Stand Up Paddle Board (SUP) Yoga | Beginner’s Guide
When you are out on the water and see someone on a paddle board doing yoga, don’t you think they are crazy? The first thought that goes through people’s minds is “That’s hard to do on dry land so why do it on the water?” The truth is that it’s not as hard as it looks. Stand up paddle board yoga is the most recent trend in spiritual wellness and exercise. It combines hatha yoga and vinyasa yoga poses with surfing. It is practiced on a calm body of water, such as on the ocean, in a lake, a pond, a still river, or even a pool. SUP yoga has become increasingly popular in recent years, as it is not only mentally soothing but also a great workout.
Benefits of Doing SUP Yoga
It’s great practice for developing focus, balance, and breathing skills.
SUP yoga, in essence, forces you to be mindful of your body. When practicing SUP yoga, you must be focused, balanced, and have steady breathing. These skills are incredibly important to have down, especially when transitioning positions. If you’re not focused, balanced, or your breathing is not controlled, you’ll fall in the water.
SUP yoga is a great core workout.
SUP yoga requires you to be balanced. If you’re not balanced, you’re going to find your session pretty challenging. The key muscles for maintaining balance are your core muscles. So, because you need to be balanced, you’ll be working your core significantly more than other muscles, making it a great workout.
It engages muscles that would otherwise not be used when doing yoga on land.
The emphasis of balance in SUP yoga means that you’ll be engaging your body more than when practicing traditional yoga. Your knees, quadriceps, arms, shoulders, and core will be much more challenged than they would be in a traditional yoga session.
Yoga, in general, is thought of as one of the greatest alternatives to relax your mind and body and practicing yoga on water is even more so. The sense of floating on the water and aligning your breath with the soft sounds of the current can be very soothing. After a session of SUP yoga, you’ll walk away with peace of mind.
Not only does SUP yoga help you be more mindful of your body and give you a great workout, but it’s also a highly enjoyable activity. Practicing yoga on water is more exciting than on land, adding a new level of fun to your workout.
Gear Needed for SUP Yoga
Stand Up Paddle Board
To do SUP yoga, you’re going to need a SUP. Most paddle boards for yoga are inflatable, so you should make certain that the materials that are used in manufacturing the board abide by the maximum quality standards. As a general guideline, however, as long as the paddle board you’re using is wide and stable enough to comfortably support your weight when standing on flat water, you’ll be just fine.
As a bonus, having a board with a soft, cushy deck padding that extends towards the nose and tail of the board makes holding poses on the board more comfortable, but this is optional. Learn more information on choosing a SUP.
When dressing for SUP yoga, dress for the temperature of the water, not the temperature of the air. Avoid cotton, as this will make you cold. Try to wear quick-drying clothing.
For warm weather and warm water, consider wearing a rash guard, a bathing suit, water shoes, or a hat that protects you from the sun. For cold weather and cold water, considering wearing a neoprene top and shorts or a wetsuit, paddling gloves, a wool/synthetic cap, or wool/synthetic socks.
Any paddle will work just fine for SUP yoga, but make sure that the size of the paddle is the proper size for you.
Leashes are usually sold separately from the stand up paddle board, but they’re extremely important because they keep the board close to you. Wear the leash when you’re paddling out, and once you’re out, take it off your leg. However, if you’re not anchoring your board down, it may be a good idea to keep the leash on so that if you fall off, your board won’t float away.
Anchors are not required but they can be really helpful. Some say that doing yoga on a SUP that’s not anchored down can be distracting, as the board floats with the current. You don’t need to purchase a specific anchor for SUP yoga, a simple fishing anchor used for anchoring kayaks, SUPs, or other small boats works perfectly.
To anchor your board, attach the end of the anchor rope to the leash attachment point on your board. Place the anchor and rope on your board. Paddle out to a spot on the water that is about 10 to 15 feet deep and lower the anchor overboard. When the anchor reaches the bottom, let out a couple more feet of rope.
Personal Flotation Device (PFD)
It is required by the Coast Guard for all adults to have a personal flotation device on board while on the water. If you do wear one, you may want to consider purchasing a compact, inflatable PFD that won’t get in the way while you practice yoga. Note that there are different rules for children than adults.
Paddle Boarding Skills Needed
SUP yoga doesn’t require any special paddle boarding skills other than the basics. The only paddle boarding skills you’ll need is knowing how to stand up on the board, maintaining balance, being able to get back on the board after you’ve fallen off, and the basic strokes. Discover more about other SUP techniques.
Standing up on a SUP
Techniques to help you stand up on your board:
- Stand alongside your board in knee-deep water, deep enough so your fins don’t touch the bottom.
- Hold the edges of the board and get onto it in a kneeling position, just behind the center of the board.
- Keep your hands placed on the side of the board and slowly stand up, putting your feet where your knees were.
- Rather than standing up in one motion, slowly raise your chest up while keeping your knees bent. Once your chest is vertical, then extend your legs and stand up.
Maintaining your balance on a SUP
Techniques to help you maintain your balance on your board:
- When you’re standing on the board, position your feet about a hip-width distance apart and parallel. Center them between the edges of the board.
- Keep your toes pointed forward, your knees slightly bent, and your back straight.
- Keep your head and your shoulders steady and upright. Shift your weight using your hips.
- Try not to stare at your feet, as you’re more likely to lose your balance. Instead, look towards the horizon.
Getting back on your board
Techniques to help you get back on your SUP if you’ve fallen off:
When you’re falling
- If you’re falling, aim to fall in the water rather than on your board. Falling on the board is more likely to cause injury.
- Try to hold onto your paddle while falling. If you’re separated from the paddle, swim to the board first and get back on. Once you’re on the board, paddle with your hands to reach the paddle.
Getting back on after you’ve fallen
- Position yourself on the side of the board near the center. Grab the handle in the center of the board with one hand.
- Let your legs float in the water while holding onto the handle in the center of the board. Then kick your legs and pull yourself up onto your board.
The basic paddling strokes:
- Forward strokes are used to move forward.
- Stand in the middle of your board and place the paddle in the water by reaching about two to three feet forward. Pull back the paddle, scooping the water to your ankle.
- Keep your arms straight and twist your torso as you paddle.
- Rather than pulling the paddle back with your lower arm, push down on the paddle grip with your top hand.
- The more vertical you hold the paddle, the straighter you will move.
- To move forward in a straight line, you need to alternate strokes on each side of the board.
- Reverse strokes are used for slowing down, stopping, and turning.
- If you’re paddling on the right side, reach back behind you and place the paddle in the water near the tail of the board.
- Keep your arms straight and twist your torso rather than pulling the blade forward with your arms.
- Doing the reverse stroke on the right side will make the nose of your board turn right. On the contrary, doing the reverse stroke on the left side will make the nose of your board turn left.
- Sweep strokes are helpful for turning your board while standing still or moving.
- If you’re paddling on the right side, rotate your shoulder so that your right shoulder comes forward.
- Reach forward and place the paddle in front of you in the water.
- Scoop the paddle away from you in a large arcing motion, starting at the nose of the board and finishing at the tail.
- Like the forward and sweep stroke, perform this stroke by moving your torso.
- Doing the sweep stroke on the right side of your board will turn your board left. Doing the sweep stroke on the left side of your board will turn your board right.
10 Popular SUP Yoga Poses
If you’re feeling adventurous, there’s no yoga pose you can’t do! But in this list, I’ll be telling you the most popular yoga poses for beginners.
This pose is undoubtedly the easiest yoga pose, whether on land or on the water. Simply lay on your back with your legs fully extended and your head facing upwards. You can place your hands at your sides, let them dangle in the water, or cross them over your chest.
Mountain Pose (Tadasana)
Stand with your feet near the hand well. Make sure your feet are hip distance apart for stability. Make sure your spine is tall, pull your shoulders back, and keep your knees soft.
Chair Pose (Utkatasana)
Hold your paddle with both hands parallel to the water to keep your arms up. Inhale and lift the paddle above your head. Then exhale and bend your knees, while keeping your arms extended.
Forward Bend (Uttanasana)
Inhale when you’re in the chair position and exhale while folding your body forward and bringing your extended arms towards the board. Place the paddle on the board and your hands on both sides of the board or your shins. Roll your shoulders away from your ears. Inhale while extending your spine forward with your back parallel to the board. Then exhale and fold forward.
From the forward bend, place your hands wide on the board for balance and step back with your right foot into a lunge position.
Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
From the lunge position, step back with your left foot and raise your hips, coming into the downward-facing dog position.
Plank Pose (Kumbhakasana)
From the downward-facing dog position, lower your hips and arms forward so your hips are parallel to the board and your shoulders are above your wrists. Lower your body down slowly, either with your knees up or bent on the board. Hug your elbows to the side of your body.
Camel Pose (Ustrasana)
Root your knees, shins and the tops of your feet deeply into the board. If you don’t yet have the deep spinal flexibility, flip your toes under to lift your ankles higher. Engage your core and shift your hips slightly forward. If your neck is flexible, release your head back.
Boat Pose (Paripurna Navasana)
Begin with your knees bent, your feet flat on the floor, and your hands resting beside your hips. While keeping your spine straight, lean back slightly and lift your feet, bringing your shins parallel to the floor. Draw in your lower back and lift your chest. Then, extend your arms forward with your palms facing each other. Balance on your tailbone.
Upward-Facing Dog (Urdhva Mukha Shvanasana)
Lay face-down on the board with your legs extended behind you. The top of your feet should be laying flat on the board. Place your hands on the floor alongside your body. Inhale and press into the board, straightening your arms, and lifting your torso and legs a few inches off the board.