SUP Yoga: Five Essential Poses
At first glance, doing yoga on a stand-up paddleboard might seem a bit gimmicky.
But once you get over the novelty, you realize that the paddleboard adds a new and demanding fitness dimension to even the simplest of yoga positions.
SUP yoga requires proper alignment and balance, or you end up in the water. This allows beginner yogis to learn proper alignment from the start, and it’s a refinement tool for more experienced yoga practitioners. You get quick feedback on whether or not your form is as good as you think it is. Apart from the fitness benefits, it’s a great excuse to get outside and explore a body of water.
Julia Geisler, founder of Park City Yoga Adventures, has taken SUP yoga to an entirely new level by offering classes in the Homestead Crater, located in Midway, Utah, just 40 minutes from Park City. The 10,000-year-old crater began taking shape when thermally heated mineral water bubbled up out of the ground, depositing layers of limestone little by little. Today, from the outside, it looks like a 55-foot tall anthill made of stone. On the inside, it’s a steaming 90-degree lake—crystal-clear, 60 feet deep, and smooth as glass. It’s a remarkable natural formation.
Encased in stone and protected from the elements, the thermal heat and calm water make it possible to do SUP yoga on any day, in any month of the year. In the water, tiny effervescent bubbles of CO2 exfoliate and rejuvenate dry skin while the hot mineral water relaxes muscles and lowers blood pressure. These spa-like elements, combined with Julia’s repertoire of yoga positions, makes for a truly unique experience, to say the least.
Whether the participants are new to yoga or are regular practitioners, these are the five positions Julia does in every SUP yoga class.
Cat variations are a great way to start a SUP yoga session and warm up before moving on to more difficult positions. This pose, and its variations, help you find the balance point on the board and in your body. According to Julia the goal is to “balance evenly between the right and left side of the body, and keep your hips level.”
Because Warrior I is a standing position, it requires a greater degree of balance. In addition to improving focus and balance, warrior I is a great full body stretch that energizes the body. If the front knee isn’t properly aligned or the back leg bends, you’ll be swimming.
According to Julia, “Warrior 2 teaches you to hug into the center of the body. If you let your legs push apart, you’ll do a split in the way probably don’t want to do a split.” This is especially challenging when the boards are wet. You have to consciously pull your legs in towards your pelvic core to avoid the impromptu split.
Extended Side Angle Pose
The extended side angle pose is ideal for putting a deep stretch on the sides of your torso. It also opens the hips and works the quad of the bent knee. On a paddleboard it provides immediate feedback for alignment because it requires the hips and shoulders to turn on a side plain. As Julia says, “if your side plain isn’t perfectly aligned, you’ll be in the water.”
Half Wheel Pose aka Bridge Pose
Julia likes the half wheel pose because it’s great for centering and grounding, and it helps strengthen the lower back. On the paddleboard it forces you to evenly balance all four points of contact, being your two feet and the backs of your shoulder blades. There are a number of variations that make half wheel pose substantially more challenging, especially on a paddleboard.
The Homestead Crater is used for scuba diving, good ol’ fashioned hot spring soaking, and most recently, SUP yoga. Learn more here.