Have you ever felt a little wobbly on your mat in Anjaneyasana? Try lunging on a stand up paddleboard in the middle of the ocean on a windy day! The importance of balance is one of the things I learned a lot about from practicing and teaching SUP Yoga on the Big Island of Hawaii.
Whether you are in the grocery store, on your yoga mat, or on a SUP board, when you’re are not paying attention, your balance can be thrown out of whack causing you to shake, wobble, trip, and even fall. Finding your center requires practice—and sometimes losing your balance can be the much-needed (and humbling) wake up call.
With SUP yoga, losing your balance and hitting that water first thing in the morning can be a pretty startling, refreshing, and eye-opening experience. It forces your awareness to take in what is happening in this moment, and creates an opportunity for you to re-connect, get grounded, and find your center.
Here are five ways to ‘lose your balance to find your center,’ as learned from practicing SUP yoga.
Have an open mind. Taking your yoga practice onto a SUP board is the same thing as being in an unfamiliar place or learning a new language. When you are trying something new, it’s ok to not know what you are doing, so feel free to explore it, study it, learn about it, and be open to discovering not only the challenges, but also the possibilities!
Give yourself time - as much time as you need - to navigate your way, noticing how your body, mind, and breath affect your experience.
2. Let Go of Worry
Before we paddle out in the water to begin class, many students worriedly ask “will I fall in?!” Maybe. Probably. And so what? What is the worst that could happen? Maybe you fall in? Maybe you get wet? Don’t spend too much time worrying or overthinking what could happen.
Even if “the worst” does happen, it most likely won’t be as bad as you thought. At least here in Hawaii, the water never gets too cold anyway. Be present to the experience you are having and know that everything is temporary.
3. Stay Present
Be present, and stay present! When your mind starts to wander, so does your sense of balance. So keep your focus, draw inward, connect with your core, and be there. When you are floating in the ocean, you physically can’t be anywhere else so it’s all about focusing the mind. Whether on water or land, notice where your mind wants to take you and don’t let it drift too far.
The breath is the link, the connection, and the best tool we have for finding our center. Breathe in, breathe out, as smooth as possible. For SUP classes, my motto is “calm the breath, calm the body, calm the board.” When the breath is calm, it’s much easier to stabilize yourself so you can actually experience what you are doing.
5. Get Back On Board
So you fell in and the water felt great (or a fish brushed up against your leg and scared the bejeebers out of you)! Smile, laugh, breathe, let it go, and get back on your board!
The practice is losing your balance to find your center. Each time you lose your balance, you learn something new; a new way to transition, a new way to steady yourself, a new way to draw inward, a new way to use your breath. There is a lot to discover about your practice and about yourself, so get back on board and be in it to win it.