June 5, 2012

SUP Dog: Yoga on a Floating Mat. ~ Chantal O’Sullivan

The horizon slowly moves from a group of children playing on the shoreline to a seagull sitting on a little blue dinghy, as my floating mat drifts with the tide.

I’m steady for a moment, my left foot anchored in place as I secure my right foot to my inner thigh.

I can’t help smiling as I inhale the salty Pacific air.


Man overboard. I’m in the water and my board is floating off to my left.

Practicing yoga on a stand-up-paddleboard, or SUP, isn’t just over-the-top beautiful, it’s also pretty trippy.

And humbling.

Even a simpler posture, like tree takes on a new feeling when you’re on the water.

It forces you to let go, wobble a little more and take things as they come.

Haven’t tried it yet?

Here’s a simple SUP routine, a nice way to get your feet wet and try this fun new approach to your yoga practice:

  1. Paddling: Warm up with about 10 to 30 minutes or so of simple paddling, remembering to bend your knees and keep your shoulders relaxed. Try mixing in few yoga poses, like the ones listed below, then alternating with paddling for a few minutes in the same way you might take a vinyasa.
  2. Cat/cow: This is a nice way to get steady on the board since you’re low, and great for loosening up your whole body. Take about five to seven cycles, filling up with a deep inhale and emptying out with a big exhale.
  3. Downward-facing “sea” dog: Same alignment cues apply on the SUP, but notice how cool it is to see the ocean from upside down.
  4. Low lunges: From three-legged dog, practice stepping forward for lunges on both right and left sides. If you feel steady, connect to your midline and try to lift your arms (with the paddle overhead) for a nice stretch. Hold for at least five breaths on each side, and keep your face relaxed.
  5. Camel pose and/or upward-facing dog: These heart-openers feel great on a SUP and they’re relatively simple since you’re low to the board. I like to do at least three cycles of each, holding for five to eight breaths. Play with variations as you get more comfortable.
  6. Wheel or bridge: Make sure you’ve paddled someplace free of obstacles before you try these, since you have to lie on your back. Then enjoy rooting your feet in place, and opening up your whole body to the sky overhead. Feels amazing on a sunny day.
  7. Crow or squatting: If you’re still wobbly, practice squatting. Or challenge yourself and play with crow pose. Just make sure you’re a little further back on the board, so the tail of the board doesn’t lift up when you do!
  8. Warrior 1 and 2: These are surprisingly tough on a SUP, but if you slow down and take the time, they’re so much fun.
  9. Tree or warrior 3: I capsize most when I try standing on one leg. I also have a lot of laughs and find a lot of joy, just playing with balance and letting go.
  10. Seated meditation and/or sandy savasana: Paddle to a place where you can comfortably sit for a few minutes, then connect to your breath and just take in the view. Wrap up your session on shore, with a feel-good, sandy savasana.


Chantal O’Sullivan (www.chantalyoga.com) is a yoga teacher and relatively new SUP paddler. She thinks every day is better with yoga, on the mat or on the SUP. Based in Tsawwassen, B.C., she teaches fun, uplifting yoga classes for all levels, and leads yoga adventures and retreats in Galiano Island and Tofino, B.C. as well as Bali, Indonesia. (http://www.shantiyogabc.com/yogaretreats.html)


Editor: Ryan Pinkard

Photos: Daniel O’Sullivan

Taken: Tsawwassen, B.C., Canada

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