SUP Yoga Basics

I placed my hands under my shoulders, pressed into my feet and pushed myself into full wheel. Before I could distinguish the sea from the sky, I wobbled off my board, laughing as I splashed.

As quick as I hit the water, I was back on my board trying again. It was only my second time on a stand up paddleboard, but I had a sunset and a cute photographer and there was no better time to try my favorite yoga poses while floating on the sea.

It was definitely the perfect introduction to SUP yoga.

Three and a half years later, I have the same cute photographer, but a few new tricks up my sleeve.

Life as a SUP yoga instructor.

I personally think a great way to start is by hopping on a board, trying a few poses and being prepared to splash in once or twice.  But if you want a little more guidance than I had on my first attempt, here are my SUP yoga basics:

7 Tips for SUP Yoga

1. Get comfortable with your board. If you’re new to SUP, it can take a while to feel confident in your stance. You should stand next to the handle with your feet hips width distance or wider. Try bending your knees and rocking your weight from side to side. Once you start to feel the movement of the board, you’ll realize the slightest shift won’t drop you in the water.
2. Start low and slow. Just because you’re trying yoga on a stand up paddleboard, doesn’t mean you have to stand up immediately. Start with some seated poses and gradually work your way up to your shins or knees, then your feet.

Camel pose in Aruba.
Camel pose in Aruba.

3. Think about your weight distribution. When I teach in a studio, I remind my students to press into all four corners of their feet.  On the water, think about distributing your weight evenly across all four corners of the board. The more even your weight is on the board, the less likely you’ll slide off the board. If you’re doing poses with three points of connection, think about making a triangle with one point being in the center of the board. With two points of connection, move away from the center line for easier balance.
4. All standing poses are balancing poses. When you’re ready to try standing poses, remember poses that are easy in the studio may feel very different on the board. Enter and exit standing poses slowly and be aware of what may be making it difficult. (Hint: See Tip 3)

sup heart
SUP in Thailand, where it all started.

5. Gaze is important. I’m sure my first full wheel on a board ended in a splash because I wasn’t gazing anywhere in particular and was completely distracted by the upside down world around me. With basic paddling the golden rule is to look out, not down, so the same applies for transitioning in and out of poses. Try to focus on the horizon or at a still object in the distance. For backbends or inversions, focus on a spot on the board.
6. Tune into your surroundings. Feel the water moving underneath your board. Feel the sun on your face and the wind in your hair. Listen to the sounds of nature. It’s such a treat to practice surrounded by natural beauty. Soak it up! And dip your hands and feet in the water during shavasana.
7. Have fun! Laugh, smile, fall on purpose. Practicing on water makes it easier to try poses that seem scary in the studio. A different kind of liquid courage, maybe? But really, if you fall in, you’ve probably challenged yourself, tried something new and ended up with a smile on your face.

SUP yoga handstand gif

I was smiling three and a half years ago when I first stepped on a board. Now, I’ve paddled on still seas, calm lakes and wild waters. I’ve practiced SUP yoga and taught SUP yoga. And I still always have a smile on my face whether I’m floating or splashing.

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