Author Camille Smith, of Black Dog Paddle, has refined the art of yoga on a SUP.
Standup paddleboarding is catching on in Richmond. Two years ago, I’d be the only person on the river with a SUP, then last year we started teaching classes and saw more people, now I see other SUPer’s frequently on the James. It’s an amazing cross-training sport, low impact on all the joints, and it’s an outstanding way to improve your balance, core strength and coordination.
For me, paddling is also the only time I am able to completely quiet my mind and be present — that elusive state I had been chasing in yoga studios around the Greater Richmond Area for years. The cadence of each stroke, the quiet sound of water rushing beneath my board and the natural beauty surrounding me. Finally, it all came together.
Honestly, the moment you’re not present on your board — for example: “Geez, that was a complete kerfuffle at work today!” — that’s the moment you’re going to get wet! After paddling for years, I began a transition to SUP yoga. I looked down and saw a large, soft, floating yoga mat and took my practice to the water, to the stand-up paddleboard. I started with Plank, Downward Facing Dog, Chaturanga, and Up Dog, and discovered it added a heightened level of awareness and intensity to my practice. It’s a fun new level!
Each pose is more physical because you have to stabilize your mat while holding each pose longer to find your stability. You move in and out of poses slowly because you’re adjusting with the movement of the water and your board during each vinyasana. Ah yes, there it is, vinyasa – flow, the river flows and you with it. The first time moving into Warrior I, you might get wet, but it’s part of the experience and fun of practicing SUP yoga!
The board is a perfect yoga mat, and nature is the best studio with blue herons, bald eagles, sunsets, and clouds overhead. Grab the rails during Child Pose and dangle your fingers in the water for shavasana. Namaste.
SUP yoga is a fun, physical, and meditative practice, but it’s also done on an oxygen deprived environment (the water). As an ACA Level 2 SUP instructor (and YogaFit), I stress water safety. If you take a SUP yoga class, make sure your instructors are certified and have the proper gear, are trained in rescue techniques, and are currently CPR & First Aid certified. If you take your own practice to the water, at the very least – please have a USCG approved and required pfd, bring a SUP buddy or tell someone where you’re paddling, and take a dry bag with a cell phone so you can make a call if you get in trouble. Have fun, be safe, and see you on the water!