Yoga on the Water

Why has Stand Up Paddleboard Yoga become so popular recently? Erica Rodefer Winters takes her yoga practice to the water to find out.
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Why has Stand Up Paddleboard Yoga become so popular recently? Erica Rodefer Winters takes her yoga practice to the water to find out.

I have to admit, I didn’t think Stand Up Paddleboard Yoga would be for me. It seemed a little gimmicky, and I worried that mixing yoga with SUP might “water” down the practice (pun intended). Besides, the thought of trying to practice a pose knowing my balance could be compromised at any moment by a big wave? How could I find anything similar to the peace I experience during my regular, old-fashioned, indoor yoga practice in that kind of uncertain environment? But I wanted to try something new, and SUP Yoga is one of the biggest trends in yoga today. I had to see what all the fuss was about, so I set the intention to give it a try this summer. I'm so glad I did, because the the minute I got out on the water I was hooked.

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First, there’s the extra challenge of practicing asanas on a floating board. It’s true that balancing in yoga postures is plenty challenging on solid ground, but I noticed a couple of unexpected advantages to practicing on a paddleboard. You know when your teacher gives the instruction to transition “slowly and with control” from one pose to the next, but many students thoughtlessly plop into the next pose anyway? This will not happen on a paddleboard. I realized quickly that if I didn’t want to end up in the water, I’d HAVE to move slowly, engage my core, and focus intently on what I was doing. Any abrupt movements or lack of focus would send me overboard. I also noticed that the board gave me immediate feedback on how I distributed my weight--whether I favored my left or right side in each posture. All of that focus really did bring about a meditative quality not unlike I experience in a regular yoga class.

Then, there's the perk of being outside, surrounded by nature. Being on a paddleboard let me be up close and personal to sea life in a way I could never experience through a trip to the beach or aquarium. In the times I've practiced SUP Yoga, I've literally watched dolphins swim right by my board. One of them got so close I felt his spray and heard his breath when he came up for air. It was the most amazing feeling in the world to be connected and breathing with sea creatures in such close proximity.

I think that this connection to nature is one of the biggest reasons SUP Yoga has taken off recently. Well, that, and the fact that it turns an internal practice into a fun and exciting adventure--and who doesn’t need more adventures in their lives? I know I plan to have many, many more.