Doing Yoga on a stand up paddle board is a fun and challenging addition to your normal Yoga practice. The fact that you’re standing on a floating device on the water, and the added instability makes many experienced Yogi’s end up with a splash in the water doing poses that normally would not give them any trouble.
Even though SUP Yoga seems too much of a challenge for a lot of people, it’s actually pretty easy to start with, and most people will find out that besides a lot of fun it is also an amazing Yoga experience that they wouldn’t want to have missed. Being outside on the Caribbean Sea (in our case), under the blue sky, with the wind in your hair and the warmth of the rising sun on your skin is an excellent way to connect to nature and to yourself.
Of course there is the aspect of losing your balance and falling in the water, an idea that makes many slightly stressed to begin with. For us as teachers it’s a bit worse, since we don’t want to lose face in front of our students taking a dive into the sea while demonstrating our warriors. As true Yogi’s we need to realize that this is all ego, and whether you’re a student or a teacher, the way you respond to this is just as much part of your Yoga practice as say, keeping your balance while in a side plank.
Even though the ‘getting wet’ is part of the fun, there are a few things you can pay attention to in order to spend more time on your board and less in the water.
1. Position on the board: As with regular stand up paddle boarding, your position on the board is everything. The handle which you use to carry the board is also the center of the board. I you keep your weight too much to the front, the nose will go down. In the same way, if you stand too much to the back, your tail will go down. This immediately brings you out of balance. Always try to keep your center of gravity right above the handle in the middle. If you are in downward facing dog for instance and need to step forward to come to Uttanasana for instance, you better not put your feet all the way between your hands, but take a lesser step to the handle and get up from there.
2. Alignment of your feet: Feet perfectly aligned one after the other? On a paddle board this will most likely result in you ending up in the water. The closer you have your feet together, the harder it is to keep your balance. Try to position your feet on both sides of the board, slightly apart from each other. If you would draw a line from the front to the back of your board, your feet would on the left and right side of that line. For instance, if you step your left foot between your hands and your right heel down, before you come up to Warrior you can already feel what is happening to your board. If it starts moving, put your hands back on the board and adjust your feet a little bit. You want to keep the same amount of pressure on both sides of the board.
3. It’s all about the core! Even more than in your regular Yoga class, your core is the place where you find your balance and your strength. In all standing pose try to connect to your core, it should be strong and activated at all times. However, don’t forget to breathe, and don’t tense up. Especially in for instance your Warrior of Parsvakonasana, which are really advanced poses on a paddleboard, your core needs to work hard together with your hamstrings, glutes and quadriceps. Since you make a wide step in these poses, your legs need to work extra hard to maintain an equal amount of pressure on both sides of the board.
4. Focus your mind. With everything going on around you – birds flying over, a beautiful rising sun or a boat passing by – you will need to concentrate even harder to stay focused. Become one with your surrounding, but don’t let it distract you. Let nature be an inspiration and help your find strength and focus. Imagine the fresh outside air giving your extra prana or energy. And of course nothing like the sun to recharge your system, though be careful not to practice on the middle of the day if the sun is at its strongest. If you practice on the sea and there is movement on the water (waves), do not go there with your attention, but focus on your breathe for instance, or a point in front of you. The minute you focus on a wave rolling in and worry about its potential to make you out of balance, this is exactly what will happen.
5. Keep your fears out of it! Don’t worry about falling in the water, it is fun, probably a welcome refreshment and eventually almost everyone will take a dive, especially during Vrksasana or Tree pose. Standing on one leg on a paddle board is most likely the hardest thing to do. But it’s a lot of fun! Remember that voice in your head telling you not to fall is just your ego, become aware of it and try to ignore it.
Just as with regular Yoga, try to leave your ego on the beach. Even though it might look very impressive seeing someone in a Warrior 2 pose seemingly without effort on a board, with a little bit of practice you will be able to do the same in no time. If you feel a pose is too hard, skip it, go to child’s pose if you need to, never push yourself over your limits. But in the end it doesn’t matter what you can or can’t do. It is your process, embrace it and be grateful to yourself for allowing you this experience without judging yourself or others.
Your reward? The best Savasana you ever had…