Stand up paddle boarding and yoga both offer huge benefits on their own, but what happens when you combine the two? If you’ve seen yogis out on their paddle boards, you may wonder if SUP yoga is a fitness trend meant only for the master yogi, or if it’s something more casual practitioners might enjoy.
Given the fitness benefits, opportunity to improve your yoga technique and meditative aspects of being out on the water, it is certainly worth looking into. Even if you’re sold on giving SUP yoga a try though, how should you go about it? Do you need a special yoga paddle board? Do you need to live by the ocean?
We’ve answered some of the common questions that arise about SUP yoga to remove the intimidation factor and make this fun and challenging activity more approachable for you.
What is SUP Yoga?
Do I need to be an expert yogi?
While some familiarity with common yoga poses may be helpful, you by no means need to be an expert. This is because performing even the simplest, most common yoga poses like cat-cow or tree pose offers great benefit.
Even if you have never tried yoga before, there are classes targeted toward beginners.
What are stand up paddle board yoga’s benefits?
The added instability of being on the board coupled with the chance to practice yoga out in nature offers both physical and mental benefits.
What are the physical benefits?
● Core Strength: Being out on the water on an unstable surface forces you to constantly use your core for balance. You will also recruit other less frequently used muscles to help you maintain balance, even in simple asanas like child’s pose.
● Increased Balance: Stand up paddle board yoga is a constant challenge to your balance. Mastering yoga positions on your board may translate to increased balance when you practice on land, or even in your day to day activities.
● Technique – While a skilled yoga instructor can give you valuable feedback, practicing yoga on a SUP may highlight more subtle improvements you can make in your practice, such as exerting equal force on your right and left side. If you are out of balance or favoring one side, you will instantly feel the instability.
What are the mental benefits?
● Stress relief: The simple act of taking your practice outside, and especially, taking it to the water, may help you let go of the stresses of everyday life. Scientific studies have shown that being on the water reduces stress.
● Focus: Performing even simple poses out on your board will require a greater level of presence and focus. You can’t simply zone out or go through the motions with the added challenge SUP yoga brings.
● Let go of Perfectionism: Being out on the water may help you let go of any fear of “messing up” a yoga pose. The environment is so different from what you would find in a yoga studio, and the added challenge and elements like current make it much more likely that even advanced practitioners will stumble, which is perfectly acceptable.
Do I need a special yoga SUP board?
As the practice has grown in popularity, specialty SUP yoga boards have emerged on the market. However, if you already have a board or are looking for a more all-purpose board, you certainly don’t need a special yoga SUP.
There are a few key features to keep in mind though to make sure you have a positive experience:
● Width: Some yoga- specific boards are as wide as 35 inches to afford greater stability. If you’re using an all-purpose board, you may want to look for one at least 32 inches wide, especially if you’re less experienced.
● Surface: You will want to use a board with a deck pad or foam soft top for greater comfort and gripping.
● Bungees or Paddle Holder: You will need to keep your paddle secure and your hands free.
● Portability: You may want to consider an inflatable SUP if you plan to practice SUP yoga on vacation. If you do go with an inflatable, look for one that is 6 inches thick (some are only 4-5 inches thick) for greater stability.
● Comfort: Many yoga-specific boards avoid carry handles in the middle, as these may interfere with postures like savasana. Consider these design details for greater comfort.
● High Volume / Weight Capacity: A higher weight capacity than you would normally need will increase stability as you shift your weight and move through different postures.
What gear / accessories do I need?
While you don’t absolutely need anything other than your board, the following may enhance your practice and make you more comfortable:
● Anchor – to keep your board in place while you practice, especially if you’re practicing with a friend or group
● Paddle Holder or Bungees – so you can be hands-free; some SUPs come with these
● Go Pro Mount or Phone Holder – if you’d like to document your yoga flow to critique your own technique or show off to your friends on Instagram
● Water Bottle Holder – for easy hydration
● LED Lights – if you want to do a sunset flow
● Waist Pack PFD (personal flotation device) – to keep you safe without a bulky life vest
● Indo Yoga board – to allow you to practice with instability on dry land, like in the winter if you live somewhere cold
● Quick Dry Clothing – to give you a comfortable savasana and return paddle, even if you’ve fallen in
Where can I practice SUP yoga?
Flat or calm water like a lake may be best, especially for beginners. Some people do
practice in slow rivers or the ocean, but this increases the difficulty level.
You should also make sure you practice somewhere where it’s safe if you fall, avoiding overcrowded or rocky areas.
How can I get started?
If a class is not offered near you or you are looking for a more immersive experience, SUP Retreats are now available all over the world.
If you’re on a budget or simply prefer to practice alone, start with the basics to get your balance and get used to the more challenging environment. You may want to simply begin with child’s pose and then move into cat /cow before trying standing poses like Warrior I or tree pose.
To help with stability, try fixing your gaze on a set point on the horizon. Experiment with your form, widening your stance or altering your footing to keep you stable.
Should you give SUP yoga a try?
Our verdict: YES!
Whether you’re looking for a killer ab workout or searching for a little bit of Zen in your busy life, SUP yoga is definitely a trend worth trying. It offers significant mental and health benefits, in addition to being a fun way try something new and add some adventure to your day.
If you’re not sure if SUP yoga is for you, just rent a board and give it a try or take a class with a friend. There’s little commitment and plenty of benefits.