Most of us have tried some form of yoga in our time – whether relaxing in a Yin class, or getting sweaty in a hot yoga class, it's a very popular form of exercise.
In the last couple of years, a new form of yoga has emerged, combining it with the popularity of stand up paddle boarding (SUP). But what is SUP yoga? How can you get started? And what paddle board should you choose?
Read on as we answer these questions and more.
What is SUP yoga?
SUP yoga is like regular yoga, except that you do it on the water on a SUP!
Dedicated SUP Yoga boards like the Mandala provide additional stability
You can get started by checking out a SUP Yoga class in your local area. A class typically starts with a short warm-up paddle to the spot in which you will be practising. It then moves into a yoga-focused class including seated breathing techniques, sun salutations and some experimenting with harder pose variations.
Don't worry if you don't have any yoga experience though, you can still enjoy the class.
If you’re lucky enough to own a board of your own, you can practise a yoga flow outside of a class. When starting out, choose simple flows before moving to more adventurous poses.
Start with simple flows before advancing to more adventurous poses
Why should you try SUP yoga?
SUP yoga brings some additional benefits for a yogi beyond a standard yoga class, so let’s take a look at five reasons to give it a try.
1. It's suitable for all levels
Yes, adding a paddle board to your yoga practice does add an additional challenge, to everything from your stability, to your strength and flexibility. However, both beginner and advanced yogis can benefit from a SUP yoga routine, by using the challenge of being on the water to deepen your practice.
As a beginner, try starting on lakes where the water is typically calmer
It might surprise you how hard some moves become on the water compared to others. Flowing through your routine sun-salutation will suddenly feel brand new once you take your practice onto the water. For beginners, you might like to start on lakes, where the water is typically calmer. As you advance your practice, you can challenge yourself by taking to the ocean.
The staggered stance of Warrior Two is extra challenging on the water
2. It can improve your strength and balance
You can likely guess that practising yoga on the water is all about balance. SUP yoga will help you to learn where your balance is weak, and where it’s strong.
Adding SUP to your yoga routine is also great for developing your core strength. Ever used a Bosu Ball for exercise? Being on an unstable surface requires you to engage your core to maintain balance.
Ever used a Bosu Ball for exercise? Being on an unstable surface requires you to engage your core to maintain balance.
The SUP board works in the same way – its wobble challenges the body at a new level, forcing it to work harder to help you keep your balance. You need to actively engage your muscles to maintain your balance in poses – providing the stability that will keep you afloat.
A SUP will make your muscles work extra hard to maintain your balance even when standing
3. Reconnect with nature
Research has shown that spending time in nature can help relieve stress and anxiety, improve your mood, and boost feelings of happiness and wellbeing. If you’ve ever taken your yoga practice outside, you will know the benefits of fresh air and a gentle breeze.
There aren’t many activities that get you closer to nature than being out on a paddle board. You never know what curious wildlife will come and say “hello”, the sunshine will lift your mood, and you’re sure to benefit from incredible views. You won’t find that in any yoga studio.
Research has shown that spending time in nature can help relieve stress and anxiety, improve your mood, and boost feelings of happiness and wellbeing.
Being out on the water also physically takes you away from the busy nature of your day-to-day life. The natural environment allows you to focus inwards and to appreciate the present moment during the practice. SUP yoga will naturally slow you down and force you to focus on your breath and body movement.
A regular SUP yoga practice allows you to reconnect with nature
4. Become more mindful
As we said above, SUP yoga is all about balance. This means you will develop an enhanced awareness of your breath, body and mind. Every move and breath will influence your stability in a pose.
In this more mindful state, you can rediscover more basic poses. Even the easiest moves become more challenging on the water, forcing you to focus on the smaller details of the poses. There’s no chance of rushing through the basics during SUP yoga.
SUP yoga will take intense focus and balance to keep your paddle board steady while transitioning between poses.
Where are your hands and feet placed? Is your core engaged? Where is your centre of gravity?
If you’re not aware of your alignment, you can go overboard. Smooth, fluid transitions between poses are essential for staying on the board. You won’t have experienced a full-body workout anything like SUP yoga before.
5. Have fun!
Finally, SUP yoga is a lot of fun! Sometimes we can take ourselves too seriously, both in yoga classes and beyond.
There’s no room for ego when you’re out on the water. You are carried along in the practice, wherever it wants to take you that day. It might even take you overboard, and there’s nothing to be done but laugh it off and get back on the board!
There's no room for ego when you're out on the water.
SUP yoga is about questioning the limitations of your practice and mind, while conquering the common fear of falling in. SUP yoga is the best place to fall on your face. Embrace the falls!
Falling in is all part of the fun when trying SUP yoga!
The benefits of SUP yoga
SUP yoga combines the amazing benefits of both paddle boarding and yoga into one great workout. They are both full-body workouts, with benefits including:
- Strengthening new muscles
- Increasing flexibility
- Refining yoga technique for land yoga sessions
- Relieving stress by being amongst nature in the fresh air
- Getting you outside
- Making big gains with your balance
- Improving your breathing techniques.
Simple yoga poses to try on your paddle board
Some poses are easier than others on a SUP board, and it often comes down to them being the most stable. If you're a beginner, you might want to start with the following for your SUP yoga routine:
- Boat pose
- Chair pose
- Downward-facing dog
- Warrior 2
But as we said, don't forget that these poses will be a lot more challenging on your yoga Sup board!
How to choose a stand up paddle board for SUP yoga
Are you ready to give SUP yoga a try, or to go it alone after attending some classes? Next, you need to choose the right yoga stand up paddle board for the job.
Many paddle boards are designed for SUP yoga. The difference between yoga paddle boards and standard paddle boards is that they are generally wider and more stable. They can be a modified version of an all round stability board, but with additional yoga accessories, or designed from scratch as yoga Sup boards.
You may decide that you prefer an all-round stability board if you spend a lot of time paddle boarding without yoga, or a yoga paddle board if most of your time will be practicing SUP yoga. Let's take you through some things to consider when choosing a board.
You could technically perform SUP yoga on any kind of paddle board, but that doesn't mean you would want to! You will want the most stable board possible and its stability will be determined by its width as well as its thickness.
You will notice that yoga Sup boards, such as the Bay Sports Mandala series, and extra stable boards will be around 34 inches in width, whereas a touring Sup like the 11'6" Tour will be around 32 inches in width.
The Mandala is also thicker at 6 inches, compared to the 11'6" Tour's 5 inches.
The board length has limited bearing on the stability of the board, however you may want a longer board simply to have more space to stretch out in your poses.
The stability of a Sup board suitable for performing yoga skills also means that it's a versatile board for beginner paddlers who are learning and require extra stability and for families.
Boards marketed for paddle board yoga will often have a deck pad (sometimes called a traction pad) running the full length of the board. However, you will rarely find yourself at the extreme ends of the board (it would tip over!), so a deck pad covering 3/4 of the deck, such as the Bay Sports 10'6 Mandala board, will suffice.
There are a couple of key features you want with a deck pad for Sup yoga. Firstly, a smooth surface which won't dig into your knees or palms during yoga poses like diamond-shaped deck pads do. Secondly, superior grip to ensure that, even when the deck (or you!) is wet, you will still be able to find grip on the board.
Also look for a yoga stand up paddle board that either has a center handle that can go completely flat during your session, or one without a centre handle at all, to create a fully smooth deck pad.
While the fin system on paddle boards doesn't significantly affect the performance during Sup yoga, there are some useful tips to bear in mind.
A three-fin system works well for stand up paddle boards designed for yoga. Some boards will come with permanently attached side fins, which provide additional stability to the board and some other minor performance benefits.
Having a mixture of permanent fins and removable ones enables you to configure your board for all-around use. This provides flexibility if you'd like to use your paddle board for more than just yoga, which we think most people will!
Using a center fin improves your tracking, and if it's removable, you can adjust its position for added benefits. For example, if you move it forward, your turns will be easier, but moving it back will provide extra stability.
As always, the more options you have, the better.
Inflatable versus hard board
There's not much debate about whether inflatable or hard paddle boards are best for Sup yoga, as inflatable boards are the obvious winner.
Inflatable boards have a softer surface making them easier on your body during a sup yoga session. They are also more stable than their hard board equivalents - if they have the same dimensions - because the thickness of an inflatable board is consistent across the width of the board. Hard boards are tapered at the edges, which makes them more likely to tip.
A bonus advantage to an inflatable board is you can take it with you when you travel, and you don't have to worry about storage space.
If you're feeling extra creative, you can even use your inflatable board as a makeshift yoga mat on land!
READY TO GIVE SUP YOGA A TRY?
Meet Mandala, our inflatable Yoga SUP, which combines excellent stability and functionality for yoga on the water.
The board’s stability also makes it suitable for families and for paddleboarders looking for a more sturdy board when they’re cruising. Rated 5 stars by our customers, and 9/10 by SUP Board Guide.
The Mandala is designed for Sup yoga, with the following special features:
- Full Length Premium EVA deck pad - Our smooth but grippy EVA deck pad covers the entire board, providing superior grip in the wet no matter where your feet hands land.
- Beautiful, yet Clever Design - Symmetrically placed Mandalas are centred, guiding you to position your feet on the board for perfect balance every time.
- Built-In Neoprene Shoulder Strap - Makes transporting your board a breeze by allowing you to carry the board over your shoulder.
- Paddle Holder - The rear carry handle doubles as a paddle holder. Simply slip the paddles handle under the neoprene carry handle and it'll stay secure whilst you practice out on the water.
- Lightweight - Just 9.4kgs thanks to our Fusion-Tec™ construction, making it nice & easy to carry to the waters edge.
- Front & Rear Neoprene Carry Straps - Make for easy carrying for two people.
- 9" Click-In Fin - Extra Large fin sits deep in the water and acts like a keel to further improve stability, whilst assists with tracking a straight line.
- Six Stainless Steel D-Rings in Cargo area - Allow you to tie up & dock when in group fitness sessions, plus keep your gear securely attached.
- Four Stainless Steel D-rings - Allow you to attach kayak seat for when you wish to cruise around in a seated position.
- Super Durable - Made with 3-layers of tapes on the rail, making it one of the strongest inflatable SUP boards available.
When you buy a Sup yoga paddle board with Bay Sports, you get the whole package. Our paddle boards come with the following accessories:
- New 2021 Helios Triple-Action hand pump with dual-cylinder chambers
- 9" Click In "tool-less” centre fin + 2 x moulded side fins (no screw plate or screw required!)
- US AIR7 Fin Box - compatible with FCS Connect II Fin System
- 3-piece Lightweight Fibreglass Nylon SUP paddle (750 grams)
- 10' Coil Leash - for no leash drag in the water
- Wheeled Backpack - Weatherproof Ballistic-Weave Nylon with Comfort Padded Shoulder Straps (100cm tall X 43cm wide)
- 1x Repair Kit (glue not included for hazmat reasons)
- A5 SUP User Guide Booklet
- Industry Leading 3 Year Product Warranty
- Want to do more than Sup yoga on your paddle board? Read our guide to the best all-round stand up paddle boards
- Looking to get started with your paddle boarding? Read our beginners' guide
- Need more help with choosing a board? Learn about how to choose a stand up paddle board