Stand Up Paddle Board Yoga: The Latest Trend in Outdoor Exercise

Stand Up Paddle Board YogaEvery 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.

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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
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.

Stand Up Paddle Board Yoga2Visu­al Affect
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
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.

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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.