What’SUP? Paddleboarding Yoga,That’s What!

This feature comes from Kirsten Alburg, a TMS staff writer, teacher, and owner of Alaska’s Take Refuge Canoe. Kirsten is a regular contributor to our blog and an above-average adventure enthusiast living on the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska.

Following the lead of their instructor, a dozen-Yogi clan paddled into a single-file line between buoys, excited to embark upon a new adventure: the sport of water-top yoga. Without their paddles for balance, the group flounders as they attempt the Downward Dog position.

Their instructor explained that when she first jumped into paddleboard yoga the expanse of the water broadened her perspective of the exercise and gave her respect for the sport. “It’s way bigger than you; the water, the balance needed, the focus,” she said.

It’s key to not be distracted when you’re trying to balance above frigid waters. You’re forced to truly be one with the moment – to focus on your breath, the board and the water. You can’t control the environment. It’s not like an indoor studio where you can catch yourself when faltering. As the group’s leader worded it, “It’s intense! You have to really be one with the water to stay on the board, but it’s so much fun!”

At the end of the workout, as the sunscreen-protected group lay on their backs in Corpse pose, a flock of ducks flew overhead – a sign that true balance with nature had been achieved.

Balancing atop a large surfboard is noteworthy, but twelve people posing on stand-up paddleboards is enough to get the attention any passerby. Stand Up Paddleboarding, considered one of the hottest new sports today, is a draw for many water and yoga fans.

Each year the sport of paddleboarding increases in popularity. SUP yoga migrated from Hawaii to California and now is taking off throughout the United States.  SUPs are not propelled by waves alone, but by their rider wielding a long single-bladed paddle. Stand Up Paddleboards are longer and wider than regular surfboards, improving buoyancy and balance ability.

Paddleboard yoga is a variation of Stand-up Paddle Surfing (SUP, or Hoe he’e nalu in Hawaiian) combined with the ancient practice of Yoga, which originated in Rishikesh, India. The sport combines the ancient practice of hathayoga and vinyasa yoga asanas, or poses, with the ancient form of surfing.

SUP yoga benefits athletes with a strong ‘core’ workout. Some of these benefits include decreased blood pressure, cholesterol and weight, coordination improvement and increased range of motion. It can even help treat anxiety and depression. Paddle Board Yoga is popular in warm coastal climates and resorts, and is gaining in popularity. Celebrities such as Jennifer Anniston, Matthew McConaughey, Lance Armstrong and Kate Hudson are sampling the sport, and cross-over athletes such as big wave surf pioneer Laird Hamilton are training with SUPs.