7 Yoga Poses To Do On The Water

There's no denying it- it's officially summer.  I'm sleeping with the windows open and taking any opportunity I can to soak up some good ol' Vitamin D. 

One of my favourite ways to get outdoors, without compromising a yoga practice, is to do Stand Up Paddle Yoga. As a newly minted instructor as of last year, I'm always trying to hustle friends into joining me on the water. Renting a paddle board is easy enough through various outlets (My personal favourite is Deep Cove Kayaks) although I highly recommend taking a SUP lesson first- may I suggest the guys and gals at Stand Up Paddle Vancouver?

Need to knows:

  • While you can paddle pretty much anywhere, find a safe, sheltered space away from boat traffic & rocks to do your yoga
  • Most official SUP yoga classes use an anchoring system- either you're tied up to a rope or you have a little anchor that you can drop overboard. I highly recommend getting one for yourself, otherwise you may just down dog wherever the wind blows you and end up miles away from where you started.
  • The middle of the board (where the handle is) is the most balanced part of the board. Imagine drawing two lines on the board with a vertical line running through the handle and a horizontal line running across the handle. You've now, through the power of your imagination, divided your board into quadrants! The more parts of you in the various quadrants, the more balanced you will feel. 
  • What to do with the paddle? You can wrap your board leash around it! (Note: in the photos, my leash is still on and the paddle is across the board --> not recommended for comfort.) 
  • If you're nervous about falling over/ swimming, please keep your life jacket on! The board is a natural floatation device- so long as you're attached to it with your leash (see above point) 
  • If you're going to fall in, commit to the fall! Sometimes it's more trouble to stop yourself from falling (and you may hurt yourself/ hit yourself on the board). 
  • Go slow, listen to your body.
 When standing up on a paddleboard, go slow! Get your feet into position and engage your core as you lift your hands off the board and rise to stand. 

When standing up on a paddleboard, go slow! Get your feet into position and engage your core as you lift your hands off the board and rise to stand. 

Once you've got a hang for the board, here are some poses you can play around with (Tips included. But please note: expect to get wet- that's part of the fun!)

1. Cat/ Cow 

From a kneeling position, position belly button over top of the handle of the board, hands beneath shoulders and knees beneath hips. (Note: each knee and hand is now in one of the aforementioned quadrants --> this is a super stable position). Inhale, drop belly low and look to the sky. Exhale, press into your palms and round your spine, look to your bellybutton. 

It's a great way to start your practice, get some mobility in the spine, and get a feel for the board while feeling balanced. 

2. Downward Dog

From Cat/cow, press into your hands, tuck your toes and lift your seat up towards the sky. Work to straighten the legs and look to your knees. Drop shoulders away from the ears, and breath. 

The quintessential yoga pose --> a SUP yoga practice wouldn't be complete without it! It's also an unreal experience to see things upside down from a paddleboard and this is a relatively easy way to get your head below your hips without worrying about falling over. (Note: you are still in all four quadrants) 

3. Low Lunge

From kneeling or downward dog, take your right foot just ahead and to the right of the handle and your left knee behind and to the left of your handle (adjust as needed --> the knee can travel further back towards the tail of the board (behind the left hip- pictured) for more of a stretch) Squeeze the inner thighs, engage the core, look ahead and lift your arms up overhead for the full expression. Take a few breaths here before switching sides. 

A great way to get a little bit more of a balance (Your front foot is in one quadrant and your back knee is in the other) without coming too high off of the board. Oh yeah, and it stretches out the hip flexors and opens up the heart. 

4. Warrior 1

From cat/cow/ tabletop, take your right foot just ahead and to the right of the handle. Tuck your left toes and extend your left leg behind you keeping fingertips on the board. Plant your left foot firmly at a 45 degree angle. Anchor down through the left heel (engage those muscles!), squeeze the core, inner thighs, and rise up slowly. Breath, come on down, and switch sides. 

Note: this is a way harder on a board than it is on a mat! You'll notice right away if you favour your front leg over your back leg.

This is a great opportunity to notice your patterns and habits in your mat yoga practice. 

5. Warrior 2

From kneeling, step your right foot ahead of your handle, in line with the handle. With hands on the board, tuck your left toes and extend your left leg behind you. Turn the left foot so that it's flat on the board and aligned in such a way that it is perpendicular to the handle. Slowly, steadily, and with even pressure on both feet, come up to stand while maintaining a bend in the front knee. Pull the bellybutton in and drop the tailbone to engage the core and keep your balance here. Take a few breaths before coming down and switching sides. 

While this pose looks deceivingly simple on land, on the water it's a whole other story. Ever heard of a yoga teacher compare warrior 1 and warrior 2? Warrior 1 is like you're "straddling a railroad track" and Warrior 2 is like "walking a tight rope". You'll definitely feel the tight rope quality once you're on the water. There is also the extra bonus challenge of not having a point to focus on as everything in your vision bobs a bit when you're on the water. 

6. Bridge

Come down to sit with your bum overtop of the handle. Lie down on your back, knees bent and feet hip width distance apart. Slide your feet closer towards your seat and with an inhale breath, lift your tailbone off the board Hands can interlace underneath your spine (pictured). 

It isn't a yoga class without a good cool down! You can open your heart and watch the clouds at the same time. 

7. Savasana 

Lie on your back. 
Optional: fingertips can graze the top of the water.

This is seriously the best part- why wouldn't you do this?? 
You haven't had a good savasana until you've had it on a paddleboard. #justsaying