October 13, 2012

SUPward Facing Dog. ~ Gillian Gibree

The Scoop on Stand Up Paddle Board Yoga

As a SUP Yoga teacher, I get a ton of questions. Is it hard? Will I fall in? Are there sharks lurking beneath my board? Here I will break it down, and tell you why SUPta baddha konasana can leave you in a state of pure paddle board bliss!

The popular water sport of Standup Paddle (SUP) Yoga takes your yoga practice from the studio out onto the water, changing your power yinyasa into a nautical flow. Instead of doing bridge pose indoors, you are lying on top of an oversized surfboard gazing at the clouds with a paddle lying across the nose of the board. Besides just a change in scenery, the water adds a new dimension to the standard yoga routine. Since the paddle board creates a relatively unstable surface, alignment and positioning are key in this practice. On land, misalignment can go unnoticed, but on the water, Happy Baby Pose can quickly become “Wet Baby.”

As a result, difficult poses are modified, and balancing poses such as Tree and Dancer Pose are saved for the beach. The paddle and board also add a unique twist to your practice. The paddle can be used to deepen your stretch in a seated forward fold, or during half moon pose. The rails (side of the board) can be used to add stability (hooking the foot around it) during a modified side plank, or to deepen your Child’s Pose and lengthen the back muscles.

Most people are aware of the benefits that yoga has on our spiritual and mental well-being, but when combined with standup paddle boarding, it brings together mind, body, spirit and nature. The gentle rocking of the waves, the warm sunshine, and the sound of the seagulls all bring a deeper relaxation during a SUP Yogis savasana. It isn’t every day you can practice your downward dog next to a seal colony or a pod of dolphins. Performing yoga in nature, especially on top of a floating yoga mat, quiets the mental chatter, bringing students into the present moment.

If you’re looking to pick up the pace a bit, combining stand up paddle sprints and power yoga can provide a great alternative to running, or other high impact sports that can frequently cause injury. Beginners can jump on a board and become proficient at SUP on their first day, and basic yet efficient yoga poses such as plank pose can be added that will instantly challenge the core and build strength. With the right combination of yoga and paddling, every muscle group can be targeted in a short period of time, creating the perfect total body workout while floating across the ocean.

Even though celebrities such as Jennifer Aniston have been spotted performing SUP Yoga. It’s not just another fitness trend. Paddle board yoga has been catching on like wildfire, and seasonal businesses are popping up around the world. Yoga instructors are now even taking SUP Yoga certification courses to learn the correct paddle techniques, paddle board yoga modifications and water safety skills.

Not many fitness routines can challenge a student’s core strength, balance, and coordination while they work on their tans. Paddle board yoga has proven to be a beginner friendly, total body workout that has everyone flocking like seagulls to work on their SUPward Facing Dog, with no signs of stopping anytime soon.


Gillian Gibree is a Massachusetts native who developed a love for the ocean while lifeguarding on Cape Cod. After graduating from college, Gillian worked as a lifeguard in New Zealand, and then moved to San Diego to share her passion for standup paddle boarding and yoga through Paddle Into Fitness. Paddle Into Fitness offers SUP Yoga certifications around the country, providing Yoga Alliance continuing education credits and water safety training for yoga instructors. Check out Gillian’s website, or friend her on Facebook.


Editor: James Carpenter

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