SUP Yoga: Picking Your Board ,Getting Started, Starter Poses
Posted: August 02, 2017
Stand-up Paddleboard yoga, or SUP Yoga for short, has gained a passionate following. SUP yoga brings adventure into your yoga practice while teaching concrete lessons about letting go of control and going with the flow. Practicing yoga over moving water might seem intimidating, so surrender to its spirit of playfulness. SUP yoga will keep you coming back for more. So what’s SUP and how do you get started?
Benefits of SUP YogaWhether you choose a traditional hard shell paddleboard or embrace the adaptability of the new generation of inflatable SUP’s, SUP yoga will get you away from it all. SUP yoga lets you enjoy the beauty of an outdoor setting and the serenity of open water. The unique stability challenges of SUP yoga will help you connect to your practice in a new way. You’ll find a deeper mind body connection while improving core strength and proprioception. Lastly, SUP yoga is a lot of fun. Unpredictable conditions make it likely that you will end up in the water during your practice. Whether you join a group or go it alone, surrendering to the playfulness of SUP yoga will bring new energy to your practice.
Selecting the Best SUP Yoga PaddleboardRenting a board or trying a SUP yoga class is a good way to get started. Sadly, renting a good SUP yoga board can be tough. Traditional hard shell boards and inflatable boards are both great options for SUP yoga. You’ll find that the current generation of inflatables provide stability and durability that match or exceed that of hard shell boards. Inflatable boards are also easier to load and unload if you plan on transporting your board for ISUP Yoga adventures. When choosing your board, make sure you have a wider surface area (not a racing board). You’ll also want your grip to run the length of the board to provide better traction in your practice. Lastly, check the weight rating and construction of your board. Bungee cords and elastic webbing are handy add-ons to keep your water bottle and paddle under control. Your board should look and feel solid, without parts that are likely to catch or become damaged during loading and unloading.
SUP Yoga Pro-tricksThere’s no real limit to the type of yoga postures you can try on your ISUP but there are a few tricks that will make your practice easier. Give these a try when you head out for your ISUP adventure.
- Bring an anchor. Head for calm, deep water. Drop your anchor to avoid too much drifting during your practice.
- Get creative with your props. Life jackets make excellent bolsters. A paddle, extended crossways on your board, can make balance a little easier (strap it into those handy elastic bands).
- Start with seated postures. While you might be tempted to jump into a strong warrior or tree pose, given your surroundings, seated poses will provide greater stability as you adapt to your new environment.
- Take a wider stance. As you progress to standing postures, a wider stance will help you find your balance.
- Focus on centering. While you center your mind and body, build your practice around the center of your board for better stability.
- Gaze is important. While not unique to SUP yoga, gaze becomes especially important in this unstable environment. SUP yoga might require you to focus on a still point on the horizon, especially when you transition to standing postures.
- Transition slowly. SUP yoga gives you the chance to slow down, both literally and figuratively. Moving slowly as you transition into standing postures or when moving between postures will let you respond to changes in the wind and water.
- Let go and play. SUP yoga is a playful past time. Let go of the idea of a perfect practice so that you can immerse yourself in the experience.
Beginner Yoga Poses on your Inflatable SUPNearly any yoga posture that can be adapted to an ISUP Yoga move. Here are few to start with.
- Easy Pose: After paddling to calm waters, start your practice by simply sitting cross-legged on your board. Focus on lengthening your spine and your breath as you center in your practice.
- Cat Cow Vinyasa: Begin to introduce movement into your practice by coming onto all fours. Remember to stay centered on your board. Once you feel stable, let your belly drop down on your inhalation and arch your spine towards the sky while dropping your head on your exhalation. Continue for five or more slow breaths.
- Child’s pose: From all fours press your hips back towards your heels, reaching forward with your hands. Stay mindful of the center of the board as you let your head come down to the board or your life jacket bolster. Surrender to the peacefulness of the water and your surroundings.
- Pigeon Pose: Bring one leg forward, maintaining a strongly flexed foot and keeping a bend in your knee. As you rest your knee on the board and rotate your thigh outward, extend your opposite leg behind your body. Because this position is asymmetrical, you may find your stability is more challenged. Focus on continuing to work with the center of your board as you rotate your front thigh outward and back thigh inward to open your hips. If placing your front hip on the board is challenging, you can use your life jacket as a bolster while holding your paddle across the board for additional balance.
- Svasana: Soak up the rewards of your practice. Lie face up on your board with your arms at your side, palms up. Let your eyes close. Bask in the beauty of your breath and your surroundings.
As you progress beyond seated postures, a basic yoga flow offers additional strength and stability challenges. Incorporate plank, down dog, and cobra before moving forward into low lunges and finally standing postures. Lastly, ISUP yoga practice doesn’t need to be limited to open waters. When the weather turns colder, you can bring your board indoors to continue using its unique challenges for additional training.
About the writer: Joli Guenther is a certified personal trainer, yoga instructor and clinical social worker practicing in and around Madison, Wisconsin. Learn more about Joli.