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Ann Green on a surfboardWay too often, people come to Yoga with a certain set of expectations. They may force their bodies into postures that are uncomfortable or unfairly compare themselves to others in the classroom. In the end, they may leave the class feeling “not enough.” This is not Yoga! Yes, Yoga encourages you to move in new ways and explore what your body is capable of. But even more importantly, Yoga encourages each individual to listen, pay attention and be present.

Practicing Yoga is a wonderful adventure. It’s a practice of discovery—a journey that continually shifts with the needs of the body. Yoga teaches us to connect with where our bodies are today. It reminds us to listen. It’s not about perfecting a particular posture, but instead paying attention to how the body feels in the moment.

However, listening to the specific needs of our bodies can be challenging. We’re bombarded by constant feedback that effectively tells us to ignore the needs of the body and the mind. Time and time again, we’re told to ignore our hunger, plow through our fatigue and just get things done. And so, when your Yoga instructor asks you not to compare yourself with those around you and “just be,” it can be a little tricky.

When the chatter in my mind gets a bit too noisy, I like to trade in my mat for a stand-up paddle board and head out on the water.

Why water works

There’s something exquisitely beautiful about practicing Yoga on the water. Simply being present in nature helps you still the rambling of the mind and connect with the sights and sounds of nature.

When I practice Yoga on the water, I find it so much simpler to be present and not compare. Water helps connect me with who I am. It encourages me to listen and quiet my mind.

Water is soothing and calming. At the same time, it’s a reminder that life, like nature, is transient. Sometimes it’s calm, and other days, extremely wavy.

Just breathe

SUP Yoga begins with becoming in tune with the breath. For a lot of individuals, being on the water helps with breath work which, if practiced in a busy classroom, can feel rushed or even “silly.”

As you continue to focus on your breath, you’ll discover the rhythm that’s right for your body. Perhaps your breath will begin to mirror the cadence of the water as you inhale and exhale with the patterns of the waves. There are no rules or standards that you have to meet.

There’s nothing wrong with staying here for the duration of your class. In fact, I recommend making the choice to, at times, do exactly this. Get out on the water and breathe. Breathe in the wonderful oxygen that surrounds you and take in the incredible scents and sounds of nature.

Taking the time to reconnect with your body is extremely powerful. Enjoy the moment!

Finding your balance

When you begin to rise to a standing position, it may take a few tries to find your stability. During this journey, you may stumble or even fall. With SUP Yoga, falling is part of the experience. The water reminds us that we’re not perfect and that both energy and patience are needed to find balance.

Even the most seasoned SUP yogi will find moments in which his or her balance is off kilter. Balance is transient. There will be days on which you’ll rise on the board and your core will immediately engage, culminating in a beautiful, empowering mountain pose. Other days, you’ll waver and sway with the water, finding it challenging to stay still. SUP Yoga encourages us to embrace these changes and simply accept where we are each day.

Remember to play

When you get on the board, bring with you a bit of playfulness. Feel the warmth of the sun’s rays and their luscious contrast with the coolness of the water. Explore the experience of moving on the water. Pretend that you’re a surfer and ride the waves!

Once you’re firmly on the board, play with some movements. Try a seated twist and see how your centre of gravity shifts as you move your body. Play with each leg in Warrior I pose and discover which side of your body you naturally favour.

So, if you find you’re off-balance, what do you need to change to keep your body stable? Well, SUP Yoga will kick your core into gear! Water moves and to keep that board balanced, your core needs to be engaged.

As a bonus, stand-up paddle boarding gives you a wider base of support than you’d have with a Yoga mat. The benefit of this new tool is that it’ll help challenge you to take your practice to the next level.

Top 10 poses to try on a SUP board:

  1. Child’s Pose (Balasana)
  2. Downward Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
  3. Boat (Navasana)
  4. Knee-based Crescent (Prasaritta anjeyanasana)
    5. Warrior I (Virabhadrasana)
    6. Plank (Phalakasana and variations)
    7. Mountain (Tadasana)
    8. Bridge (Setu Bandha)
    9. Upward-Facing Dog (Urdha Mukha Svanasana)
    10. Corpse (Savasana)

Reconnect with your own power

SUP Yoga encourages you to take both your mind and body into a new experience. It’s playful, fun and challenging.

You’ll stumble and fall. You’ll laugh and feel inspired. SUP Yoga encourages you to think outside the box and reconnect to the power in your body and mind.

If you’ve been practicing Yoga for a while, isn’t it time you tried trading in your mat for a paddle board? Your mind and body will thank you for it!

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image: Ann Green

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