Stand Up Paddle Yoga

The sport of Stand Up Paddling (SUP) has really taken off.  It seems everyone these days is enjoying, or would like to experience, the feeling of  “walking on water.” I just finished reading Suzie Cooney’s enlightening and informative blog on SUP, my boyfriend Adam Kelinson (author of The Athlete’s Plate – Real Food for High Performance), also just wrote a piece on SUP for Triathlete Magazine, and I just returned from another awesome Yoga/SUP Retreat with best friend and owner of Paddle Diva, Gina Bradley. Paddle Diva is the first, and only, stand up paddling business for women on the eastern end of Long Island, where we live.

SUP is all the rage, and for good reason. As Suzie Cooney mentioned in her article, it is an amazing cross-training sport, as it is low impact on all joints and is also being used to improve balance and core strength for people recovering from serious injuries.  She goes on to say that she has also witnessed this sport transform people’s lives overnight, by instilling a newfound level of confidence and achievement, making them feel invincible.  So true!

For me, being a yoga teacher first and foremost, as soon as I got on a paddleboard three years ago, I was inspired to start playing with yoga postures while floating on the water.  The deck of the board was the perfect non-slip yoga mat, just begging to be explored!  Downward Facing Dog, Plank, Chataranga, Up Dog, ah… and the upside down view as I dropped my head into Downward Dog was magical.  More and more that first summer on my board, I was inspired to try lots of different poses, including headstand and wheel, and other more challenging balancing postures.   Adding a whole new element of core strength, intense focus, and single-pointed concentration, SUP yoga takes the practice to an entirely new level.  Add to that being outside, in nature, on the water, and it is truly like heaven on earth.

Anyone can begin practicing yoga postures on a paddleboard, especially in flat water.  If you are new to SUP in general, begin to play around (don’t be afraid to fall in!) with the distribution of weight in your feet.  Begin to feel your board, and all boards are different.  Shift your weight from foot to foot and allow the board to rock a little from side to side.  We are told as we are learning to find that sweet spot on the board (usually right around the handle of the board, or if there is a logo on the rails) and that is the best place to stand to balance on the board.  But begin to also feel how you can walk the board a bit more, moving more towards the nose, or more towards the back.

The easiest poses to start with will be sitting or kneeling.  From there, you can start to transition to some symmetrical poses such as plank, downward dog, camel pose, and others.  Try the sequence below on land first, then take it out onto your board!  Remember — have fun, be creative, and don’t be afraid to get wet!

If you are unsure about trying this on your own, there are some actual yoga SUP classes beginning to take off around the country.  If you are in the area of NYC or Long Island, check out my website JessicaBellofattoYoga.com for upcoming SUP yoga classes this spring and summer in East Hampton.  Or, join me on one of our yoga SUP retreats in Rincon, Puerto Rico — the next one is April 26!

Stand Up Paddle Yoga Sequence

Virasana Twist

Sit on your board in VIRASANA (hero’s pose) around the ‘sweet spot.’  Place the right hand on the left knee and the left hand behind you and twist to the right, gazing over your right shoulder. Rotate the belly, ribs, chest and head… breathe! Inhale and return to center, exhale to the second side.

Downward Facing Dog

Come to all fours and begin to press back to ADHO MUKHA SVANASANA (downward facing dog).

Sukhasana Stretch

Walk your feet through your hands and sit on your butt.  Cross the right shin in front of the left in a simple seated position, SUKHASANA.  Begin to walk the fingertips forward into a forward bend, releasing the neck and head and beginning to open the whole back body, as well as the hips, pelvis, and external rotators. Inhale and rise up from here, stretch the legs out straight, and then re-cross your legs with the left leg in front and repeat on the second side.

Cobra Pose

Swing back around onto your belly.  Place your hands in line with your chest and begin to press up to BHUJANGASANA (cobra).

Upward Facing Dog

From here, you can also begin to pull your chest further through your arms, press the tops of your feet into the board and begin to lift your thighs, straighten your arms and come into UURDHVA MUKHA SVANASANA (upward facing dog). Exhale and press yourself back into ADHO MUKHA SVANASANA (downward facing dog).

Pigeon Pose

Bring your right knee behind your right wrist and your right foot behind your left wrist into EKA PADA RAJA KAPOTASANA (pigeon pose). Fold forward here and breathe deeply for up to a minute. Exhale back to DOWNWARD FACING DOG.

Crescent Lunge

Step the right foot forward in between your hands, and bring the back knee down to the board.  You might keep your hands on the rails as shown here, or, place your hands up on your front knee, or (carefully!) reach the arms up overhead and begin to gaze up in a ANJANEYASANA (crescent lunge). Press back to DOWNWARD DOG, and repeat second side. Inhale to PLANK POSE, exhale lower down to your belly.

Bow Pose

Bend your knees and reach back with your hands for your ankles or feet.  Begin to lift your thighs and chest off the floor, keeping the arms straight into DHANURASANA (bow pose). Release the pose, relax on your belly, and turn the face to one side. Breathe into the back of your body.

Forearm Plank

Press back to your knees and then set up on your forearms, hands interlaced.  Stretch both legs back straight and strong in FOREARM PLANK — great for the belly!  Stay a while here… :-)

Headstand Prep

On your next exhalation, press your hips up and back to a HEADSTAND PREP — forearms still on the floor, hips high in the air, head dangling but not touching the board.

Headstand

Move into HEADSTAND slowly, mindfully, carefully!  Feel it out, begin to walk the feet closer to the elbows, breathe, focus…  ONLY attempt this if you are a strong headstander on land!

Child's Pose

Exhaling, come down and rest your buttocks on your heels, arms stretched overhead, head resting on the board in BALASANA (child’s pose).

Bridge Pose

Lie down on your back now, bend your knees and place your feet flat on the floor.  Begin to press your feet and upper arm bones down into the board, as you lift your hips and chest to SETU BANDHA SARVANGASANA (bridge pose).

Bridge Pose

As a variation here, hold the rails of he board, and lift one leg up.

Supta Baddha Konasana

Exhaling, come down.  Lying on your back, bring the soles of your feet together and let your knees drop open.  Relax the arms alongside the body, with the palms face up, in SUPTA BADDHA KONASANA (reclining bound angle pose).  (Better yet, allow your hands to trail in the water!)  Close the eyes here.  Tune into the feeling of floating on water, allow your senses to be wide open, but without any grasping or attachment to what you are experiencing in this moment.   Let yourself drift (but maintain some awareness of your surroundings!), thoughts coming and going, physical sensations coming and going… as you drop deeply and deeply relax.

Namaste!

Photos Credit: Just Love Photography by Evelyn O’Doherty

JESSICA BELLOFATTO is not only a certified yoga teacher, but is a burgeoning triathlete, soon-to-be cycling coach, doula, business owner, and mother of two children. Known for her easy laughter, radiant energy and matchless knowledge of the body... more»

Comments

  1. I forgot to mention that these amazing photos were taken in Rincon, Puerto Rico on our last YOGA/SUP retreat with myself and Gina Bradley of Paddle Diva by Evelyn O’Doherty of JUST LOVE PHOTOGRAPHY. You can find her on facebook!

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  2. Mercedes Franco says:

    Well, try doing that in the waters around the UK……

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  3. Elle says:

    Awesome article, very well done. First to do yoga on a SUP board. Will get out there, saving my money :)

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  4. lilian says:

    Amazing!!! I live in the Patagonia Argentina (southAmerica) near the sea and Ihope Icould do that on summer!!!

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  5. Gina Bradley says:

    Jessica is the #1 Yoga/SUP instructor in the North East, her classes both on land and on sea are a “must-do”. Once you take a class with her you will be hooked for life!

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  6. Kirsten says:

    Wow Girls! This looks sooooo fun! I’m grabbing my board and some girls and we’ll be doing this in San Diego this weekend. Thanks for the inspiration!!!

    Kirsten

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  7. adriana says:

    Love what you’re doing on SUP – thanks for the inspiration and sharing your photos. Can’t wait to get out on the water and try it. Namaste.

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  8. Miki says:

    If you live near Long Beach CA, check out Core Flow Fitness with BA Laris at the SUP Cafe http://www.thesupcafe.com/ on Friday mornings at 9:15 and 10:30 am! http://www.facebook.com/supcafe

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  9. Meghan says:

    I will have to try that!

    So how many times did you fall in when attempting the headstands? LOL!

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  10. Oh my goodness, I am blown away by this. The whole time I was wondering, “Are they going to do headstands?” and I couldn’t believe you actually did. That is fantastic!

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  11. Mara says:

    Absolutely beautiful!!!!!!

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  12. Carol says:

    Sign me up!!! :)

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  13. Janet says:

    This looks so fun! Anyone fall into the water or float away from the group during the session? Maybe I can try it in our kiddie pool in the backyard first! :)

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  14. Jordana says:

    Jess and Gina are two of the most inspiring women that I have ever met. Both of them have taught me how to NOT be terrified in the open sea. And because of that , the last two times I was down in Rincon with them I was blessed with paddling with Dolphins. How amazing is that!

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  15. Suzie Cooney says:

    Aloha Jennifer! Wow,, loved your article and the fabulous photos. Thanks for keeping the word of SUP out there and encouraging everyone to enjoy the water in so many different ways! Take care and so glad to see you doing this… Suzie Cooney

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  16. nancy cassidy says:

    As I look at these fabulous pictures, I am SOOOO ready for WARM Enough weather to even go do yoga outside on the land, let alone on the water! I would LOVE TO DO that! Chicago has seen the coldest April in 20 years, and May isn’t looking much better so far. arghhhhh…. Makes me want to move somewhere where its warm most of the time… what a treat it would be to be able to practice yoga, water yoga, dance etc outside in nature.

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  17. Charlie says:

    Can’t wait to try this!!

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  18. Danny says:

    Looks cute, you must be advanced in yoga, plus there must be no wind at all
    or you will drift away from the group.. I didn’t see the completion of the head stand
    in photos shown, no standing asanas either. Its hard enough just to stand and paddle.
    Paddle boards are much more costly than mats. Good luck…

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  19. Stefnee says:

    AWESOME!!!!!!!!!

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  20. Jeff says:

    @Danny. Are you jealous??

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  21. Jannine Myers says:

    I am in awe! Wow! This is the first time I have ever heard about SUP yoga and it looks incredible. I hope to have the opportunity to try it one day.

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  22. Vesna Rothschild says:

    I was at this Yoga/SUP retreat in Rincon, PR with Paddle Diva and Kama Deva. I am beginner SUP’r. It was my first time. And my yoga… I am ok at the basic poses, but can’t do any handstands… yet. :) What I learned is that anything you can do on a mat, you can do on a board, on the water. It is challenging (and I love to challenge to myself. It is also an amazing feat of concentration, both physically and mentally. The best part is when you fall, and I did fall, you land in a refreshing sea of water! Much sweeter than hitting the ground! I feel such gratitude for having both Jessica and Gina as my teachers. They opened my heart and my athletic ability. If I can do it… You can do it! Most importantly, don’t take it to seriously! It’s great fun! Peace to all.

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  23. Annie Latham says:

    WOW looking good just bought a kayak but the paddle board sure looks like fun I’m now going to buy myself a paddle board and get into the beautiful waters here in the British Virgin Islands.

    cheers

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  24. Emily says:

    I am SO fired up to do this. Does anyone know of any place to take a SUP yoga class in the Bay Area/SF? Have been looking, but haven’t found any. Let me know! Many thanks.

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  25. J Mann Charters says:

    I love it! Do you know anyone in England that is trying this out? I’ve got my paddleboard that I use on the canals and river in Oxford. I’m already spreading the word, but this shows such great diversity. Bravo!

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  26. hi all, thanks so much for the amazing response! You can learn stand up paddle yoga on one of several retreats I teach in Rincon, Puerto Rico every year (about 4-5 a year). check my website http://www.jessicabellofattoyoga.com for 2011/2012 dates!

    I will also be making a video that will be available for download on YOGA VIBES so stay tuned for that as well!

    all the best!
    Jessica

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  27. Danny,

    I can send you the completion of headstand, as well as other more advanced asanas on the board… as this was a class for all levels, we kept it fairly simple. We were actually NOT in totally flat water. This was shot in Rincon, Puerto Rico in the open ocean on a flat day, but still dealing with some wind and current… we practice the postures, and yes, the boards do drift, and then we belly paddle, knee paddle or use our paddles to re-convene as a group… falling in is par for the course, of course, especially when attempting headstands and yes, the asymmetrical standing poses are quite challenging as well, requiring total concentration and core stability…
    You should try it!

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  28. I am going to be teaching SUP Yoga classes in NH’s Lakes Region this summer!
    If you are around Wolfeboro, look me up!
    ~Michelle

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  29. Clarice says:

    I am so impressed and amazed at this. To top it off this was done on the water. it looks so peaceful and like you are having fun. The article is amazing i must share.

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  30. ann says:

    hello from sunny az! this is awesome! i’m just getting into SUP and i’m also a yoga instructor so i would lOVE to try this!!! where so you get certified to teach SUP? thanks! you all look beautiful!!

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  31. bernardete says:

    I would love to try this!

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  32. vidhya says:

    This is not what YOGA was meant to be about. It’s not about amazing athletic bodies. It’s not about bathing suits or about paddle boards. It’s so frustrating to see people trying to take it to another level of fitness. Yoga is centuries old and its about spiritually connecting and listening to your body without your ass showing everywhere. Frustrating!!!!

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  33. Deb says:

    Thank you for the great idea and photos. I can’t think of a better way to connect spiritually and listen to my body then actually being on the water while doing yoga. Early mornings by the lake in Florida are so peaceful. Thanks again for the inspiration.

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  34. If you don’t have the good fortune to live near Jessica, she has filmed several online yoga classes for YogaVibes.com, which you can take wherever you are via your computer, iPhone or iPad. You can check out Jessica’s online yoga classes here, including a great restorative practice, one focusing on alignment and intention, a beginner’s class and one that focuses on opening your hamstrings: http://www.yogavibes.com/listings/instructors/jessica-bellofatto-kamadeva-yoga-east-hampton-new-york/

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  35. Vidhya, Thank you for your comment. I am aware that Yoga is centuries old. We are in bathing suits because we are on the water in a tropical climate- no reason other than that. I have been teaching and studying yoga for over 20 years, have studied Vedic philosophy, Sanskrit, pranayama, meditation, read and studied the Yoga Sutras, The Hatha Yoga Pradipika, The Bhagavad Gita. My intent with yoga on a paddleboard is to take people out of their element… many many women in the area where I live and teach (NYC and the east end of Long Island) have an extremely hard time dropping in. It is unfortunate, but the pace of their lives, the addiction to computers and cell phones, etc all add to the challenge of getting them to be quiet for a few moments a day. Taking yoga out on the water on a paddleboard forces them to concentrate. it steadies the mind immediately, and allows them to experience present moment awareness. The ‘fitness component’ of it is simply a by product of what I see to be much more about cultivating discipline, concentration, meditation. I am sorry if this frustrates you. Om Shantih…….

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  36. Looks very graceful, hopefully we will see more stand up paddle board yoga in NH soon.
    At http://www.supnh.com we teach flat-water and wave paddle boarding for all levels, check us out.
    1-603-833-1211. See you on the water : 0

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  37. Ashley Aarti says:

    Amazing resource! Thank you, Jessica (and all of the other lovely commentators). I am starting to teach SUPYoga in NH actually (SUPNH) and am looking for inspiration and encouragement. I love paddle boarding and the feeling of walking on water is totally accurate. Practicing is pretty magical. We will be working out of Hampton Beach and Salisbury, but totally mobile to lakes and the like if anyone is in the area! Much love.

    Like: Thumb up 1

  38. Martin says:

    Hi,
    I run a SUP school accredited by the British Stand Up Paddle Association in Weston-super-mare, England. The sport is taking off in UK too with more schools opening all the time. It is great fun and has many aspects to it with flat water , white water and SUP surfing too. The boards we use in our school are inflatable so are easy on your body. Once you have had a taster session you are hooked. We take our inflatable boards on holidays too as they are so easy to transport.

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  39. Amber says:

    Do the boards just float around or do you anchor them into the water?

    Like: Thumb up 2

  40. Hi Amber, Ideally the boards are anchored. There are great anchors called mushroom anchors that come in various weights and you connect those to the leash rope of the board and drop anchor. Before we had this system in place, we would simply float. If it a flat, glassy day it generally works fine, but if there is wind, current, etc then not so well!

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  41. dear all, I also just wanted to share that myself and Gina Bradley of Paddle Diva have put together a great SUP YOGA teacher training in East Hampton, NY, held twice a year. It is 20 hours of continuing education credits towards Yoga Alliance and is super comprehensive and FUN! So if you are a yoga teacher or aspiring yoga teacher who loves to paddle and wants to combine the two and share it with others, check it out! http://www.jessicabellofattoyoga.com/sup-dog-paddleboard-yoga-teacher-certification.php

    Like: Thumb up 1

  42. Great article…preaching to the choir here…Love Gina Bradley and Suzi Cooney. Especially the article on rehabilitating injuries through SUP. Already into our 2nd season of SUP Yoga, Paddlefit lessons and rentals here in Wolfeboro, NH. If you are in the Lake Winnipesaukee area and want to experience exactly what this article is about, learn from a WPA Certified Instructor, Paddlefit Level 2 and E-RYT, look me up! I’d love to show you around our beautiful waterways! :) Keep up the love for SUP everyone, get out there and float your bliss… Landlubbers can practice on the beach or at the studio with Moondala Yoga http://www.moondalayoga.com & Full Moon Paddleboard http://www.fullmoonpaddleboard.com Wolfeboro, NH

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  43. Greetings Jessica, was surfing the web looking into this new phenomina of paddleboard yoga that my girlfriend keeps telling me she wants to try and that my father tells me is taking the world by storm. After hearing my dad Gary tell me he was contacted by some prominate yoga paddleboard gal on the west coast this past week going crazy over the anchor (The Squid Anchor) he invented I decided to see what all the fuss was about online and your website popped up first! What a find! Looks unbelievably challenging and fun at the same time! I was reading the comments section here with everybodys questions and noted that the boards can often drift in the wind and current during their yoga classes and understand why anchoring could be really benificial. Before finding your site I looked up “yoga paddleboard anchors” onlne and keep finding these awkward metal claws and bells that look like they would scratch the bajesus out of your beautiful boards and dont seem to be as compact and portable as they would look. Now I understand why that westcoast gal was so excited about my dads anchor. Its a bag type anchor that you can fill with sand, pebbles, rocks, etc. according the amount of anchoring weight you need then simply dump that sand/pebbles out into the water/shore when youre finished and the empty bag weighs only about 7oz!!! The bag is like lawnmower bag material and it wont scratch your board like the other metal claw and bell anchors. Anyway, you should definately checkout his Facebook page or website TheSquidAnchor.com to see the rest of the specs.. I think the Shrimp version of his anchor would work the best for your paddleboards as its the smaller of the 3 anchors he sells. It’s a one man business that he’s just getting off the ground by himself in which he’s had unbelievabley great feedback on so far in the short time he’s started. I’m sure he’d love to hear from a pro like you so give ole Gary a call if you got a minute, think his number can be found on his website or just email if you cant reach him.

    Thanks and keep in touch,
    Dustin

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  44. LOVE IT!
    MIND! BODY & SOUL!
    The MAGIC of SUP YOGA!

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