Every year in fitness, there are new inventions that bring a fresh perspective to the ever-changing workout. In the last several years, Stand Up Paddle Board Yoga has been one of those “fresh inventions.” The board is your mat, and nature is your focal point. Plus, the combination of paddling to and from the practice location produces a full-body workout all while working your core to avoid falling off the board.
Stand Up Paddle Board sizes vary in lengths and widths, which is dependent upon the weight and skill level of the individual. Typically, the novice requires a longer and flatter board for stability. Standup paddles contain an “elbow” in the shaft to maximize efficiency with each stroke.
Whether you’re a desk jockey or standing on a paddleboard, posture is key to almost every activity in life. Paddlers must keep toes facing forward, feet at hip distance apart, soft bend at the knees and chest upright with strong and broad shoulders. Similar to riding a bike, once forward momentum increases, so does stability.
Balance and Technique
Yoga on land versus the board differs greatly. First, the movement of water below the board challenges the balance and the frame of mind. If the board has a built in handle, this is known as the “Point of Balance” while paddling and during a yoga session. When upright, keeping your feet in line with the handle and hip distance apart offers a place of stability. The points of balance are always on the right and left side of the board. While incorporating poses such as warriors and wide-legged forward folds, the feet are placed in a wider stance with one foot on each side of the board to remain balanced. This differs to land yoga where the feet are in alignment with each other; however, on the board, the more narrow the stance the more challenging. The greater the focus on alignment, the more likely yogis may take a dip into the water.
Second, in fitness there are various balance challenge variables to progress or regress an exercise. These variables are commonly used on unstable surfaces and the same knowledge is applicable to paddle boards. These balance challenge variables include: contact point, visual affect, movement and external stimulus.
Contact Points refer to anything that supports the body to remain balanced. On the board this may include body parts or the paddle. The more parts of the body that remain on the surface of the board, the better the balance, which also makes the exercise easier. In addition, incorporating the paddle in an exercise to where it touches the board will add another contact point to assist the balance.
Visual Affect has a stronger effect on balance than people realize. Yogis may incorporate visibility or focal points to aid or challenge the balance. The focal point concentrates on one spot, which assists in balance; where as watching a boat speed by, challenges balance. The other visual affect is visibility. Dirty sunglasses or closing the eyes completely increases the balance challenge while relying on the sensory organs.
Movement refers to the range of motion of a particular exercise, which may incorporate low or high degrees of motion, which challenges the balance. On the board, not only are there challenging yoga exercises that require more movement, but the movement of the board itself adds another dynamic of mental concentration and physical control.
External Stimulus refers to any outside force exerted or used during an exercise. In paddleboard yoga, incorporating the paddle with poses will increase the balance challenge. In addition, strong wind may act as an external stimulus, which creates the body to want to move away from the center of gravity and balance point.
Finally, going beyond the four walls of a room instantly incorporates an assortment of views all while connecting with nature. This ‘natural’ connection happens without much effort. Depending on the location, yogis may paddle amongst various marine life thus enhancing a connection between human and nature.
Often times, yoga instructors inform students about overcoming fears in various areas of life. Seeing vast expansive waters may be fearful for the novice paddler or yogi; therefore, the integration of the two concepts allows individuals to overcome personal and aquatic fears.
Stand up paddle board yoga seems like an easy concept. Jump on the board, paddle and yoga. As with any outdoor pursuit, certain skills and board measurements are required to avoid injury and to stay upright on the board. It is recommended for novice paddlers to practice yoga on more calm, or land-locked waters. And while SUP yoga continues to gain in popularity, be sure that you build your sea-legs before plunging in, to avoid a ‘boards up’ session.