For a sport that only began in 2005, stand-up paddleboard (SUP for short) is experiencing a huge boom these days. And its offshoot, paddleboard yoga, is one of the more popular movements the fitness practice has experienced.
Erin Nealy, owner of Sunset Stand Up Paddle in Mission Viejo, first got involved in SUP yoga four years ago. Already a yoga instructor, she became an ambassador for yoga clothing company Lululemon in Irvine and thought doing yoga poses on her dad's newly acquired paddleboard would look really cool. She got hooked, and after connecting with industry pioneers at BOGA yoga, Nealy got certified as a SUP yoga instructor — one of the first in the burgeoning sport.
How It Works
During a class, students get on a paddleboard, paddle to the middle of a lake (where Sunset Stand Up Paddle holds classes) or a cove in the ocean (as in Bliss Paddle Yoga's case), anchor the boards down, and start practicing yoga.
Most SUP yoga classes incorporate basic poses, such as downward dog and warrior two, for example, because balancing on a paddleboard while holding a pose is usually enough of a challenge. Learning how to hold your balance in basic poses is usually a challenge — even for longtime yoga practitioners.
Most beginner classes teach students how to paddle proficiently before bringing them out into deeper water as well; for many, the hour-and-a-half class is a perfect fusion of the sport of paddleboarding and the mind-body connection of yoga.
Why People Love It
SUP yoga improves on in-studio yoga practice because it gives you more of an awareness of your body and what actions need to take place to build a solid pose, Nealy says. "Taking people on the water for their first time is incredible," she adds. "[Regular students] always come of the water with a big smile and what feels like a lightness in their heart, there's nothing better." (I'm living proof of that: The day I had my first paddleboard yoga class, I spent the whole day grinning so hard my face hurt by the afternoon.)
There's also the fact that paddleboarding takes your yoga practice to a setting that's very different from an indoor studio. Whether it's seeing mountains in the backdrop, or dolphins swimming past, it helps people reconnect with nature. Rainer Hessmer, Nealy's student, says, "SUP Yoga offers interesting new challenges (balancing is much tougher) and great rewards: You are outside, typically in a relatively small group, you laugh when you fall into the water, and you enjoy the waves rocking your board when you lie down for Shavasana."
What To Expect
Depending on the company you practice with, classes cost $30 (Sunset Stand Up Paddle) to $45 (Shore and Paddle Board Bliss) a session, which include paddleboard rental. Yoga paddleboards are made especially for a yoga practice on water; they're wider than regular paddleboards and are topped with a yoga mat-type material so practitioners can't slip off.
Slather on sunblock, and wear your yoga outfit, or your swimsuit to practice — depending on how balanced you are, there's a possibility that you will get wet during a class!
Where To Go
Sunset Stand Up Paddle
22555 Olympiad Rd
Mission Viejo, CA 92692
Paddle Board Bliss
Laguna Beach, CA 92651
2824 Newport Blvd
Newport Beach, CA 92663
Lilledeshan Bose @lillitot lives in Fullerton, a city she's heard described as "The Paris of Orange County."
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