Move over hot, flying and spinning yoga. Paddleboard yoga is the latest trend to stand the ancient practice of breath control, body postures and movement on its head – this time on a surfboard surrounded by water.
Fitness experts and enthusiasts say classes for waterborne yoga, which is also known as Stand Up Paddleboard (SUP) hone balance, focus concentration and lure exercisers who prefer open air to overheated studios.
“People tell me it’s like walking on water,” said paddleboard racer and yoga instructor Gillian Gibree, who has been teaching Paddleboard Yoga since 2009.
The instructor and trained lifeguard said first timers begin with a water safety demonstration on dry land before going on to water, where even the simplest yoga postures can take on an added intensity.
“On the board, even plank (a foundational push-up pose) is a challenge,” she said. “Everything is slowed down because it takes much longer to keep your balance.”
Because the board is unstable, different muscle groups are fired, said Gibree, who has floated her practice on rivers, bays and even oceans, although she usually teaches on flat water.
“It works a lot on balance and you have to find your drishti (yoga’s focused gaze) on the board,” she said. “It’s a total body workout.”
SUP Yoga joins two ancient traditions. The modern SUP sport originated in Hawaii in the 1950s and 1960s, but stand up paddle boarding dates back thousands of years, to ancient fisherman from Polynesia to Peru.
And while the classical techniques of yoga date back more than 5,000 years, a worldwide survey of more than 3,000 fitness professionals published this month by the American College of Sports Medicine rated it number seven among the top 10 fitness trends for 2015.
Gibree, said her clients come from places as far-flung as Canada, Switzerland, South Africa and New Zealand.
“Anywhere there’s a pond, lake, marsh, or body of water,” she said.
Exercise physiologist and yoga instructor Jessica Matthews said the paddling technique intrinsic to SUP Yoga adds an upper body component to the practice.
“Some things work well on the board, some work more easily on land,” she said, noting that, while paddleboard yoga doesn’t replace a studio practice, it can complement it.
Matthews’ paddleboard yoga classes start with warm-up, breathing and stability exercises on land, much like a regular yoga class.
Once on the water she explores more of the basic postures.
“It’s always a trade-off,” said Matthews, who has lately seen classes pop up in indoor pools. “The beauty of SUP yoga is that you can do it on any body of water.”
She said the most common question she gets about SUP yoga is: “Am I going to get wet?
“Typically, you’re not going to get wet,” she added. “Unless you fall in.”