I get to do the most amazing things for a living. I lead Stand Up Paddle (SUP) Yoga on Liquid classes and trainings, teach yoga, train yoga teachers, and travel 10-15 times a year to fun locations. I get to hang out with friends and meet inspiring people.
Even before reading this, I know many of you are saying to yourself, “I have bad balance. I would for sure fall in!” and “I’m not even good at regular yoga, never mind on a SUP!” and “I’ve never paddleboarded before” or “That looks hard!”
That’s what I hear from people all the time when they find out I teach Stand Up Paddle Yoga. Until they try it and realize it’s actually very doable, the boards are very stable, and it’s simply so much fun! SUP Yoga has been developed over the past 10 years or so by people like me who love the water and love yoga, and it’s been evolving into a legitimate sport with a large worldwide following.
For those of us who love yoga and love being outside in nature, stand up paddle yoga is the best of both worlds. The board is your mat, the water is your floor, the sky and sun are your “walls.” Yoga on Liquid brings new life into our words as yoga teachers when we cue “lift your arms to the sky” and “sun salutations!” Although the boards are very buoyant and stable, the element of water and balance adds a whole new dimension of focus and presence to your yoga practice. In every moment you are making adjustments to balance yourself with the movement of the water. Sometimes that movement is small, sometimes it’s big and wavy! You will become even more aware of a subtle layer of ancillary muscles and core strength required to do ordinary yoga poses on a SUP. As in yoga, strength alone is not enough. A balance of strength and softness is required. You will need to soften and flow with the movement of the water, because resistance to it can quickly send you swimming.
The SUP boards we use are key to the success of our students. There are many board manufacturers that now make yoga-specific paddleboards. My favorite are Boga Yoga paddleboards because they are designed to be not only wide, stable and buoyant, but also the top surface of the board is covered in a large surface pad that stays sticky even when it’s wet so you will not slip out of your Downward Facing Dog pose, and there is plenty of space for a Warrior 2 or Crescent Lunge. They are also some of the most stable boards available so we can even practice balancing poses like tree and even headstand and handstand. The boards are also built with the ability to clip in at the front and the back so we have all of our students clipped in to a line we create in the water that’s secured by anchors at both ends. Students are secure in our “floating studio” and don’t have to worry about drifting away or paddling during the yoga class itself.
Any yoga experience will help you have a sense of balance, basic body awareness, and a familiarity with how to engage the core and ancillary muscles that help you stay balanced and centered without stiffening up. It will also help if you are already familiar with the basic yoga postures so you’re not learning them for the first time on a board. With that said, it’s doable to be brand-new to yoga, too. Depending on your comfort level, you might want to try a few yoga studio classes before coming to try Yoga on Liquid. You also may love the challenge of it without any orientation. Just do your best and go with the flow. As with any yoga class, there are many options to make you feel successful and enough challenge options to keep you engaged and interested. The most seemingly “basic” poses on a paddleboard become suddenly so much more interesting! Warrior 1 in a yoga class is relatively simple and basic and on a SUP requires your full concentration and engaging core and inner thigh muscles. I always encourage and welcome those of all abilities and fitness levels, knowing that, after safety, the most important part of Yoga on Liquid is to enjoy the experience of being on the water, be playful, and have fun.
The feeling of floating on your stand up paddleboard and being surrounded by the elements as you practice yoga is nothing short of awe-inspiring. No matter where you are, whether a pristine lake, at a tropical ocean or even a marina surrounded by boats, you have the water flowing beneath you and the vast sky above. The sky is your ceiling, limitless, your yoga mat is your board, the water is your floor and reminder that life is a flow. Nature inspires because it reminds us of who we really are: inspiring in our natural beauty, imperfections and all, perfectly, uniquely beautiful.
I learned about SUP Yoga a few years ago and before even trying it, I immediately enrolled in a teacher training held in San Francicso so I could bring it here to Bellingham that following summer. As a long-time surfer, skateboarder and snowboarder, I knew that SUP Yoga was the thing for me. And with the summer beauty that surrounds us here it would be an amazing thing to bring home to the Northwest. I started that summer renting boards and giving classes surrounded by the boats in the marina and interest for the classes grew immediately. That year, I was invited to teach SUP Yoga at Wanderlust Festival in Hawaii, and it became one of the most popular yoga classes. All the classes were selling out. Through my experiences teaching that year, I developed SUP Yoga On Liquid Teacher Training and have since trained more than 100 yoga teachers throughout the U.S. and taught at Wanderlust Festivals in Hawaii, California, Colorado, and Canada for the past three years.
SUP Yoga Bellingham classes are available May through August at Lake Padden. I have an amazing team of teachers I trained, and we would love to introduce you to the magic of SUP Yoga on Liquid. Visit supyogabelliingham.com. Howard Thurman said, “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” Come alive with us!