Stand Up Paddle Board Yoga – What’s It All About
As paddle boarding continues to grow as a water sport be it for general recreation, exercise or simply reconnecting with nature, it’s becoming more and more evident that getting out on a board isn’t just for us paddlers.
Over more recent years, paddle board yoga has also continued to grow in popularity. With inclusive group classes, focused board exercises and SUPs specifically designed for yoga, it’s growth in popularity and benefits certainly speak for themselves. Whether your a proficient yoga regular or very much the novice first timer, incorporating stretching into your daily routine be it on or off the board has benefits for us all and shouldn’t be underestimated.
To help us make the most of our experience, lets look at some of the fundamentals:
Newbies (Beginners) to SUP Yoga
Like anything new, baby steps make the most sense so make sure you focus on the basics.
Hydration – have something small to eat and take on plenty of water before you take to the water. Virtually all boards will have bungee systems or D-rings where you can attach a water bottle so remaining hydrated as with most activities is always important.
Clothing and Sun Protection – take a look at the weather conditions before you jump on board. It doesn’t take long to get sun burnt even in overcast conditions so make sure you apply the sunscreen and wear a hat and sunglasses if possible. You’re on the water so might well get wet. Wearing waterproof clothes, yoga tights, or something that is non-chaffing makes the most sense. Wearing your bikini might sound great but when you think about some of the more adventurous positions, it’s probably best to cover up and protect yourself.
Breathe – easy to say of course but if your new to yoga and particularity the floating version, then it’s really important that you try to relax and not hold your breath. Whether your scared of falling in or worried about maintaining your balance, try to relax and breathe normally. As you start to relax and engage your core muscles, your balance and stability will eventually come. Breathe and you’ll get there.
Safety First – whenever your paddle boarding or surfing, wearing your ankle leash is a must. Connected to your ankle and the rear of the board through a D-ring or one of the grab handles, the leash ensures that both you and your board do not get separated. This plays a greater importance if you are not a strong swimmer or are in windy or rough water conditions. Having an emergency whistle and a safety jacket (personal flotation device) is also advisable and in some territories is compulsory.
Your Mobile Phone – unless you’re the CEO of a Fortune 500 Co. or have an otherwise really pressing concern, try to disconnect yourself. There will be plenty of time to strike a pose so do your best to stay off the phone and get in the yoga zone.
Practice on Land – if you’re really new to yoga, get a feel for the poses and positions onshore. Once you’ve got the basics then try them on your board on the sand if possible and then take to the water. It’s much easier to get the yoga fundamentals locked away before you hit the water.
Board Stability – finding your centre isn’t new to the regular yoga folk but it takes on a different dimension again when it comes to SUPing. Finding the centre of your board will help you maintain your stability and balance as you try to work through your different yoga positions.
Accessories – there are accessories that you might find handy which include a portable board anchor as well as drink bottle holders. Certainly worth considering in windy or choppy water conditions or if you are planning on staying out on the water for a period of time.
Location – find a sheltered low water traffic location to settle in. Rough water and windy conditions will make for a very difficult and unenjoyable experience. By all means make the most of a scenic outdoor environment but choosing a sheltered one makes the most sense.
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Benefits of SUP Yoga
SUPing in general offers many benefits be it for general board paddling or more specially enjoying your floating yoga experience. Benefits include:
Full Body Workout – paddle boarding brings together many of your muscle groups from the upper body through to your core, abdominal and lower body as you look to maintain your balance. It’s one of the best sports for an overall body workout that helps increase muscle grow and stamina / endurance at the same time.
Improves Balance – it goes without saying that trying to stand on a floating object must take a degree of skill and balance. Whilst you will definitely be doing your fair share of swimming, the greater the time you spend on your board the greater your balance will become. Having better balance is good for your overall well-being as it will help prevent injuries as well as bettering your skills in your other sporting activities.
Reduces Stress / Improves Mood – the benefits of attaching yourself to the ocean or our waterways in general is a natural way of taking a deep breath and relaxing. The psychological benefits in terms of releasing endorphins (a naturally occurring chemical within the brain that helps reduce pain or act as a stimulant) are well proven via an increase in physical activity. The social aspects and serenity of the water can help lift your mood as well as decreasing feelings of depression.
Injury Rehabilitation – given it’s low impact nature, paddle boarding offers a number of benefits in improving your endurance whilst at the same time gently increasing your strength and muscle and joint growth and stability with minimal impact. Water sports are typically a better way to come back from injury as opposed to other more impactful or explosive sports.
Connect with Nature – akin to the benefits of stress relief, being out on the water is calming and provides a great way to experience nature from the water. Getting out in the sun albeit ensuring that you use sun protection is also a good way to take in some extra vitamin D.
Light over Dark – the contrast between a quite dimly lit yoga studio and the open surroundings in what has been described as a ‘sensory adventure with mewing seagulls, the ocean breeze and the scent of salt water’ would no doubt be seen by most as a genuine advantage when comparing paddle board v traditional yoga.
It’s All in the Little Things – given that you are on a floating object, there is a need to maintain a greater level of mental focus and concentration on keeping the core muscles constantly engaged to assist with board balance. Maintaining your gaze on a fixed point and constantly adjusting, tweaking and making mini-movements in your posture all add to the challenge and the reward. Feeling the movement of the board and allowing your body to respond adds yet again another dimension to your yoga experience.
Taking a Swim – perhaps the only real downside if you can call it that is going for a dip if you lose focus and take a spill. Unless your overly clothed and in cold water conditions, I’m sure it’s a ‘risk’ that most of us can live with.
<< Feeling even more adventurous, why not try Stand Up Paddle Board Surfing >>
In essence, a SUP Yoga board is based around a traditional flat water all purpose board that has a focus on stability in the main although it has some small modifications. Unless you are planning on focusing more of your efforts on your yoga, then buying an all round board that offers good stability might well suit your needs as well as allowing for more general use for when your not specifically striking a pose.
Some of the more notable differences for boards specifically designed for yoga include:
Dimensions – SUPs typically range from 5-7 inches in thickness with inflatable SUPs thicker than hard boards. A thinner board (5 inch) will better suit yoga as it sits lower in the water and will create a more stable platform. Thinner boards are also easier to climb back on to for those occasions when you do fall into the water. The boards length and width doesn’t have a great impact except for allowing a greater surface area to work from. For larger folk, a longer and wider board would make more sense given their need for more space.
Fins – whilst your board is stationary as will be the case when you are actually doing your yoga, the fin setup will have no real impact on your board. Depending on the expense that you are prepared to go to, a typical 3-fin setup will be more than sufficient. Whilst fixed fins are fine, if you want to get more versatility out of your board then removable and/or configurable fin systems will allow you to adapt your board for different paddling styles and usage.
Side Handles – moving the carry handle away from the centre of the board to it’s sides allows you to occupy the centre of the board to create a flatter surface to work on. It will however not be as easy to carry as compared to a board with a centre handle so you may also consider a board that has a relatively flat central handle so it does not interfere with your yoga positions / poses.
Deck Padding – the focus here should be to allow for enough surface area to work from. Typically, two-thirds of the boards surface should be sufficient noting that there will be grab handles and D-rings on the side and rear of the board as well as a bungee system at the front. The padding should offer sufficient cushioning but not have deep grooves as it will create a less comfortable surface that will leave impressions on your skin.
Beyond the specialised tweaks that yoga boards have, inflatable boards or iSUPs are normally a better choice for yoga as they offer a softer surface with more rounded edges when compared to a hard board. They are also consistent in their height across the full length of the board as hard boards taper away on the edges and ends of the board so are less stable.
Whilst it’s been around for some time now, SUP yoga has and will continue to grow in popularity. The benefits of stretching and developing core strength and flexibility coupled with an ability to connect with the surrounding environment in a soothing and calming manner all help make your yoga experience far more enjoyable and rewarding.
You certainly don’t have to go out and spend up on specialised equipment, but if your adventurous and willing to try something new then I’d highly recommend giving SUP yoga a try.
As always we would love to hear from you and get your thoughts so please feel free to leave your comments below and we will get back to you.
Until then, stay safe and get wet.