SUP YOGA – Taking Yoga Off the Mat and Onto the Water

I realized I haven’t been writing in here very often. Things have been flowing beautifully in my life but also very rapidly! I am the Editor in Chief of a new yoga and wellness magazine in Orange County: Breathe OC. This new venture has taken up lots of my writing time, but I’ve made a promise to myself to write in here — my first love, my modern bliss — more often. In the meantime, as I create new content, here is an except from one of our latest issues of Breathe OC on the recent yoga craze that you must  try this summer.

SUP Yoga

Photo Credit: Crisanto Santa Ana

What the hell is SUP YOGA?

The first time I read the words “SUP YOGA” I was confused. I know that new styles of yoga are popping up left and right, but I’ve never heard of this one before. What does this mean? At first I thought it was a new style of yoga where you flow to hip hop music. Or maybe a new trendy acronym like “YOLO” for YOGA?

Well, it turns out it’s an acronym for something I would’ve never guessed: Stand Up Paddleboard (SUP) yoga.

In the West, yoga is evolving just as quickly as it is being practiced. Today you can do yoga on a slack line, yoga with a partner, and yoga after a cycling class. If there’s space available and enough interest to do it, you can pretty much find yoga combined with any other form of movement. After all, yoga comes from the Sanskrit root word yuj which translates to union or to unite. The latest union combines yoga with one of the fastest growing water sports in the West – stand up paddleboarding.

History of SUP

The sport of stand up paddleboard began in the 1940s when surfers in Hawaii stood up on their 10-12 foot boards and used long paddles to navigate their way through the water. Since then, the sport has experienced a boom in the amount of people practicing it recreationally and professionally.

Standup Journal, the world’s first print publication dedicated to stand up paddleboarding was founded in 2007. In 2012, the Stand up World Series was created to provide a professional platform for the best stand up paddlers to compete against each other. In 2013, Stand up Paddleboarding was listed as the most popular outdoor activity among first time participants by the Outdoor Foundation. Given the rise of popularity of SUP and the ingenuity of yogis, it’s no surprise that people began to take their yoga practice off the mat and onto the paddleboard.

What to Expect with SUP Yoga

Bliss Paddle

Photo Credit: Crisanto Santa Ana

Although the sport of stand up paddleboard is practiced both on rough waves and in still water, expect to practice SUP yoga in calm waters like a harbor or lake where you can perfect your asana on the board without worrying about massive waves ruining your inner peace. Even though you’re practicing on water, don’t expect to fall and get wet. Taylor Chaput, owner and founder of Paddle Board Bliss and Shore SUP yoga, says “it’s not as hard as you think! A lot of people expect to get wet. That’s a possibility but a lot of times you don’t, especially in the harbor.”

If you’ve never taken a yoga class and never been on a stand up paddleboard, rest assured you’ll get adequate training before hitting the water. Generally all lessons start on land to train you on paddle safety, equipment safety, and ocean safety. Then you’ll paddle out into the water where you’ll do a full asana practice, complete with sun salutations and a sweet savasana, which Taylor says most people say it’s the best savasana they’ve ever experienced.

Still not convinced? Maybe you’d like to try SUP yoga as a way to develop a new relationship with your yoga practice. Often times we get stuck in the same routine, same level of expectations, and the joy of why we began our practice gets lost. Bringing your practice onto the water allows you to connect with the muscles in your body in a new way. Your usual vinyasa routine suddenly becomes a challenge as you shift your awareness to each muscle being used when keeping your balance on water. Your ability to maintain your awareness on the present moment is constantly tested while doing yoga on a paddleboard.

Forming this new relationship comes with experiencing your practice in a new way through your body and through your eyes. SUP yoga literally shifts your perspective. Imagine being out on the paddleboard moving from chaturanga into downward dog on the water. Your perspective of the world shifts as you begin to see the water upside down. Or imagine a forward fold as you stand on your board. What is usually practiced as a simple pose on land immediately becomes a balance pose on water and you again are seeing the world from a reverse perspective. SUP yoga not only allows you to shift the relationship with your practice, but literally allows you to see the world from a new perspective.

For Taylor, taking her yoga practice onto the water has given her some of the biggest life lessons:

“You have to go with the flow because the only constant is change. Once you are moving with the fluidity of the water you are so much more balanced. Since our bodies are 70% water, we wonder why we get so stuck in our ways when we’re actually fluid and constantly moving. That’s what our body is—a constant movement of energy. It’s taught me to let go of expectations and fears because once you can let go, you are that much more open.”

The Future of SUP Yoga

There’s no doubt that the popularity of SUP Yoga will continue to rise as long as people continue to bring their practice on the water, and as long as amazing photos of people doing headstands on the paddleboard keep circulating on Instagram. For those in colder climates where the beach isn’t as easily accessible, expect to see SUP yoga practiced in community pools or inside pool gyms. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can take one of the many SUP yoga retreats offered around the world on destination islands.

If you are in the Orange County, CA area, here are some local options to choose from:

Paddle Board Bliss
Shore SUP Yoga
Sunset SUP

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