The Floating Yogi

Written by Rachel Brathen

Imagine you’re in a headstand. Depending of how long you’ve been practicing this pose, you might feel very comfortable here. You also may not. Either way, try to see yourself moving into this inversion. You’re probably doing everything your yoga teacher told you in class, right? Measuring the space between the elbows, top of the head on the floor, fingers interlaced at the base of your skull. You tuck your toes, hips drawing up into Dolphin, the strength of your forearms and shoulders providing a solid foundation. Are you feeling it? Good. Now, begin to walk your toes closer in towards your body. Core is engaged, tailbone tucked, and when you finally reach that point where the hips align above your upper body you can try to, little by little, sneak first one knee up… And then the other. Whoa. You’re very much upside down now. Scary? Yes. Ready to take it to the next step? Bet you are. Maybe, if you are feeling stable today, you can very slowly start to stretch your feet up into the air. This is where it gets really tricky; you want to use the strength of your shoulders and forearms to pull your body up, careful to not put too much pressure on your head, while at the same time you’re shifting the balance in the body allowing the feet to carefully stretch up towards the sky above. And hey, look at that -- you’re doing it! Salamba Sirsasana! Supported headstand! Are you imagining this? Do you see it? It’s awesome. You’re awesome. It’s most likely taken you a long time to get here (and definitely some overcoming of fear), but you’ve got it now. A little wobbly perhaps, but countless hours of practice has allowed you to finally find some sort of stability in this pose. Congratulations.

Now. Imagine doing all of the above. Only this time someone grabs you by the ankles, pushes you hard and proceeds to shake you as if you were a recently purchased carton of orange juice.

This my friends, is what Paddle Board Yoga is like.

The whole idea of it is silly. I mean, yoga is hard enough as it is. Disagree with me here? I invite you to come try my friend Corinne’s Ashtanga based power yoga classes -- after this, we’ll talk. It’s true though, getting to a point where you are comfortable on the mat takes hours and hours of practice. And it’s pretty amazing, this practice. Moving our bodies. Breathing. Connecting. Suddenly, things start to happen. We start to feel good. Real good! On the mat we build strength and flexibility, we calm our minds, we cultivate balance. We start trying things we’ve never tried before, activating new muscles and exploring parts of our bodies we didn’t even know we had. Yoga allows us to open up, both physically and emotionally, and gradually we can go deeper into this. We start to feel great. Really, really great.

So what’s the point in taking your practice off the mat and onto an 11-foot surfboard in the middle of the ocean? I’ll tell you. Paddle Board Yoga is all the things I just mentioned; the strength, the flexibility, the balance – magnified. Here is why you should give Paddle Board Yoga a try:

SUP Yoga (Stand-Up Paddle Board Yoga) gets you out of your routine. Bored with your practice? Feel like every time you roll out the mat you do the same sequences? Give it a go on the paddle board. That same Downward Dog you’ve been doing forever is going to be very, very different on water. Just standing up is going to be very, very different on water. Finding your balance is hard, and moving from pose to pose is tricky – in some ways, it’s like practicing yoga for the first time.

You realize that the little things really do matter. Always wondered why your teacher keeps nagging about drawing your tailbone down and engaging Mula Bandha in Mountain Pose? On the paddle board, you’ll finally understand why. If you don’t, you fall! Balance and strength really does come from the inside, and taking these realizations off the board and onto the mat will transform your practice.

Connecting with nature. No studio, no air-conditioning, no yoga mats, and best of all: no crowd. Floating on the water, beach, sun, sand, lake, forest – wherever you are, it’s bliss. Silence. Freedom. Facing the horizon, nothing but blue skies and turquoise waters as far as the eye can see. Everything connected, all love. Instant meditation. This is my favorite part.

You can be courageous! Try headstands, handstands, arm balances and any challenging pose that might be a little scary on the mat. The worst thing that could happen? You get wet. Falling off the paddle board won’t hurt as much as falling on dry land. Actually, it wont hurt at all! It’s just water, and usually pretty nice if you’ve been practicing for a while (where I live it get’s super hot so falling into the coolness of the ocean feels pretty great). My handstand has definitely evolved since I started practicing on the ocean. I can kick up as hard as I can without fear – flipping over is fun!

It’s a great workout. 30 minutes of practice on the board will have your body feel like you did a 90 minute core class the day after. To stay stable you need to engage your whole entire body, especially your core, in everything you do. Something as simple as cat-cow takes a lot of effort. Windy day? Even more challenging!

SUP Yoga is ridiculously fun! Really. I find that my cheeks ache after practice from laughing so much. Goes well with that nice post-yoga body ache we all love and cherish. Check out this video and get your Paddle Board Yoga on!

Here you go:

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