Two weeks ago I tried my first Paddle Board Yoga class and absolutely loved it! Stand Up Paddleboard (SUP) Yoga, also known as waterborne yoga is yoga taught on the water on floating boards. Fun, right? Well, I do love yoga but between the thought of exercising in a bathing suit and being on a surf board surrounded by water, I wasn’t so sure. Lucky for me, I live in San Francisco, where the weather is mild and the water is freezing, so when I called to ask what I should wear to class I was told that a bathing suit was in fact NOT appropriate and that I should wear my regular yoga gear; I liked SUP Yoga more already!
Driving across the Golden Gate Bridge to my class in Sausalito was beautiful and peaceful — it’s rare that I’m driving without my kids in the back so the silence combined with the gorgeous day and glistening water of the bay had me savoring every minute. As I parked my car, the reality of trying something new, that would likely be pretty challenging, had me feeling a bit apprehensive. I still needed to embrace my impending reality of standing on a surfboard surrounded by water.
While I waited for class to begin I mingled with a few other students and felt a bit better as I noted that several of us were first-timers. The instructor kicked-off class and successfully eased us into the experience, taking the time to explain the equipment and letting us warm up by paddling around the Bay. Once I was on the board and paddling in the Bay, I began to relax and feel centered — the magic of exercising while in harmony with the sea and sun was already exhilarating.
As the yoga portion of the class began I quickly realized how even the simplist yoga postures take on an added intensity on the board. The board on the water really challenges your balance, it’s constantly wobbly and taps into different muscle groups than traditional mat yoga. Moving out of one pose and into another is also more challenging — just staying still is challenging. While it was hard to adapt to the continuous motion and instability created by weight shifts on the board and movement of the water, this is also what allowed me to focus in a much deeper way than traditional yoga where my mind constantly wanders. Your entire being is switched on every minute while practicing yoga techniques on a board. Every movement must be done with more intent and concentration. If you miscalculate your center you’re not only likely to fall out of a pose but chances are you will land in the water (which happened to me!).
Doing SUP yoga in the Pacific waters of Northern California has many advantages beyond the weather and invitation to wear “regular yoga gear”. The audience in the water consists of boisterous sea lions and the sky is full of glorious birds. During the final part of class, Savasana, I laid back, listened to the symphony of sea lions, birds and rippling water and watched the clouds roll by. The breathtaking beauty of it all literally soothed my soul.
The complete experience gave me an adrenalin rush — like a roller coaster ride for a yoga mom 🙂 My last comparable experience to this “first” was learning how to snowboard 15 years ago. I fell trying both activities but with both I also experienced a rare drive where my body took control of my mind, my face was beaming and I couldn’t get up fast enough to try again. With both activities, the only remedy for a fall is to refocus and then get back on board and try again. Many people would see these two sports as on completely different ends of the spectrum, however what resonates for me, with these glorious outdoor activities, is being surrounded by beauty and nature and the requirement of both to be centered and focussed. Be it in the Sierras or the San Francisco Bay, I am a girl who loves the open air and the simple pleasures of being surrounded by the beauty of nature. To exercise in a gym feels like work to me but to be outside automatically brings an element of fun and a sense of spirituality.
Sup Yoga is one of the coolest outdoor activities I have ever done! Even for non-yoga folks, I highly recommend trying it. It’s an amazing full-body workout (in the middle of paradise) that leaves you feeling refreshed and exhilarated. I will certainly be trying it again soon and next time I will remember to bring a change of clothes — “regular yoga gear” may provide more coverage than a bathing suit but it doesn’t mean that you’ll stay dry.