By Rosie Markwick, Summersalt Yoga teacher
SUP yoga is a fairly new craze that is hitting the US, Asia and slowly creeping its way over to European shores.
It is essentially yoga on a paddle board. That’s right – a yoga class on a large, 10ft long floating platform in the middle of the water.
Sound bonkers? It does a little yes. As SUP teacher often the first question I get is; really you do yoga on that? On the water? IS that even possible?
The answer is YES YES YES!
Stand up paddle boarding is currently the world’s fastest growing water sport and has been established in the last 5 years especially, as a fun and accessible way to get fit and spend some time on the water.
So perhaps it isn’t surprising that SUP related activities are popping up left right and centre. SUP touring, SUP racing, SUP surfing, SUP fit, SUP angling (for reals) and SUP yoga. Turns out there are lots of things you can do on a paddle board in addition to standing and paddling.
My own discovery was random and brilliant and the love affair that took my practise and teaching out to the water was fast and furious. I remember my first ever SUP class coming to a close and feeling so present, focused, strong and deeply relaxed. And on top of this it was almost as if my body and subsequently mind had fused and blended with the environment, no longer separate entities. Wholeness in its complete form. It was, magic.
Needless to same I am a convert. Having said that I am aware it is still a relatively lesser known practice and so we thought it would be helpful to compile a few of the reasons you might want to give SUP yoga a go this year…
CORE CORE CORE! I cannot stress this enough, SUP yoga is amazing for developing stability and strength in the core. And stability and strength in the core = injury prevention, spinal health, self-confidence, finding your centre… and the list goes on and on.
Essentially akin to being on a floating Pilates plate the balance required means that you have to activate the core just to stay on the board. SUP yoga will help you to connect to this part of the body like no other. And because the core isn’t just activated with repetitive movement here but the entire time i.e. you breathe whilst it is activated, it is a real game changer for improving strength and balance. You will leave the board feeling stronger and more stable in your mat practice and beyond.
The 2nd chakra, Svadhisthana is located in the pelvic area. And the element associated with this chakra? WATER. When I first started practicing and teaching SUP yoga I realised I was really drawn to poses that got deep into the hips and legs – lizard lunges, pigeon, half hanumanasana, even full splits (side note: the latter is not a pose I am normally drawn to AT ALL) After a bit of exploring it appeared that students typically also felt more openness in these shapes when on the water. It’s a bit of a theory of my own but I believe there is something about being on the water, the element of Svadhisthana, that inspires the body to move as the water does – fluidly, thus mirroring the element of the chakra and promoting a depth in the related body parts that might not be so easily reached on land.
When you practise SUP yoga you get to be outside. Take your practise out of the confines of a studio and the sky becomes your ceiling, the water your ground and the air / sun / rain / wind your walls. There is just something about water that is so good for us humans and now the science is backing this up as well. Research has shown that being on, near and in water has been found to release Serotonin and Relaxin. The hormones associated with happiness and relaxing. How delightful! Nature is SO good for the soul and trust me floating away during savasana out on the big blue is reason enough alone to try SUP yoga.
I have taught SUP on lagoons in Indonesia where sea turtles come and say hello and canals in east London (no sea turtles but a lot of ‘urban charm’). The environment changes but a few things remain the same; we are outside, learning to let the water hold us, allowing ourselves to wobble (inevitable), to fall (highly likely) and then to get back up again. The ego literally gets washed away (pun intended) during SUP yoga whether you like it or not and the best thing you can do is laugh, clamber back aboard and keep on trying – now what a lesson for life that is.
Plus it will make you feel a bit like a mermaid for a morning and who doesn’t want a bit of that.