The Complete SUP Yoga Guide
If you are able to stand upright on one leg you will be able to perform yoga on the water. Stand-up paddleboard yoga, also called SUP yoga, is a fast growing and fun way of building both mental and physical strength and stamina.
At first glance, yoga and stand-up paddle boarding may seem like quite the odd union, but there are a number of reasons why doing yoga on the water is so beneficial. Besides being a fun activity where you can enjoy the solitude of being by yourself or the company of exercising with friends, SUP yoga has numerous benefits that include:
• Training muscles that are not typically used while performing yoga on land.
• The additional challenge of performing yoga on an unsteady surface, like on a stand up paddleboard, requires mental clarity and presence to intentionally control your every movement.
• Returns you to a beginner’s mindset. If you have been performing yoga for a while, you may be putting yourself on autopilot as you go through all the familiar poses you know by heart. Even very experienced yogis will gain insight from relearning basic poses.
Many people find balancing on one foot on land challenging, so trying to learn how to do yoga on a SUP may seem flat-out intimidating. However, the truth is while SUP yoga will take a little practice, if you can balance on one leg on land you can do SUP yoga. You just need to have the belief in yourself and the courage to try.
The gear you need for SUP yoga is exactly the same equipment as you would need for a typical day of paddle boarding.
While there are a few specialized boards designed specifically for SUP yoga, almost any board with a flat deck and wide enough to be stable will suffice. A board with a soft padded deck that extends to both the tail and nose of the board will help you to maintain poses, and will be more comfortable on your feet as well like the Isle Lotus below:
The Isle Lotus is one of the highest rated paddle boards for Yoga on the market. It is also inflatable for easy storage. This is one of our best choices for SUP Yoga whether you are a beginner or expert.
Any standard SUP paddle will work, provided the paddle is of the proper length for you. Lay the paddle down perpendicularly across the nose of the board while performing yoga.
Tethers your leg to your board, to keep the board close by in case you fall off, while paddling. You can disconnect the leash while doing yoga when close to shore or anchoring. Pro Tip: Get a second leash to tether your paddle to your board.
Personal Flotation Device (PFD)
Laws can vary quite a bit, depending on the jurisdiction, and even the particular body of water. For example, some areas do not require a PFD for non-motorized use, whereas other may require a PFD anytime you are on the water. In addition, there are often different rules for children and adults. Check before you go on the water.
Keep your whistle attached to a lanyard around your neck or to your PFD.
While you don’t of course have to anchor your board, drifting around while trying to perform a yoga routine can be a little distracting. Additionally, using an anchor will keep you close to your companions, if with a group. The best anchor is one designed for paddleboards, canoes, kayaks and other similarly-sized vessels.
How to Anchor
• Attach the end of about 20 feet of anchor line to the attachment point on the board’s leash.
• Place the anchor and rope on the board and paddle out to about a 10- to 15-foot depth and lower the anchor.
• Let out a few more feet of anchor line after the anchor reaches the bottom.
• Tie off excess line by attaching the anchor line to the leash attachment on the board. Coil up any excess line on the back of your board.
Following these basic guidelines during your yoga routine will help to keep you stable while on the water:
• Perform your movements at approximately half the normal speed you would when doing yoga on land.
• Typically located at the board’s center of gravity, orient yourself around the paddleboard’s handles to achieve the best balance point.
• As loss of balance usually results from changing your gaze too quickly, try to stay focused on fixed point, like a spot on the shore or the horizon, to increase stability.
SUP Yoga Poses
Sit with your hips on the board’s handle, facing forward, allowing your hands to rest on your knees. Inhale and exhale deeply and allow yourself to become aware the board’s rocking on the water.
Lying prone, face down, rest your stomach on the board’s handle with your hands under your shoulders and your elbows drawn together. Inhale deeply and raise your head, shoulders and chest.
Lie on your back with your sacrum over the board’s handle. Bend your knees and place your feet just close enough to allow your fingertips to brush your heels.
Keeping your feet slightly wider than your hips and your arms under you, lift your hips upward. Lift one leg at a time for an increased challenge.
With your navel centered immediately above the board’s handle, spread your knees and touch your big toes. Slide your hips backwards onto your heels while resting your forehead on your paddleboard. Hang your arms over the sides of the board and allow your fingers to touch the water.
From the child’s-pose position, slowly slide your hips up and then back while straightening your legs. Looking at the horizon, take a few breaths and settle into the pose, being sure to press firmly with your thumb and fore finger to help prevent damage to your wrists.
Place your hands behind you, close to your ribs, and lean back. Lift your torso and press against the board with your hands while engaging your quadriceps as your knees lift up off the board.
From the tabletop or downward-dog position, with your hips over the board’s handle, bring your right foot forward until your hands frame your foot. Focus on a spot, for balance, and walk your hands on top of your thigh. Once you gain stability, try variations in arm positions, such as reaching upward with both arms or twisting and planting your left hand on the board and reaching your right hand to the sky. Repeat these movements on your left side.
Standing Wide-Leg Forward Fold
From low-lunge position, place both of your hands inside your front knee and walk your hands to the side of the board. Apply steady and balanced pressure with your hands while rotating on the balls of your feet. Lower your heels toward the opposite side of the board. Your hands and feet should be the same distance apart as if you were performing the position on land, with your hands directly below your shoulders with your legs slightly wider than your hips and your toes slightly turned in.
Place your knees on the sides of the handle of the board. Support your lower back with your hands, lean backwards and place the palms of your hands on your heels. The rocking motion of the board on the water will create more challenge, so begin with your toes curled under to give you more stability, if necessary. Alternatively, try placing one hand behind you while lifting your hips and gracefully sweeping the opposite arm to the sky. Change sides and repeat.
From the downward-dog position, shift your weight forward and line your shoulders up above your wrists. Create a long, straight line from the top of your head all the way down to your heels while engaging the lower abdomen and lifting one leg. Repeat with other leg. Perform while kneeling for a less-challenging position.
From the plank position and with your groin over the board‘s handle, tighten your abs and pull your left knee towards your left hand while placing your left foot as close to your left hand as possible. Keep your right leg extended and your hips even as you relax the weight of your hips. Lower your chest over your left shin while resting your forehead on the board. Relax and listen to the sound of the water lapping at your board.
Savasana (Corpse Pose)
Lay flat on your back with your legs extended and your arms to your sides, palms up. Let the waves rock you into a state of total blissfulness. Save this one for last, so you won’t feel guilty for taking a little nap.
Yoga SUP Teachers And Classes
To learn more, visit our article on SUP yoga teachers and paddle board yoga classes. We are building a complete list of classes and teachers across the US.