Standup paddleboarding is an amazing full-body workout that integrates all of the major muscle groups. But you can improve your strength, balance, and flexibility on the board before you even begin by practicing a few yoga poses on land first. Start with 5–8 rounds of sun salutations to connect with your breath. Then warm up with these 5 poses to help you feel more efficient, confident, and powerful in your SUP technique.
Side Plank Pose
This powerful pose builds stability and strength in the entire body.
Start in Plank Pose with your feet together. Rotate to the outside edge of the right foot, and shift your weight onto the right hand and arm. Take a moment to find your balance, then bring your left hand onto your left hip. Focus on lifting the left hip and staying strong and stable in the right arm and shoulder. When steady, raise the left arm to the sky and gaze up at your left thumb. For less of a challenge, lower the right knee and shin to the mat but keep the hips lifted to build strength in the arms and torso.
To get out of the pose, return your gaze to the ground, release your left hand back to plank pose, and repeat on opposite side.
Proper paddle technique calls for an integration of the entire core, including thighs, glutes, abdominals, back, shoulders, and arms. Dolphin is one of the best ways to build strength in the shoulders, and upper back while simultaneously working the lower core and legs.
Start in Tabletop. Lower your forearms to the floor, elbows beneath the shoulders and fingertips extended in front of you. Tuck your toes, lift your knees, and press the pelvis up toward the sky. With knees still bent, broaden the shoulder blades, then work toward straightening the legs. Keep your neck long and hold for 5–10 breaths. Release the pose by bringing your knees to the ground and resting in Child’s Pose.
Warrior III Pose
Don’t try this one on a SUP: One-legged balancing postures on a SUP usually end with a splash! But since this standing posture improves balance and creates stability by integrating muscles in the core, arms, and legs, it’s perfect for paddle prep.
Start in Mountain Pose. Reach both arms to the sky, and lift the right leg, bringing your thigh parallel to the earth. Keep your biceps in line with the ears, and slowly lean forward, simultaneously extending your right leg toward the horizon behind you. Flex your foot and extend through your heel as you reach your fingertips forward. Keep the hips level, engage the core, and gaze at the ground a few feet in front of you. Hold for 5–10 breaths, then release to Mountain Pose. Repeat on opposite side.
This pose stretches the shoulders and upper back while strengthening the thighs, hips, ankles, and calves. It also opens the upper back and encourages deep breathing into the back body, all of which will improve your paddling!
Start in Mountain Pose. Bend both knees, and cross the right leg over the left. Your right toes can rest lightly on the ground as a kickstand, or, if possible, hook the right toes behind the left calf. Expand the arms and cross the right bicep beneath the left. Bend the elbows, wrap the forearms so the right palm sneaks behind your left forearm, and bring palms to touch. Lift the elbows to shoulder height, and reach your fingertips toward the sky while drawing shoulder blades down. Square your hips and chest to face forward and hold for 5–10 deep breaths. Slowly unwind and repeat on the opposite side.
Cow Face Pose
Strengthening must be balanced by stretching. This pose stretches the hips, shoulders, ankles, thighs, armpits, triceps, and chest while lengthening and opening the side body.
Begin in Staff Pose, seated with legs extended in front of you. Bend both knees, and place the soles of your feet on the floor. Bring your left foot underneath your right knee, and slide it to the outside of your right hip. Then stack your right knee on top of the left knee, and bring your right foot toward the outside of your left hip. Gently shift your weight until you are sitting on both sitting bones evenly. This can be an intense hip opener, so use a block beneath the hips to make it more accessible.
Reach your left arm to the sky, then bend the elbow and release your palm to the upper back. If using a strap, hold it in the left hand. Extend your right arm to the side, palm facing behind you, then bend the elbow and bring the back of your hand towards the sacrum or mid-back. Roll the shoulders back and down, and try to clasp the hands or take hold of the strap with both hands. Keep both elbows close to the midline of the body, and hold for 5–10 breaths. Slowly release your grip and your legs, and switch sides.
More SUP Yoga
About Amelia Travis
Stoked Yogi founder Amelia Travis is a Yoga Alliance-registered RYT-500 and American Red Cross-certified lifeguard. Trained in classical yoga in the Sivananda and Ashtanga vinyasa traditions, she has a strong foundation in anatomy and philosophy, and skillfully weaves knowledge of both into her classes, retreats, and teacher trainings. Amelia has trained over 165 yoga instructors how to adapt the practice of yoga safely to the standup paddleboard. She has a teaching style of clear and concise anatomy-based cueing, interwoven with the wisdom of Vedic philosophy and a spirit of devotion. After breaking her back in a surfing accident in 2012, Amelia realized that life is too short to do anything but what you love. She lives each day now by the Stoked Yogi mantra: Set your intention, then breathe it to life.
Photos courtesy of Stoked Yogi