Where zen meets sport. By Enrico Tambellini
By combining the world’s fastest-growing water sport of Stand-Up Paddle Boarding (SUP) with the ancient art of yoga you get SUP Yoga. This is where Zen meet sports!
Basically, SUP Yoga is practicing yoga on a paddle board in the middle of a calm body of water. It has become a trending water sport for yogis and for those who already enjoy paddle boarding. In fact, many yogis are improving their yoga skills by practicing SUP Yoga because it requires more strength, balance, and focus. Plus, it’s fun!
Practicing yoga whilst balancing on a paddle board has become more popular over the last 10 years, and it’s easy to see why. It combines the exhilaration and unpredictability of paddle boarding with the control and mindful movement of yoga. What’s not to like?
As with any yoga practice, SUP Yoga takes you beyond the physical and into the realms of the spiritual, where you can connect with the world of nature around you. This connection can occur automatically just from floating in the middle of a magnificent expanse of water out in nature.
You don’t have to be a surfer or thalassophile (lover of the sea) to do SUP Yoga either, nor do you need to have previous yoga or SUP experience. Whether you’re an absolute beginner or have been practicing yoga for 20 years, and as long as you are reasonably fit, you will have an enjoyable time.
Why try SUP Yoga?
A unique benefit of SUP Yoga, compared with traditional types of yoga, is the modification of technique, as even a slight misalignment may result in a splash! Practicing yoga on a surface that is moving, like the paddle board on the water, engages the core muscles and strengthens other muscles, which wouldn't otherwise be used in a land-based practice. SUP Yoga demands focus because transitioning between poses requires concentration to keep the board steady.
The practice may also require different placements than in land-based classes because the board is continually moving. The student must make continual adjustments in body position and weight distribution to counterbalance the movements of the board. SUP Yoga helps you to focus the breath and keeps you in the moment allowing you to be present.
SUP Yoga and paddle boarding have many health benefits. Paddle boarding itself is a full-body workout, working your legs, back, arms and core. This is even before your SUP Yoga class has commenced.
Your balance will improve as will your yoga performance. SUP Yoga strengthens the core, improves your balance, tones muscles, reduces stress, leading to improved proprioception and increases body awareness. What's more, it is lots of fun! Lying on the board at the end of practice and just floating and breathing in the fresh air and listening to the sounds of the water and nature is the perfect way to relax and recharge the batteries. Savasana is taken to a whole new level where you will experience absolute mind-body connection, freedom and the ability to let go.
Your balance will be radically improved and new muscles strengthened that you were not aware of. You’ll also let go of the idea that every pose needs to be executed perfectly.
SUP Yoga is a massive workout because the water is in constant motion, so your core muscles are always at work to keep you stable on top of it.
It is an empowering practice taking your yoga session to another level helping to relieve stress with the calming motion of the water, increasing relaxation.
SUP Yoga can also teach you classic yoga principles, in particular Ahimsa, the principal of causing no harm to all living creatures. All SUP Yogis are mother nature’s ambassadors, promoting Ahimsa to make a global impact.
On a physical level, it lets you explore asanas in a completely different way. On a mental level, it will challenge your understanding of traditional yoga principles. This will not only expand your practice but will also strengthen your relationship with yoga – and ultimately with yourself!
Where can I try it?
Google SUP Yoga and search for classes in your area. When looking for an SUP Yoga teacher it’s a good idea to see if they are trained and registered with the International SUP Yoga Academy or other recognised governing body to ensure a safe and fun experience out on the water.
SUP Yoga can be a magical and spiritual experience. So If you want to experience the healing powers of water in a yoga class, then it’s definitely something you should consider. Get out on the water today!
Based in Southampton, Enrico Tambellini is the founder of Tambellini Yoga and Coaching (tambelliniyogaandcoaching.co.uk). Find him on Instagram @yogawithenrico
First published in November 2009, OM Yoga magazine has become the most popular yoga title in the UK. Available from all major supermarkets, independents and newsstands across the UK. Also available on all digital platforms.