Post and Pictures by Sarah Sackville
The concept of doing yoga on a SUP is a relatively new concept, that’s taking off. When I first started telling people I was going to SUP yoga classes; I received a pretty blank expression. Now, I’m finding more and more people exclaiming “ooo I’ve seen people doing that, I want to try!”. So they should! Everyone should give it a go. It’s such an encompassing form of exercise and endless fun!
If you’ve never seen SUP yoga in action, you may have no idea what SUP yoga is. So let me break it down a bit for you, what it is, where you can start etc.
What is SUP yoga?
It’s about as simple as it sounds. Grabbing a SUP and heading out to some relatively flat water and trying out some yoga poses on the board. The yoga practice most commonly used is Vinyasa. Vinyasa practice is a series of “flows” that are designed to increase muscle strength, endurance, flexibility, and reduce levels of stress. They aren’t the crazy put yourself in pretzel poses, so they are better suited for a wobbly surface.
What makes Stand Up Paddle Board Yoga different to a land-based practice?
The difference between SUP and land yoga is the extra balance you’ll require on water. Needing more balance is pretty obvious but what you might not think about is what that means for your body. When trying to balance, micro muscles become engaged to support the big muscles. So when you are out on the water, these micro muscles are always switched on. It’s one of those invisible workouts. Pretty impressive if you ask me!
Another pointer is the extra focus required for the constant state of balance. While you still do practice poses that require balance in a studio, even just standing still on a SUP, you are telling your body to adjust. This type of focus helps clear the mind by forcing a person to become present with the task at hand – staying dry. Settling the mind help reduces stress and anxiety; it’s a form of meditation almost.
Last of all it’s been proven over and over scientifically that being outside in nature is a cure for all kinds of nasties. Depression, anxiety…etc. Having a mindful practice that can you do in nature is a pretty sure way to boost those endorphins. While yoga in a studio can create a calm, peaceful environment, it doesn’t always match up to the serenity of floating around on the water.
What are some basic poses to start?
In the Vinyasa practice you can find many poses suited for beginners and wobbly surfaces, here is just a handful with some pictures of me doing them.
Note: The Board used in the picture below is the Fanatic Fly. It’s a great board, and you can find it here.
Downward facing dog
This pose is perfect for stretching out the spine, shoulders, and legs. It’s one of the easier poses to balance on a SUP as you keep 4 points of contact on the board. You start on all fours (table position) and lift the hips, sending the tailbone back and up to the sky, melt the shoulders down, so they are in line with your head. It’s also a great core and arm strengthening exercise. (there is a photo of my friend and I doing this together except she has her feet on my shoulders)
One-legged King Pigeon
A nourishing pose that comes under the banner as a “hip opener”. It’s a low to the ground pose so again ideal for a comfortable balance. Little tricky to describe in point-by-point, but from table position you bring one leg forward to rest the knee between your hands and extend the other leg back, you then take a seated position like this and push your chest forwards. You can even share a board with your friend to do it! (Another photo opp here, me and jody were sharing boards doing this pose)
For a little more fire, try out chair pose. It’s a bit more testing on balance and gets the body fired up. Starting from a standing position, come back as if you are taking a seat with your arms raised above, elbows in line with your head, then you can take a small twist bringing your hands to a prayer position and turning to the right and then left. (picture for this too)
The real balance tester! Coming to balance on one leg, bring a foot to your shin, knee or thigh, keep hands in prayer position or above your head. To try your balance out, you can gaze up between your hands. It feels impossible the first time but it’s not, and it’s great fun getting to that point of accomplishment! (only one I don’t have a pic of, let me know if you’d like one!)
What kind of SUP to use
Typically SUP Yoga is done on boards ranging from 10″ to 12 in length and 32″-36″ wide. You want this extra room to move and generous width for more stability, so you spend more time doing yoga and less time falling in the water.
The other point to make is to get an inflatable SUP over a hardboard; Why? The comfort factor. An inflatable simulates having a yoga mat, whereas a hardboard is like practicing yoga on cement.
A few suggestions I have are:
The Naish Mana Air
At just under 10 feet and 34″ width, this board offers a highly stable platform. Ideal buoyancy and volume, this board can hold the heavier riders comfortably, and the 6″ thickness adds to that stability. You can stash your paddle and belongings with the tie downs located on the nose while your practice too. Very handy!
The Red Paddle Co Ride 10’8″
Red Paddle Co is one the leading brands in inflatable SUP. This a great overall SUP yoga board because it’s stable, easy to transport and quickly inflated. At 34″ wide, there’s lots of room to stretch out and move around on the board. The bag is one of the best on the market, and the pump works fast so that you can get into your yoga quicker! The Co ride also has plenty of space for your paddle or extra clothing with tie downs to secure it all in place. I wrote a full review of the Red Paddle Co Ride 10’6″ here.
The Naish Mana Soft Top
The overall dimensions of this board are very similar to the Air I previously mentioned, however, the bonus is the comfortable surface that’s entirely made up of deck pad material that’s a max on the comfort level. This material isn’t just soft it also provides extra grip for those trickier poses!
My final note
Sup Yoga has given a new meaning to yoga. It’s combined all the benefits of yoga and added that element of fun that is sometimes lost in a studio setting. I found myself in the studio sometimes prioritizing perfection of a pose over the actual enjoyment of doing yoga. That pretty quickly left me after the first time I fell in!
It’s no wonder it’s come so far in a short amount of time, exercise that’s fun! Almost unheard of. So if you are looking to get a little more out of your SUP experiences, you should consider a SUP yoga class. There is plenty of places starting up classes worldwide, ask Mr. Google for the whereabouts of the closest instructor.
Or give it a go by yourself! There is plenty of content on Youtube and blogs like this one where you can learn some basics to see If it’s for you before you commit to classes.