With summer fast approaching, the buzz around stand up paddle yoga is growing with every passing day.
The best teacher will always be experience and I encourage you to get out on the water and give it a try. Here are a few tips to help you get started.
Yes, this is still Number One. Whether your yoga practice is in the middle of San Francisco Bay or on top of the Empire State Building, in a far off desert or on a mountaintop, staying with and reminding yourself to breathe fully in and out will be your best friend. When practicing on the water, your breath will particularly help relax your mind from any fears that come up around falling into the water or dealing with elements you may not be used to, like the sun and wind.
2. Be Patient
Doing yoga on a stand up paddle board takes time to learn and even longer to master, regardless of the breadth of your experience on the mat. Here’s why: the board is floating and whether you are on a lake, in a pool, on the bay or in the ocean—this means it is moving. These movements call forth greater strength, balance, flexibility and concentration than when we practice yoga on land. Factor in a little sunshine, a steady breeze and a passing boat and things can really start to get interesting. Taking your time when entering and exiting poses will help keep you safe and allow for the foundation you need to build success while practicing on the water.
My favorite part about practicing stand up paddle yoga is the beautiful environment I get to practice in. Take the time to soak up your surroundings: the sights and sounds of the place you find yourself, the fresh sea air in your lungs, the warm sun on your skin. The list goes on and on. Appreciate the natural environment you are immersed in, and you will soon find yourself sinking even deeper into your practice.
4. Use Proper Equipment
Before venturing onto the water for a stand up paddle yoga practice, it helps to check a few boxes in the gear department. A stable board with lots of volume is critical. This is measured in width, length and depth and although numbers vary, usually the board wants to be at least 10 feet long, 30 inches wide and 3-4 inches deep. These are generalizations and I welcome comments on dimensions that work or don’t work for you pending your size and the conditions you are practicing in. Bottom line, stability is important and volume is going to help get you there. Also helpful, and in most cases necessary, are: a paddle to get to and fro, a light weight anchor for staying put, a life vest or leash for safety, and quick drying clothes for the occasional and unexpected plunge in the water.
5. Have Fun
Maintaining a relaxed disposition on the water, or in the water should you fall, will help you enjoy your yoga practice more than ever. Smiling and laughing are encouraged as is an attitude of exploration and adventure. Practicing with friends makes it even better and promises it to be an experience you all won’t soon forget. Remember, you are trying something new and enjoying the experience is what it’s all about.
One last thought before I set sail. As with any yoga practice, taking a class from an experienced instructor can really be helpful. In this case, particularly with suggesting appropriate modifications and helping you find your place on the board. Although not everyone has access, having someone you trust at the helm can make a big difference in your progress and enjoyment of stand up paddle yoga. Hopefully the tips I shared here make your transition from the mat to the water as smooth as possible, whether you have an experienced teacher or not.
I look forward to seeing you on the water soon. Be sure to let me know how it goes or any comments and questions that come up for you once you get your feet wet.
All photos courtesy of www.OnBoardSUP.com.
Evan Silberstein is a passionate water sports enthusiast and long time yoga instructor. Operating in his sweet spot on the water, he guides students of all levels to safely meet and go beyond their perceived boundaries in yoga and in life. Evan gathered years of open water paddling experience in the surf and seas of Hawaii and now teaches regularly on the San Francisco Bay as a lead instructor for OnBoardSUP in Sausalito.
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Ed: Brianna Bemel