mind and body as you go through various poses and practice deep breathing. It’s hard to imagine how it could get better, but it definitely can. Leaving dry land to greet the sun on a stand up paddle board can add the soothing ebb and flow of water and the fresh outdoor air into your routine. Paddle board yoga is picking up steam, especially in cities that border water; like a river, lake, or the ocean.
If you are an old hand at yoga technique, adding the challenge of balancing on a paddle board is a great way to bring your yoga routine to the next level, but if you are still familiarizing yourself with a school of yoga like Ashtanga, you can easily learn paddle board yoga alongside your basic introductory courses. A lot of practitioners of paddle board yoga liken the experience to “walking on water”, and who can resist a recommendation like that?
Securing Equipment and Finding a Class
Stand up paddle boarding, or SUP for short, has its roots in Hawai’i (where else?) where surf instructors used a paddle and board to teach newbies how to paddle out to the waves faster in order to ride them in.
Nowadays, SUP has come into its own, with its own set of equipment, which is comprised of the board and the paddle. Some people mistakenly believe that a stand up paddle board is just a gigantic surfboard. Instead, the board is unique. It lacks the rolled bottom of a surfing longboard, but many styles of paddle boards retain the fins.
The paddle on the other hand, is pretty much exactly what it sounds like; a long shaft paddle with a handle and blade.
You can typically purchase both for around $400-500 brand new, or get a pre-loved set for nearly half that. Alternatively, you can rent them from a supplier around your local waterway. It’s here that you can also find various classes, including paddle board yoga. If you’re brand new to the sport, it helps to join a class at first, although you can definitely move on to independent practice in no time at all. Knowing your swimming fundamentals and techniques will keep you safe and sound in the water, so don’t forget to brush up!
Traditional Yoga versus Paddle Board Yoga
Traditional yoga and paddle board yoga don’t differ too much in the way that you move through your asana sequence–you want to start sitting, move to standing asanas, perhaps try a headstand if you’re feeling particularly empowered, and finish the entire sequence with some lying poses.
The main difference between the two is that when you begin to dabble in paddle board yoga, you will notice that it required an enhanced degree of mindfulness–the sensation of water beneath you as opposed to solid ground will introduce the need to hone and sharpen your focus, which can be achieved through breathing practice.
Your sitting asanas will allow you to feel the movement of the water underneath your paddle board. It is important to take deep, mindful breaths from the diaphragm and settle into a centered balance.
Begin with Virisana, or Hero’s Pose, by kneeling in the center of your board and resting your glutes on your heels with your toes pointed to the back of the board. Placing your left hand on your right knee, and your right hand behind you, rotate your torso until you are looking over your right shoulder and inhale. As you exhale, return to center and hold a balanced center pose before repeating in the other direction.
The Half-Lord-Of-The-Fishes pose comes from Hatha yoga, and is a great way to move from your sitting to standing asanas. To perform this pose, sink back to your buttocks on the board so that you can stabilize yourself by grasping the wide side of the board behind you, if you need to. bend your legs at the knees, and then slide one leg under the other so that it lays flat against the board. Place your elbow on the outside of the opposite (bent) knee, and gently twist while inhaling to tone and flex your spinal ligaments. Repeat in the other direction.
Are you ready for a little challenge? Going from sitting to standing can definitely “rock the board”! But it is also the movement between the two that allows you to get the best benefit from paddle board yoga–it forces you to be mindful and in the moment while helping you limber up and strengthen your core.
The Mountain Pose is the easiest standing asana to transition into. The mountain pose usually involves pressing your legs together as you lengthen the spine, inhale, and turn your palms outward, but you may need to begin by modifying tadasana for paddle board yoga by spreading your legs a little for balance and stability.
The Chair Pose will help hone your balance skills on the paddle board. You can transition into it directly from tadasana by sinking your weight into your heels as you dip down as if you are sitting in a chair. Bring your hands straight up and press your palms together as you exhale.
Adho Mukha Svanasana:
Downward Dog pose is a great transitional pose, and it can also help to strengthen your hips and hamstrings as you stretch your hands forward to rest your palms flat on the paddle board. Keep the soles of your feet flat on the board as well as you lift your hips high into the air.
Now it’s time to move on to the asanas that take place on the paddle board. In traditional yoga, these are lying poses.
The Cobra Pose will stretch out your abs and spine, and is great for the beginning paddle board yoga practitioner. Lie flat on your stomach, placing your palms flat right in front of your hips before extending your arms and stretching your ribs forward and your shoulders back. Keep your pelvis pressed firm to the floor. Inhale and exhale deeply, holding the pose for 15-30 seconds.
The Bow Pose will be the final paddleboard yoga pose, and will definitely challenge your balance! Return to a prone position, and then reach back to grab your ankles with your hands. Inhale, and then pull your legs away from your glutes while holding your ankles firmly. This will lift your upper torso away from the paddle board. Remember to breathe, and hold the pose for about 20 seconds.
You can cycle through these poses as many times as you need to, until you are comfortable with the way that your body adjusts its balance while practicing paddle board yoga. After that, you can work up to more advanced, intense shot yoga sequences. You’re going to love paddle board yoga, and perhaps you’ll become so adept at it that you will consider opening your own yoga practice and helping it thrive!