Stand Up Paddleboard Yoga on the Water
A New Form of Yoga That's Gaining Popularity.
Photo by Kristi Roark Photography
“It’s a fun way to take yoga outside — it blends the water, athleticism, nature, balance, focus and the ability to be present together in a beautiful and fun way. It’s just so cool.” That, says Michelle Clarke, is why there’s such a growing interest in what’s called SUP (Stand Up Paddleboard) yoga.
Clarke — who’s owner, director and certified instructor at Moondala Yoga Studio and Full Moon Paddleboard in Wolfeboro — says paddleboarding is the world’s fastest-growing sport and it seemed like a natural to add yoga to the experience, especially since Clarke lives near lakes and ponds, or “flat water” in paddleboard lingo.
Even so, it’s not easy — you’ll probably get wet. “The paddleboard is not forgiving,” she says. “It definitely adds a layer to the practice of body awareness.” The camel pose (shown above left) is hard enough but think about what kind of balance is required for the headstand. That’s Clarke’s favorite water pose: “It’s the best view on the water; it’s at eye level and the colors are amazing.”
If yoga is not your thing, you can get still get a paddleboard workout. Clarke offers a certified Paddlefit course, a land- and paddleboard-based exercise program where traditional fitness routines are worked in between paddling (“paddle, 10 pushups, then paddle again”).
Clarke says for both the yoga and Paddlefit course the body’s stabilizing muscles are engaged the whole time since you’re balancing on something unstable. Plus, she says, you have be “a bit loose” because you never know when the next wave is coming. Even a 5 mph wind can create what she calls “a bumpy day.” So can boats that roar by. (She urges boat owners to be vigilant and know who has the right of way.)
To avoid boat traffic, you could go out at night on one of Clarke’s Full Moon paddles. “It’s a very leisurely two-hour paddle on the night before the full moon and the night of,” she says. She supplies the group with glow-in-the-dark necklaces and bracelets as well as a headlight. The paddleboard itself has a stern light, as required by law. “It’s important to have the proper lighting,” Clarke says. “You also have to watch the weather. Cloud cover can get dark and scary. Safety is key.”
Every course starts with basic instruction in paddle stroke techniques, how to get on and off the paddleboard from a dock and from deep water, how to handle wind and so on. Clarke says people from 6 years old to 80 have taken her paddleboard courses and that “once there were three generations doing it, all enjoying it in their own way.”
Due to the rise in popularity of Standup Paddling in NH, Clarke recommends the following beginner tips to enhance a safe paddling experience.
- Take a lesson to learn proper stance and stroke technique for effective paddling. This reduces chance of injury and onset of fatigue.
- Watch the weather! High winds can be dangerous.
- Bring water to stay hydrated. Bring food if you are out for a longer time. Calories burn quickly while standup paddling.
- Dress for the water temperature, not the air temperature.
- Wear a leash at least 8 ft. long. This is a requirement in the surf zone.
- Go with a friend. However, If you do go alone, tell someone the area that you will be paddling.
- Know your surroundings or ask locals about possible hazards along your chosen route.
- Paddleboards are vessels deemed by the US Coast Guard, so life jackets and safety whistles are required on board when outside the swimming or bathing areas. Children ages 12 and under must wear a USCG approved PFD.
- Sunblock, hat or visor are a good idea.
- Don't assume all boaters see you. Have a general knowledge of your local and state boating rules.
Now get out there! Have fun and be safe!