Over 300 million people all across the world practice yoga — and each of them has slightly different goals. Yoga can make for a wonderful workout that boosts your strength, stamina, and of course your balance and flexibility.
It’s a great way for people with chronic medical conditions, including back pain and arthritis, to be active and improve their cardiovascular health. Yoga’s a good stress reliever and mood booster. Above all, yoga can be a lot of fun.
Does all of that sound eerily familiar? If you’re involved in the boating or water sporting world, it should — because stand up paddle boarding has pretty much the exact same set of health benefits!
If you already enjoy (or at least really like the thought of trying) either yoga or paddle boarding, there’s just one thing that can top that — SUP yoga. Yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like; yoga on a stand up paddle board.
What Is SUP Yoga?
Stand up paddle board yoga, more often simply called SUP yoga, is a relatively new sport that combines the strengths of yoga and stand up paddle boarding.
Not only do practitioners gain access to all of the unique health benefits of both sports, the fact that SUP yoga has to be practiced outdoors also has some very definite advantages — spending time outside, in the open air, surrounded by nature, has a calming effect that can help anyone relax and recharge their mental batteries.
People who already love stand up paddle boarding may welcome SUP yoga as a new way to explore all the fun things they can do on and with a stand up paddle board.
The practice of yoga on a stand up paddle board will further increase the sense of balance you’re developing as you stand up paddle board, and that’s a great thing if you’re hoping to venture out into choppier waters on your SUP.
Those who are into yoga, but have never stepped onto a SUP before, or those who have never tried yoga yet but really want to, can look forward to a slightly different set of benefits. For experienced yoga practitioners, SUP yoga has the advantage that it really forces concentration — one wrong move, and you have a very high chance of winding up in the water!
New yoga practitioners may, on the other hand, welcome SUP yoga for precisely that reason. Falls don’t hurt as much if you’ll be landing in the water rather than on a hard surface.
Unlike with yoga in a kayak (which, yes, is also a thing people do), it’s possible to get into almost any yoga pose on a stand up paddle board. The poses an individual should try out highly depend on their skill level, but here’s a quick look at popular yoga poses SUP yoga practitioners like to try:
- The seated prayer SUP yoga pose is a great starting point. The rider sits in the center of their SUP in the lotus position, taking care to straighten their back straight and their head up. The person’s hands should rest on their knees, palms up. This is a great pose for meditation and relaxation.
- The downward facing dog is another classic yoga pose that can work as a SUP yoga pose, too. Start on your knees and hands, finding stability on your SUP, and slowly bring your rear up until your body forms a triangular shape. It’s a wonderful way to stretch and increase flexibility.
- The crescent lunge SUP yoga pose looks extremely intimidating — it is essentially a headstand with a twist. Yet, it’s one of the more popular (and more photogenic) SUP yoga poses out there. Try it if you love a good challenge.
That’s just the start, because once you get going with SUP yoga, there’s very little to stop you. As you build patience and skill, it becomes possible to take on the most complex of yoga poses, without ever falling off your stand up paddle board!
How Did SUP Yoga Get Started?
Nobody seems to know quite how SUP yoga got started, and there’s certainly no clear evidence about the precise origins of this practice.
We do know that stand up paddle boarding, which is a really old sport if you boil it down to its essence but which originated in Hawaii in its modern form, blew up in popularity around the year 2014. Since that time, millions of newcomers have at least tried SUP, and many of them quickly fell in love with it and kept going.
What do you do when you get a cool new toy that offers you all the freedom in the world? You have fun and experiment, of course. People were already doing yoga in kayaks, though with much clearer limitations, so it is really only logical that people would begin to practice yoga on stand up paddle boards, too.
The flat surface of a stand up paddle board uniquely lends itself to yoga, in fact!
In short, it would seem like SUP yoga emerged in different places, quite independently of one another. At the moment, there are dedicated SUP yoga groups, and some yoga centers offer SUP yoga classes, too.
Why Would You Want to Try SUP Yoga?
Why should you give SUP yoga a go? There’s every reason to try this exciting new sport, and we can think of very few reasons not to. Here’s a closer look at all the reasons SUP yoga may be a welcome addition to your workout routine — and your life.
- SUP Yoga Is Fun
Fun is important, and you don’t really need a reason beyond that. Practicing SUP yoga offers a brand new challenge in a wonderful and often wonderfully supportive environment, and it’s an entirely different way to enjoy your time on the water. Why not?
- SUP Yoga Looks Really Cool and Impressive
Say you were shooting some pictures for your SUP blog, or just sharing what you did all afternoon with your friends on Instagram. Yoga looks cool on its own, and so does stand up paddle boarding, but there’s something about the combo that makes for amazing pictures.
That probably has a lot to do with the fact that you can almost imagine being there when you look at someone else practicing SUP yoga. SUP yoga is a great advertisement for yoga as well as SUP, so get those pictures out there!
- SUP Yoga Works New Muscles
Stand up paddle boarding is a challenging full body and low impact workout any day, and it builds stamina as well as strength. Yoga can, depending on how you do it, also make for a mean training session.
SUP yoga combines the two, so you’re going to be doing your best to get into a complex yoga pose, to stay in it for a while, and to maintain your balance (so you don’t fall off the SUP). If you’re committed to fitness, and you’re hoping to work muscles you didn’t even know you had, SUP yoga is a must-try sport!
- SUP Yoga Is a Great Mindfulness Tool
Stand up paddle boarding and yoga both do a lot to improve your balance, but when the two get together, the result is balance on steroids. It doesn’t come easy, of course, and that’s where mindfulness comes in. Every movement matters, every breath matters, each gentle sway of the water matters.
To be good at SUP yoga, you need to be supremely aware of your environment and your body — you need to be present in the moment, without reservation. Yes, that’s indeed the actual definition of mindfulness.
What Kind of Gear Do You Need to Practice SUP Yoga?
You’ll need a stand up paddle board. Although just about any SUP will do, people who are intending to practice SUP yoga regularly will want to consider buying:
- An inflatable stand up paddle board; iSUPs are flexible, and will bend with you to the extent you need them to.
- An iSUP that’s just slightly wider than your typical inflatable SUP, such as 33 inches.
- An inflatable stand up paddle board with a soft but non-slip surface is ideal; it will provide the grip you need for complex SUP yoga poses.
Paddles are another essential component of the SUP yoga experience; you’ll need one to paddle to your SUP yoga spot. While you’re practicing yoga, though, you’ll want the paddle to stay well out of the way, and that’s why a lateral paddle holder is a great idea.
Finally, you’ll need a lead — in case you fall in the water, which you likely will at one point or another — and an anchor to keep your SUP secured in place during your yoga session. The anchor is optional, and experienced paddle boarders may choose to go without, but it’s essential for organized SUP yoga classes because you’ll need to stay in place to follow along with the instructor.
This gear may be provided if you’re taking a SUP yoga class, in which can you can hold off on buying your own.
SUP Yoga: Tips to Get Started with This Exciting New Sport
Just how do you get into stand up paddle board yoga? There are a few paths into this sport, and each have their own pros and cons.
If you’re an experienced paddle boarder who would like to try practicing yoga on a SUP, you can essentially just go for it. Look up a few easy yoga poses on the internet and practice them at home before giving it a try on your stand up paddle board.
Are you new to paddle boarding, and to yoga, but are you specifically interested in SUP yoga as opposed to paddling or doing anything else with a paddle board? Sign up for SUP yoga classes if there are any in your area. This option is also open to experienced paddle boarders, of course, but going solo is a lot safer if you already know your way around a SUP.
SUP yoga classes will cover all the basics and beyond, and offer close supervision. If you’re out on the water on your own or with a friend, though, keep these basics in mind:
- SUP yoga should be practiced close to shore in quiet waters. A lake is ideal, and if you don’t want an audience that may distract you, you may find peace early in the morning and away from the crowds.
- Don’t shoot for the stars right away. Take baby steps — just sitting on your SUP in the lotus position is a great place to start. Gradually move the difficulty level up, paying close attention to your SUP and the water the entire time, and stopping if you’re not sure you can execute a particular pose.
- You’ll fall into the water. If you’re going solo, a flotation device can help you get back to your SUP more easily.
- Practice yoga at home as well as on your SUP to help you become more familiar with yoga if you’re an experienced paddle boarder who’s looking to try SUP yoga.
- If you’re already a pro at yoga, but you’re completely new to stand up paddle boarding, the reverse is true. Learn to paddle before you begin practicing yoga on a stand up paddle board.
- Can’t find a SUP yoga class? If you’re new to SUP, at least take a buddy.
SUP Yoga: Whatever You Want it to Be
Stand up paddle board yoga can be as simple as meditating in a prayer pose, to soak up the nature around you and be alone with your thoughts. It can also be as complex as doing a full wheel pose or Garland pose on your SUP — acts that are more challenging than relaxing, at least at first.
Like paddle boarding itself, SUP yoga is whatever you want it to be, and beautiful in its versatility. The only thing you can definitely expect from SUP yoga is fun, and that makes it a great sport to try for just about anyone.