SUP Yoga Basics
SUP Yoga is healthy for your mind, body and spirit. It can be intimidating to start trying yoga on the water, but we know if you start with these basic poses you'll quickly see the benefits you'll gain from this and fall in love with yoga all over again.
SUP Yoga is healthy for your mind, body and spirit. It can be intimidating to start trying yoga on the water, but we know if you begin with these basic poses you'll quickly see the benefits you will gain from this and fall in love with yoga all over again.
Stand up paddle board yoga or SUP Yoga has exploded in popularity over the last decade right along with land-based yoga practices.
The reasons for the popularity of SUP Yoga are many but the two reasons that most yogi’s give are the extra challenge that they get while trying to balance on a board and the opportunity to commune with nature.
Glide has been on the forefront of the SUP Yoga movement since it’s foundation, so we are able to offer some unique insights on how to begin your SUP Yoga practice.
The proper yoga paddle board
First off, it’s important to have a proper stand up paddle board for SUP yoga. Many people will try to use their all around SUPs for yoga SUP but there are some compelling reasons to have a dedicated yoga board.
A SUP yoga board is a more stable platform
The main factor that you will want to keep in mind here is the width of a board. Generally, you will want a SUP that is 34-35 inches wide because narrower boards will really limit the number of poses that you are able to perform.
Even if yoga SUPs are shorter in length, yoga enthusiasts will appreciate how the wide deck makes for an incredibly stable board.
Replacing your yoga mat with a deck pad
You will also want to make sure that the full length deck pad on the board doesn’t have the ridges or bumps that some SUP’s have as you will find they are quite uncomfortable for SUP yoga. Ideally it will be an EVA foam deck pad as they are both soft and quite strong.
The main reason you want a full length deck pad on your yoga SUP is so that it covers up the hard top of your dedicated yoga SUP. A full length deck pad tends to be the same size or even a bit longer than a yoga mat.
A dedicated yoga board should have a robust bungee system
You will also want to make sure that the board has bungee cords attached so that you can use them as a paddle holder and a spot to store your personal flotation device (PFD). There should also be a place on the board where you can easily tie down an anchor or can tie onto another board.
Other things to look for in the best yoga SUPs
Besides having a wide deck and a full length deck pad, a premium quality yoga board will be light weight but also have a high weight capacity. Keep in mind that you may want to have a pet or child with you while you do your yoga routine so it's better to overshoot on weight capacity rather than underestimated it.
Many hard yoga paddle boards have improved tracking because they are able to modify the nose of the yoga board so it's more like a displacement hull. This is not something you can necessarily do with inflatable paddle boards.
Inflatable yoga boards
A good yoga board doesn't have to be a hard board. An inflatable board can also be a great board for your warrior poses as well. An inflatable SUP typically has the same amount or deck space and the same type of full length deck pad as the hard SUP. An inflatable SUP can be preferable to a hard paddle board, if your storage room or transport ability is limited. An inflatable SUP can be preferable for some SUP activities like white water paddle boarding.
The key differences between a hard and inflatable SUP typically come down to the weight and stiffness of the paddle boards. A premium quality inflatable SUP will typically have 90 percent of the stiffness of a hard yoga board. Inflatable yoga boards tend to be more light weight than hard yoga boards.
Another difference between the two types of SUP boards is in the carry handles (or grab handles). The center handle on the hard yoga board is recessed into the board while the center handle on inflatable SUP boards is usually a piece of material that is sewed to the yoga board.
Premium accessories on and inflatable SUP
Besides being light weight, inflatable paddle boards tend to come with some fantastic accessories. The premium quality SUP brands include: a dual chamber pump, center fin, backpack with wheels, repair kit, shoulder carry strap and kayak seat. All the accessories are no extra cost when you buy from the best paddle board brands.
Make sure your inflatable SUP board features lot of D-rings for tying down your gear. You don't want your water bottle to get in the way of your yoga poses!
Things you don't need on yoga paddle boards
Some yoga paddle board brands will try and convince your that a tri fin setup will help you when practicing yoga. A tri fin setup consists of a center fin that has side fins next to it.
Side fins make sense for a paddle board surfer who is leaning hard on the SUP board rails (sides of the board) as they make turns within a wave. For yoga sessions, a center fin will more than suffice. Side fins just give you extra parts that can be lost or broken. You are using your paddle board to practice yoga, not charge down waves.
Carbon fiber rails (also known as carbon rails) are also unnecessary features on a yoga stand up paddle board. Carbon fiber rails are built into boards to protect the rails from paddle strikes. Since your carbon fiber or fiberglass paddle is going to spend most of its time in the paddle holder, carbon rails add an extra expense.
First steps to get started with yoga SUP
The best way to master SUP yoga is to take a class with a certified instructor. If you insist on going it alone, we recommend that you check the weather before you head out for your maiden SUP yoga attempt.
Also, make certain that the body of water you will be on doesn’t have boat wakes as it’s challenging enough to balance your poses on a SUP without extra rocking coming from the water. Finding a sheltered cove with calm water is highly recommended.
The key to balancing while doing yoga on your SUP is finding the center line on the board which is easy to do as most SUP carry handles (or grab handles) are dead center in the middle of the board.
You will want to make sure that your weight is always over the center handle to prevent unwanted plunges. Make sure that you focus on slow, deep breaths and not rushing each pose.
You also will want to fix your gaze on the horizon which will assist your balance immensely especially for more challenging poses.
Now let’s get started on some easy poses to start with on your SUP.
Easy Seated Pose
Easy Seated Pose opens up the hips and stretches the ankles, knees, hamstrings and groin. It also stretches the muscles around the spine and helps improve posture.
Start Easy Seated Pose facing the front of your board, sit with your hips on the handle and let your hands rest gently on your knees. Sit up tall and take deep breaths from the abdomen while observing the subtle rocking of the water beneath you.
Child's Pose on a SUP board stretches the spine, thighs, hips, and ankles. It's great for focusing the mind and improving blood flow to the brain.
Begin Child's Pose in Tabletop Pose with your belly button above the board’s handle. Then widen your knees and bring your big toes to touch. Sink your hips back onto your heels and rest your forehead on the board. Let your arms extend long in front of you.
Down Dog is a very foundational yoga pose. It's also great way to stretch out the lower body.
From Tabletop, slowly send your hips and back up while straightening your legs and gaze at the horizon behind you. Stretch your elbows and relax your upper back. Spread your fingers wide and press firmly through your palms and knuckles. Distribute your weight evenly across your hands.
Planking on a paddle board is a great way to build your core strength. It also helps with balance and coordination.
From Down Dog, shift forward and stack your shoulders above your wrists. Create a long, straight line from the crown of your head to your heels. Engage the low belly and add heat by lifting one leg at a time. If this is too difficult, drop your knees.
Cobra Pose will help with lower back pain. It also opens up the heart.
Lie on your stomach with your toes pointing straight back and your hands underneath your shoulders, elbows close to the body. Keep your legs engaged and pull the belly in and up. As you inhale, lift your chest from the back of your heart and roll the collarbones up and firm the shoulder blades into the upper back. Lift your head last and open your heart,
Low Lunge Pose releases tension in the hips. It also stretches the hamstrings, quads, and groin
From Tabletop or Down Dog with your hips over the handle, step the right foot forward between the palms, and stack your knee in line with your ankle. Gently lower your left knee down and allow the top of the foot to settle on the SUP board mat. Slide your left knee back as far as feels comfortable. Inhale and slowly rise, sweeping your hands overhead to frame the ears
Wide Leg Standing Forward Fold
Wide Leg Standing Forward Fold strengthens and stretches your legs and spine. The pose also tones the abdominal organs and can help relieve mild backaches.
From Low Lunge, place both hands inside the front knee and walk to the rail (edge of the board). Apply even pressure with your hands as your rotate onto the ball mounds of both feet, then lower heels toward the opposite SUP rail. Your hands and feet should be the same distance apart that you would have them on land. Place your hands beneath your shoulders, with your legs wider than hip distance and with your toes slightly turned in.
Half Camel opens and stretches the shoulder and upper arm and opens the chest. It also tonifies the kidneys and stimulates the respiratory, digestive and endocrine systems.
Kneeling around the handle of the board, support your lower back with your hands before moving into Camel pose. The instability of the water will create more of a challenge, so begin with your toes tucked or try a gentler kneeling backbend by placing one hand behind you, while lifting the hips and sweeping the opposite arm overhead. Then switch sides.
Pigeon Pose is quite soothing on a yoga board. It's one of the best stretches for the hips that one can do.
From Down Dog, bring your right foot toward your right wrist, then set your knee and shin on the mat. Straighten your left leg back — your legs will resemble the shape of the number 7. Work with your level of flexibility and place your heel a comfortable distance from your groin. Align your right knee in line with your right hip and flex your right foot. Walk your hands forward and lower your forehead to the mat. Relax into the pose and take in the sound of the waves as they lap at your yoga board.
Bridge Pose strengthens back, glutes, legs and ankles while opening the chest, heart and hip flexors.
Start this yoga pose on your back with your posterior over the SUP handle. Keep your knees bent and the soles of your feet on the sup board so that your fingertips can graze your heels. Keep your feet slightly wider than hip-distance apart and lift your hips toward the sky while binding your arms beneath to give you additional height.
Savasana also known as Corpse Pose is the perfect way to end a SUP yoga session. Don’t skip this one, as there’s nothing quite as serene as relaxing with the sun kissing your face and the water rocking your paddle board and putting you into a blissful state.
And there you have it! Now you are ready to take both your yoga and SUP practices to the next level with the proper yoga paddle board and a little training, you will be ready to bring your Zen state out to the water.