Conquering My Fears at Paddle-Board Yoga

“What time is yoga class?” I asked the nice instructor at the Adventure Center at the Frenchman’s Reef & Morning Star Marriott Beach Resort in St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands, where I was visiting for my niece’s wedding.

“It’s at 7 a.m.,” said Katie.

“Ooh, that’s very early. A little too early for vacation,” I replied.

“You should try SUP Yoga VI,” said Katie. “It’s so much fun. I teach it at 9 a.m. at the cove beach.”

“What is SUP Yoga?” I asked.

“SUP Yoga stands for stand-up paddle-board yoga,” said Katie. “We paddle out on the water to nine feet and then we do yoga on our boards. You just need to know how to swim.”

Nine feet deep. Uh-oh. Oh no. Asanas on a paddle board on the water. I’m not the greatest swimmer. Uh-oh. Oh no. Should I? Would I? Could I do SUP yoga?

My body tensed as Katie put the sign-up sheet in front of me.

“I’ll go with you for moral support,” said my son D. (What a nice son. He doesn’t even practice yoga.)

“All right then,” I said. “I’m going to conquer my fears. Let’s do it.” (Go, Judi! Go, Judi!)

“You’re going to love it,” said Katie. “SUP yoga on the water is so relaxing.”

A New Level of Mind, Body and Spirit

The next morning I awoke early, put on my swimsuit (and lots of sunscreen) and headed down to the beach. Katie provided each of us a board with a paddle and guided us out onto the water. She showed us how to paddle forward and backward and turn our boards around. Then we were on our way.

Slowly, inch by inch, I got the hang of it. I knelt at first, too scared to stand. Once near the rope, we secured our boards, and Katie took us through a series of poses.

“Look forward when you stand up and stay centered near the handle,” said Katie.

I did exactly as I was told. A few fellow yogis who were midlife like me fell in the water. I actually forced myself in—one way to let go. (Go Judi! Go Judi!) The water was very salty. (Katie said that St. Thomas ocean water is salty like the Dead Sea. I had salt all over my body.)

As we went through the poses, my body began to relax. It was true what Katie said: SUP yoga gave me a “feeling of bliss and brought me to a new level of mind, body and spirit.” I was totally swept away.

By the time the 75 minutes were over, I felt an overwhelming sense of accomplishment. I stood tall and paddled my way back to shore. Next to my niece’s nuptials, SUP yoga was the second best part of my trip. I highly recommend it for any practicing yogi.

More About SUP Yoga

I was envious of Katie and her SUP yoga lifestyle and wanted to learn more. I told Katie I was a blogger and studying to be a yoga instructor. She kindly answered all my questions.

Here’s the scoop:

Q: How is SUP yoga different from other styles of yoga?

Katie:Â SUP yoga brings elements of nature into your practice. It is nearly impossible to allow the mind to wander during SUP yoga. You are so heavily concentrated on the present moment that you truly connect with your breath. Without your breath, you will lose balance and fall in.

I have found that people learn to let go of fear in SUP yoga. We talk about this all the time when practicing on land, but frequently we find ourselves staying in our comfort zone. It took me years to try a crow press up into handstand. After a few weeks of playing around on the board, I have tried almost every pose I can think of, realizing that the water is under me as a safe place to fall. SUP yoga will tone your core, connect you to the present moment and provide a fun place to explore outside your comfort zone.

Q: How did you learn to teach SUP yoga?

 
Katie: I became a registered yoga teacher three years ago in Dallas, Texas. Following my certification, I traveled to a yoga festival in Colorado called Wanderlust. It was there that I took stand-up paddle-board yoga for the first time. The instructor, Rachel Brathen, is a social media sensation and renowned yogi. I was amazed at how unbelievable I felt after the practice. I started picking her brain about SUP yoga. She lived and started her SUP yoga business in Aruba. As far as she or anyone else knew, no one was doing it in the Virgin Islands.

I started researching St. Thomas. I found the perfect cove at the Marriott Frenchman’s Cove beach. After conducting extensive research, I registered for a SUP yoga teacher training in Houston, Texas. The class was a 25-hour continuing education course. Not only did it strengthen my practice, it changed my life.

Q: What are the benefits of SUP yoga?

 
Katie: Practicing yoga while learning to balance on a paddle board will keep your core engaged for the entire class. There is much less room for error when coming into a pose. If you lose focus or your breath, you fall. The board will let you know if you favor one side of the body more than the other. For example, if you are in down dog and have more weight on the left side of the body, your board will start to tilt. It will help you refine your form.

Being on the water during savasana (corpse pose) is the most relaxing feeling in the world. With the waves as your music and the sun providing heat, you find a new level of bliss. (I agree, Katie. It is the best-ever feeling. Ohm, ohm, ohm.)

Q: Any tips for yogis who are doing SUP yoga for the first time?

Katie:Â Let go of fear. The water is there to hold you, not hurt you! The sooner you embrace falling in, the more fun you will have!

Q: Any advice for midlife women who might want to try SUP yoga?

Katie:Â There is a place in yoga for everyone. The options and variations for poses are endless. Embrace your body and push your limits.

Are you ready to take the leap? According to Katie, SUP yoga is popping up all over the United States and internationally. In fact, I just read about classes that are available via Aqua Vida SUP Yoga in Philadelphia—not too far from my home. I might have to try it again.

As the team at Aqua Vida says, “If we wait until we’re ready, we’ll be waiting the rest of our lives.”

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