You don’t need to be a pro-paddler or even have practiced yoga before in order to do Stand Up Paddle board yoga! You just need to know how to adapt your alignment so you stay balanced.
Yoga on paddle boards improves core, leg and arm strength, all while encouraging better balance. On the water you instinctively engage 100 percent and correct any favoring of one limb simply to prevent your self from falling in! All this focus makes your practice that much stronger when you return to your mat.
Here are a few tips on adapting certain postures for SUP yoga so you can stay dry and maintain safe alignment on the water:
1. Chair Pose
Generally when standing on the board, you’ll want to be in a loose Chair Pose so you glide with the ripples in the water.
Always turn your toes out at an angle and keep your feet hips width distance or wider. A stable base will keep you up in almost any posture. For Chair Pose, focus your gaze on the top of your board or on the horizon as everything else will be moving around you and could throw off your balance.
Now you’re ready to add in a twist or change the arm variation.
2. Garland Pose
On the boards this pose can become very deep. It is imperative that you keep your heels down, however. I have seen so many people fall in because they have had their heels lifted — even just a tiny amount!
Stand in Chair Pose in the middle of your board, feet the width of the board, toes turned out. Slowly sink your seat down between your hips, knees, or perhaps lower. If you get low enough, grab the edges of your board and begin to rock side to side — it’s fun, but also a delicious way to deepen your hip opener in a way you would never be able to do in the studio (try this in Child's Pose, Pigeon, and Butterfly too).
3. Crow Pose
Everyone loves Crow on the paddle boards! The thing to remember here is that if you fall you will most likely fall onto the board and not into the water, so let go of that fear.
For Crow Pose on the boards, take the variation where you grip the outer edges of your upper arms tightly so you have a lower center of gravity. Focus your gaze on the tip of your board instead of on the moving water.
4. Side Plank
In the studio we have a tendency to lean the top hip backwards, but on the boards you won’t do this because your equilibrium will instinctively make you stay straight up so you don’t fall in.
To stay in Side Plank on your paddle board, you need to begin in Tabletop and be prepared to heavily modify. Keep both hands on the board and start with your bottom knee down, and maybe even use your forearm until you grow more stable. With your legs set up you will be able to bring your hand up to that big blue sky.
Once you’re comfortable there you could stagger both feet at the back of the board one in front of the other.
5. Three-Legged Dog and Scorpion Dog
This can be an intense and playful balancing posture on the boards, and who doesn’t like a little upside time outdoors? The best thing about doing any Down-Dogging on the paddle boards, is that is corrects any favoring you might be doing. If you are pushing more heavily into one limb, the board will start to tilt and your body will automatically correct the weight distribution to keep you from falling in.
To modify Three-Legged Dog for the boards, start in Down Dog and toe/heel your feet together to the middle of the back of your board so that your hands and feet form a grounding triangle. Once your leg is lifted you can curve the leg and play with your balance by stacking your hips into Scorpion Dog and moving your gaze past your rib cage to the sky.
6. Warrior II
This is much more challenging on the boards, but still totally accessible to beginners, as long as you move slowly and concentrate on where your weight is. To stand up completely, you are going to go through Goddess Pose to get to Warrior II. Also, unlike in the studio, your feet should be hips width distance or more.
Start by doing Warrior II on your knees. Next, place your hands on the board in front of your stomach area. Keep both knees bent as you lift into Goddess Pose with the back foot pointed towards the top of your board. Now set up your Warrior II: deepen the bend in the front knee and straighten the back leg as you lengthen the arms parallel to the water.
7. Floating Back to Chaturanga
Yes, you can do this on your board! Just bear in mind that as you float back, the board will feel as if it is moving forward.
Your hop backs should always be less about jumping back and more about pressing the hands down and lifting your body up. Be light and airy. Practicing on the board will help you gain this quality because landing softly is imperative so you don’t create a swell in the water and knock your neighbor in!
So to sum up, definitely take your practice out on to a stand up paddle board and remember: keep a wide stable base, concentrate and move slowly, focus your gaze on your board or on the horizon (something not moving) and use the above modifications to keep you on the board and not under it!