One of the newest trends in yoga over the past year or two is not practiced at a studio, in a hot, steamy room or to the beat of pop music. Instead, it takes place out on the water on a 10-foot “surf” board with body and nature aligning in perfect harmony. It's called SUP Yoga, or stand-up paddleboard yoga. And if you haven't heard of it, you should test the waters (literally)!
SUP Yoga combines the balance, elegance and nature you experience on a stand-up paddleboard with the core workout, breathing exercise and mental practice taken from traditional yoga.
Photo Credit: Wanderlust
Some might be intimidated to try SUP Yoga because they have never tried paddleboarding before, but there's no experience needed on a board. In fact, if you haven't done stand-up before, the experience might be that much cooler as you paddle around for the first time on your board while getting into place out on the water.
A few of us had the chance to take our first SUP Yoga class at Wanderlust Squaw Valley in July. The class was scheduled for Lake Tahoe but winds made for an uneven surface, and SUP Yoga was moved up to the top of the mountain on a small reservoir. It was our lucky day. The location could not have been more perfect, tucked beneath the high granite peaks of the Sierra Nevadas.
Before class started, we paddled out to our location on the water. Each paddleboard then hooks up to a fixed buoy in the water to keep the board from floating away. Our class began with guitar music, singing and group chanting. There is something incredibly serene to be balancing on a board, slight breeze on your face and surrounded by water, sun and nature all at the same time.
Like traditional yoga, SUP Yoga classes have different levels, but for beginners there are many exercises that can be easily done on the board without too much concern for falling in: downward dog, child's pose, cat. Generally if you have at least two points of contact with the board (i.e. 1 foot, 1 hand or 2 feet), you can figure out the balance. The big boards made specifically for SUP Yoga are a lot more stable then you'd think -- if you've never done stand-up.
Poses (and balance) were trickier as the class went on but the increased awareness on where you placed your feet, how you find your balance and stability made for a unique sensation with the undulating water beneath. The boards also slowly pivot from side to side based on the wind and the current, adding another interesting dynamic. You can start child's pose with one perspective and after holding it for 5 breaths, when you look up, you have a totally new view!
Sure, a handful of classmates fell in – especially when we tried tougher poses like crow or one-legged tree post – but most of them enjoyed the cool refreshing water. In an earlier class, several yogis completed handstands without anyone getting wet!
If there's one negative to SUP Yoga it's that it take a bit of time and organization to be part of a class. You need to be near water, get situated. But that's also the beauty of it at the same time. As more and more people cram yoga into their busy, active lives, SUP Yoga makes you step way from the daily routine by design and be present in the moment. Otherwise, a cool dip in the water awaits!