During a recent trip to Europe, a very smart Norwegian – who spoke several languages including English – told us he thought that Americans use too many superlatives. But I don’t care: teaching Stand Up Paddle Yoga (aka SUP Yoga) is the most exciting, inspirational and fulfilling experience I’ve had in a very long time. And it’s also quite grounding, despite the lack of solid ground beneath you. I want to dedicate the next few articles that I post to my journey into the SUP Yoga community and about my experience as a teacher thus far.
Needless to say it’s been more than a worthwhile endeavor. My first SUP Yoga class was about three years ago with Rachel Brathen. This past June I completed my SUP Yoga teacher training with SUP Yoli. Now I’m a regular teacher for In Your Element’s classes at Nottingham Lake. There have also been so many rewarding moments in between and I feel I have so much to share with other Yogis.
More than anything, I want to convey that SUP Yoga is accessible to everyone, not just for people experienced in paddle boarding. While having some background in Yoga helps a lot, most people try SUP Yoga the first time they have ever been on a paddleboard. My first class with Rachel Brathen was my first time on a paddleboard and it was quite intimidating, but I got through it fine. All the teachers are quite good at easing their new students into how to balance on the board and how forgiving and sturdy they actually are.
In fact, what most yogis learn within their first SUP Yoga class is that the board actually makes some postures easier. For instance, in seated forward fold, the board allows you to rock gently side to side, giving your hips and hamstrings the ability to open more. And for some weird reason, almost all my students agree that wheel is actually less difficult to get into. By the end of class, you will have found a number of postures that were actually enhanced by being on the board and in the water.
At the same time, however, the board and water require you to engage your core and other muscles more intensely than a normal class. And the results will translate to your normal practice. Take the hardest core-strengthening sequence of your favorite power yoga class and it’s got nothing on a standard core sequence on a paddleboard. Trying to hone in on your standing balance poses in the studio? Some time with standing poses on your paddleboard and you’ll be a master on your mat. So as different as a SUP Yoga class might seem, it’s actually all about building on and deepening your regular yoga practice.
Well, that only scratches the surface of my experience so far and over the next few weeks I’ll be posting a series on my SUP Yoga endeavors. I’m excited to share my experience with you all and I hope I encourage you to get on a board soon and get your asana on!