An Introduction to Stand Up Paddle Board Yoga

An Introduction to Stand Up Paddle Board Yoga

Stand Up Paddle Board Yoga, also abbreviated as SUP yoga, is an activity that has gained popularity around the world in the last few years. A paddle board is similar to a surf board but is typically bigger in length, width, and weight therefore making it more sturdy to stand on. Paddle boarding itself is a great leisurely activity that can double as a workout depending on the conditions and the effort you put in. Balancing on the board requires activation of the quads, glutes, and core while paddling requires strength in the arms and shoulders. SUP yoga typically does not require much paddling as the boards are usually anchored to a dock or an anchor line in the water to keep them stationary. Of course, there is always the option and sometimes the need to paddle out to the area where you’ll be practicing.

How is stand up paddle board yoga different from normal yoga?

Yoga on a stand up paddle board is different from a traditional yoga practice on land. The balance required by being on the water makes the practice more intense and causes the smaller stabilizing muscles of the body to engage so you are getting a total body workout. The element of being outside in nature, surrounded by water and beautiful scenery no doubt plays a factor in the popularity of SUP yoga. Although it is physically more challenging, you may find that mental clarity is more easily attainable. You know the calm, tranquil feeling of standing on a beach while watching the sunset, or floating around in a pool as the sun’s rays tickle your skin? You can equate it to that feeling. Floating in the ocean, a placid lake, or a still moving river, you will feel your mind quieting as your body shakes and rises up into warrior two, your legs like tree trunks balancing your body as the board gently rises and falls with the subtle waves. Your SUP yoga practice will humble you and force you to surrender control to the elements because at any moment you might find yourself falling into the water. There is no room for the ego during a SUP yoga class but approach the practice with a playful attitude and you are bound to enjoy it.

How to start stand up paddle board yoga

If you take an organized SUP yoga class, chances are they will have all the necessary equipment for you. All you will need to do is show up with an open mind, dressed appropriately and lathered in sunscreen. Wear comfortable, light weight clothing such as a bathing suit and board shorts or moisture wicking fitness clothes. A baseball cap is a good idea since it will help to shade the sun from your eyes. It can be very helpful to have bungee cord attachments on the front or back of your board so that you can easily secure a bag to take with you. A water-proof bag is the best choice so that you don’t need to worry about your belongings getting wet or water damaged. Dry bags are easy to come by and very useful. Pack your cell phone or a camera, a towel in case you discover a hidden beach, and maybe even a mask and snorkel if you happen to be paddling in a location with lush sea life to explore.

Equipment for stand up paddle board yoga

For our specific recommendations, see our review of the best SUP yoga paddle boards.

If you choose to do stand up paddle board yoga on your own you will need some equipment. Most importantly, and obviously, you will need a paddle board. For SUP yoga it is recommended to choose a board that is between around 10 and 12 feet in length. There is a wide range of boards to choose from depending on your skill level and needs. You’ll also want to buy a leash for your board that attaches to your ankle so that there is no chance of losing the board if you fall off. If you have access to a dock or even an anchored boat you can use your leash to attach the board to the stationary object. It won’t be necessary to have the leash on your ankle once the board is anchored however if you choose to float freely around in an enclosed area while doing some poses, the leash is a good precaution. If you do not have access to a dock, boat, or other stationary object in the water you will need an anchor for your paddle board. You can purchase an anchor or make one yourself. A homemade anchor can be made using an empty plastic gallon jug, some sand, and a strong rope. Make sure that the jug has a screw top that can be secured. Simply fill the gallon to the top with sand and you’ve got yourself a weight. Secondly, attach one end of the rope to the handle of the gallon and the other end to your paddle board (where the leash attaches). You’ll need to paddle out to your location with the anchor on the board and then drop the anchor once you’ve found the perfect spot for your SUP yoga practice. Make sure the rope is extra long in case you’re treading out into deep water.

Some tips for SUP Yoga

Keep in mind that because it is more challenging to balance on water, a lower center of gravity means balance will be easier. Basically this means the closer your entire body is to the board, the higher the chances of you staying on the board. Start out your practice with some poses done on the knees, or a seated or supine position. Seated spinal twists, supine core work, and cat/cow from table top, are all great poses to ease yourself into the practice. Once you feel comfortable you can start to work up to downward facing dog, plank, and low lunges. Eventually,  you’ll be saluting the sun, standing proud in your warriors, and balancing in tree. Remember that  yoga is not about the pose, it is about what you learn along the way; so do not get discouraged if you find that your balance is shaky or you can’t execute a pose the way you’re used to. Your SUP yoga practice will look very different and you should approach the practice with no expectations. Most importantly, show up with a positive outlook and a willingness to step outside of your comfort zone.

NOTE: If SUP yoga appeals to you, but you hate the inconvenience of water, consider indoor SUP yoga as an alternative.

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