Breathing in the fresh sea air as I practice yoga should be a relaxing experience.
The trouble is, I’m also desperately trying to keep my balance on a board that’s floating on water.
SUP yoga – or stand-up paddleboard yoga - involves all the usual stretches but has the added complication of being done on a board, on water.
Where Did It Come From?
An offshoot of the paddleboarding craze, SUP yoga is already hugely popular in the States, particularly in sunnier climes like Miami and California. And it’s now growing in the UK.
Gerry Broom, an Ashtanga and Vinyassa Flow specialist, first found the sport while trying paddleboarding on holiday in Egypt.
“I saw some people messing about trying handstands on the boards,” she says. “So I started doing yoga poses. Every position is more physical because you need to work harder to maintain stability. Plus I love being out on the water, connected with nature.”
Giving It A Go
It didn’t seem quite such an obvious step when I arrived at Hove Lagoon for an introductory SUP yoga session with Gerry.
I have paddleboarded and done yoga, but never with much pizazz - and never together. I was sure the combination of the two would result in an instant drenching.
But ever-the-optimist, I decided to give it a go.
Gerry told me not to bother with a wetsuit, just trainers to avoid crabs that might be lurking on the lagoon floor.
Fortunately, the sun was starting to break through the clouds as we set off into the lagoon for a warm up paddle.
When it’s calm, SUP yoga sessions are run on the sea. But the wind was making paddling an effort, and I was glad to be in the relative shelter of the lagoon on the inland side of the seafront.
Much of yoga is centred on breathing, and Gerry taught me to time my breaths with each stroke. I inhaled as I reached the paddle forward, and exhaled as I drew it back through the water, propelling my board forward like a dart.
We clipped our boards onto buoys in the lagoon so they remained stationary and within arm’s length of each other, then Gerry uttered the reassuring words: “It doesn’t matter if you fall in, so don’t worry about it.”
We started off cross-legged for simple stretches and side twists, before moving onto all fours and flexing our backs.
Water lapped against our bobbing boards, but so far, so dry.
Trying The Harder Moves
Raising the game, Gerry then extended a leg and the opposite arm, balancing on the board with one knee and a hand. Mine was a more wobbly and tense version, and I forgot all about breathing and relaxing.
Balancing on the board actively engaged my stomach muscles and the moment I tried a pose, I was working my core like never before.
I was making continual micro adjustments to stay afloat and the result was far more challenging than any yoga I’d experienced. The moves were familiar, but I altered my foot positioning to avoid tipping the board.
“Even experienced yogis find this hard,” Gerry said, as she held a perfect backbend. “They aren’t used to balancing on the water and even they can fall in sometimes.
“SUP yoga is much less serious than yoga in a studio. Classes are fun because you’re united in the aim of keeping on your board.”
Next it was time to stand for a sun salutation, a sequence of poses including lunges, a plank and the inevitable downward-facing dog.
With my arms outstretched and pelvis thrust in the air, my inverted triangle position was shakier than ever. But it was refreshing to see water, instead of a floor, beneath me as I held the pose.
We finished with my favourite pose - the relaxation pose. Lying flat on my back with my hands dipped into the water, I closed my eyes and felt the rhythmic rocking of the waves beneath me.
The overall experience was uplifting, like a form of active meditation.
It’s wet and just a little bit mad, but I’m definitely on board with this kind of yoga.
SUP YOGA IN HOVE:
GERRY’S 5 TOP TIPS:
1. Don’t Rush: Rushing means you aren’t properly aligned or looking in the right place.
2. Use your breath: Steady breathing helps relax you into the pose.
3. It’s ok to wobble: This is your body’s way of finding its balance. Looking to a fixed point helps.
4. Balance the board: Keep your weight over the handle to prevent it from tipping.
5. Use your core: Lace up the internal corset to help you balance.
WHERE ELSE TO TRY SUP YOGA:
Let us know what you think! Would YOU try SUP yoga?