SUP: A Beginner’s Guide to Paddleboard Yoga
Recently, you may have noticed the growing yoga trend of stand-up paddleboard yoga (SUP Yoga). It looks like it’s a great workout and a lot of fun, but let’s face it, a headstand on a paddleboard in the middle of the ocean is intimidating!
SUP Yoga can be challenging, but it’s a very rewarding practice that’s great for building core strength and full body awareness. Plus SUP Yoga is a great addition to your yoga practice because it invites a new perspective to many classic yoga poses.
How do I begin practicing SUP Yoga? Here are a few tips to get you started:
1. Sunshine isn’t all you need . . .
Sunshine is a great asset to a fun day on the water, but it’s important to check the weather for wind conditions and any incoming bad weather. Heavy winds make the water choppy and much more difficult to balance on your paddleboard.
If your area often gets afternoon thunderstorms, try to get out on the water early in the morning. You don’t want to get caught far from the shore with thunder and lightning nearby.
2. Equipment is key
There are hundreds of paddleboards on the market. There are even paddleboards designed specifically for yoga. If you are renting a paddleboard, the most stable paddleboards to practice yoga on are about 35 inches wide and around 10 feet long (longer boards are generally more stable).
You can choose between an inflatable or traditional (hard) board. Many people enjoy both types and it often comes down to convenience. Both types should be available to rent so you can try both and decide which style you like better.
Here are a few SUP boards we recommend:
YOLO Original Namaste Turtle SUP 10’6
YOLO Board Inflatable Stand Up Paddle Board 11′
ISLE Airtech Inflatable 10’4
ISLE Classic Soft Top Stand Up Paddle Board 9’6 or 10’8
Mermair Inflatable Yoga Paddle Board 10’6
3. Slow down
This isn’t your typical vinyasa practice. When practicing yoga on a paddleboard, it is critical to slow down, hold the poses and utilize your breath to keep you focused. Again, SUP Yoga can bring a whole new perspective to your practice, and for some of us, that perspective is simply being reminded to slow down.
4. Find your center
We may say this a lot in our yoga practice, but SUP Yoga makes the term a lot more literal. Usually the handle of the paddleboard is the center point, so if you keep your center of gravity close to the handle, you will have an easier time staying balanced as you move through your yoga poses.
Now that you’ve got some basic knowledge about paddleboarding, here are 10 yoga poses that are perfect to try on your first SUP Yoga adventure:
1. Forward Fold
- With your feet framing the handle, keep a slight bend in your knees and drop your chest toward your thighs
- Allow your head to hang and your fingers to touch the paddleboard, or grab opposite elbows
- Ground down through all four corners of your feet and take a few deep breaths
- Begin to feel the movement of the water beneath you and become familiar with your new moving yoga mat
2. Halfway Lift
- From Forward Fold, use an inhale to lift halfway, placing hands to shins or thighs
- Be sure to extend through the crown of your head so your spine is long and straight
- Press down through all four corners of your feet and feel your body root down and stabilize
- Stay here for a few breaths
- On an exhale, slowly release and fold forward
3. Modified Chaturanga Dandasana
- From Table Top, walk your hands slightly forward, coming into a modified push-up position (knees are still planted)
- Hug your elbows into your sidebody and lower your chest until your shoulders are at a 90 degree angle
- Hold for a few breaths
- Be sure you keep your core active
4. Upward Facing Dog
- From modified Chaturanga Dandasana, press into your hands, straighten your arms, and lift your chest
- Press your feet into the paddleboard and engage your quads to lift your knees off the board
- Keep your neck neutral and your gaze at the water in front of you
- Remain here for a few breaths as you continue to lift from your heart
5. Downward Facing Dog
- From Table Top or Upward Facing Dog, gently lift your hips up and back as you straighten into your legs
- Relax your head and drop your gaze
- Continue to press your hips back as you press your heels downward, noticing the added need to engage your core for stability
- Press into your index fingers and thumbs to protect your wrists
- Stay here for a few breaths
6. Child’s Pose
- From Table Top, open your knees the width of the paddleboard and bring your big toes together
- Slowly lower your hips back towards your heels and rest your forehead on the paddleboard
- Continue to breathe and allow your body to relax
7. Modified Crescent Lunge
- Begin in Table Top, centered on the paddleboard
- Step one foot forward between your hands and keep the back knee down
- Keep your gaze forward and energetically squeeze your inner thighs towards each other to find stability
- Bring your hands to your front knee, and once you feel centered, slowly lift your arms overhead
- Continue to engage your inner thighs and core to keep your balance
- Find a few breaths, then slowly switch sides
8. Low Lunge Twist
- From modified Crescent Lunge, plant your left palm and extend your right hand up to the sky
- If you want to play with balance, slowly shift your gaze to the sky as well
- Stay here a few breaths, then repeat on the opposite side
9. Bridge Pose
- Lie down on your back with your tailbone over the handle of the paddleboard and your hands by your hips
- Bend your knees and place your feet flat on the paddleboard with your heels close to your glutes
- Press into your palms and feet and slowly lift your hips toward the sky
- Continue to draw your chest toward your chin as you take a few breaths
10. Half Pigeon Pose
- Begin in Table Top Pose or Downward-Facing Dog in the center of the paddleboard
- Bring your right knee forward to the right wrist and place it on the paddleboard
- Adjust the right foot to help your hips remain square to the front of the paddleboard
- Keep your palms on the paddleboard and inhale to find length in the spine and exhale the chest closer to the paddleboard
- If your hips are tight, keep your chest lifted. If your hips are more open, bring your forearms down or extend your arms forward for a Sleeping Pigeon variation
- Enjoy your breath and the soothing water beneath you
- After a few moments, slowly switch sides
Practice these yoga poses first on land then take them onto the water and feel the difference! When you have the opportunity to bring your yoga practice onto a paddleboard, take it. SUP Yoga is a wonderful experience for all levels of yogis and a great way to connect deeper to yourself and your yoga practice.
Have you heard of SUP Yoga? Does it sound like something you would be interested in trying? Let us know if this guide helped you and your experience with yoga on a paddleboard. Leave your feedback and story in the comments below.