We continue our stand up paddle yoga series with instructor Mary Lou. Here she gives everyone a few beginner poses to start with on your SUP board.
If you’ve ever tried a traditional yoga class indoors, you’ll notice it can be extremely challenging maintaining that calm zen-like focus each of us is struggling to maintain while flowing from one downward dog to the next. Our focus is usually elsewhere, on school or work, and we invariably find our focus drawn again and again at the clock staring blankly at us on the wall.
When you try yoga on a calm lake it’s a totally different experience. Your mind is focused singularly on the pose itself, you have to be, otherwise you’ll fall off the board and into the water.
tadasana/standing mountain pose
So this is the reason I generally start my SUP Yoga classes with the simplest of yoga poses – Tadasana, or standing mountain pose. The same way we stand on land, we stand on our boards. It invites your body to relax completely and be one with the board and movements of the water beneath your feet. Knees are soft, absorbing the waves and you’ll find it much easier to stand and control the board like a pro, without that telltale beginner mistake, of leaning over-forward – butt out and off balance.
Tadasana pose is done traditionally with the palms extended outward in an open gesture with the feet as the main component of the pose. We feel ourselves become grounded and connected to the board and the fluid environment beneath our feet. You can try this out with twist, standing tall, place the blade of your paddle down firmly behind you, holding the shaft with one hand, and practice looking forward, then behind you. It’s the perfect way to start your journey into Yoga on a SUP, and also give you confidence, strength and stability to try out a few more SUP Yoga poses.
Tadasana pose is done with 2 points of contact– your feet. A more stable pose to try next utilizes 4 points of contact, and it’s a great way to build on your SUP Yoga practice. It’s called “Bridge pose”.
Start by lying on your back with your middle back over the center of the board. Bend your knees, and position your feet directly under your knees. SUP Yoga requires you to align your center of gravity over the center of the board. Most boards conveniently mark the center with a handle cut into the board’s deck. Bridge pose is cool because you’re in a backbend gazing at the sky above– all the while having to strongly stabilize through your upper shoulders and legs, depending on the waves and wind creating greater effect.
The pose itself opens the entire chest and stretches the shoulders and spine. By slowly extending one leg at a time will give progressive challenge to the pose and develop even more balance skills in the process. Looking to increase the intensity of the pose? Once you’ve mastered the basic elements of bridge, strongly draw your shoulders together behind your back, and grasp your ankles – bringing a taut beautiful arc of your highly mobile spine up towards the sky. You can also try this with one leg up in the air. Whatever level you try, it’s a great heart opener, and also reduces stress and calms the body in the process.
Keep in mind SUP Yoga isn’t designed solely for hyper-mobile athletes, or yoga-studio-bred Yogis – it’s really for anyone. Standup paddle boarding is so fun and easy to learn if you can standup, you can paddle. Anyone from day-one beginners to athletes looking for a change of pace should give it a go. Each pose you try either on your own from reading this series, or in my SUP Yoga class, starts at a doable level and progresses from there.
And every level teaches us something, and it’s not just about exercises on a board, it’s conquering something within ourselves and moving forward to the next challenge.
If you’re open to the experience, there’s no telling where your journey will lead you.
For more info about Chicago SUP Yoga, visit http://chicagosupyoga.com/
Mary Lou Cerami teaches weekly at Ganesha Yoga studio at 3113 N Lincoln and Shanti Yoga studio at 7646 W Touhy, in Chicago.