Words and pics: Alistair Daish
Finding peace, balance and harmony in the heart of the city…
Like many of you I have tried a number of new experiences in my life, some I have enjoyed and continued like SUP surfing, and others I have not enjoyed like country fair dancing. When I got the chance to take part in a SUP Yoga class based at the Helly Hansen Watersport Centre in Salford Quays I thought why not?
So on a sunny day in May I turned up to the centre. It’s a different experience to normal. Instead of trees and countryside that you often find at watersport venues you are instead greeted by towering office blocks and modern apartments. Over the years Salford Quays has undergone a huge rejuvenation project and now with Media City right next door, and a number of other big businesses working close by, it has developed into a rather beautiful urban area.
After getting changed we met out instructor Magda. A Yoga instructor by trade she wanted to offer more so branched out in to stand up. Magda was very friendly and was instantly chatting away and putting us all at ease. I asked Magda what is involved in a typical lesson. She said: “The Yoga practice is suitable for everyone – from beginners to those who are up for more advanced postures. Tips and explanations are given through the whole session. Every class is finished with a long relaxation period while lying on boards so students can enjoy nature and the water beneath”.
We used inflatable SUPs from Starboard and were each issued a set of attachment ropes that we would use to connect ourselves together and not float off. To start Magda ran through basic SUP controls and then helped launch us onto the water. In order to get to the Yoga venue we had to paddle down the length of the dock which was made more enjoyable by watching a wake boarder zip past on the cable system. We then entered a small tributary connected by a series of canals. The dock we arrived in was very serene on one side – a series of red brick modern flats flanking us – and on the other side small office buildings. The dock had some floating islands designed for birds to nest in and it was all very relaxed.
Magda began the session very gently running us through a simple Yoga routine. Once she had us limbered up we started on some more strenuous balance movements. After we had our first dunking of the session you could tell everyone realised the pressure was off. Even if we fell in we weren’t the first.
Performing Yoga on a SUP really was a unique experience. I asked Magda what the difference is between SUP Yoga and on the land. She replied: “Standing on a moving surface engages every single muscle in your body. Your awareness increases as you have to think about every movement you make. If your mind is wondering it is likely that you’re going to fall in. Like all Yoga it improves your balance, strength and also calms your mind. But unlike regular Yoga you can really connect to nature”.
Further into the session Magda started really challenging us and so the old gymnastic talents of mine had to be brought out as we performed back bends, head stands and tree poses (standing on one foot whilst the other foot rests on the other leg). Think Karate Kid – I felt my attempt would have made even Mr Miagi proud. That was until I fell onto the board and then into the water.
Magda ended the session with a meditation session which had us lying down with arms and feet in the water and deep breathing to clear our minds. This was my favourite part as with the birds singing and a gentle breeze I felt at peace and tranquil. As I opened my eyes I realised just how strange and weird this whole situation was. Here I was in an old shipping dock on a SUP board performing Yoga in the middle of the city.
I asked Magda at the end of the session what’s been her best experience taking these classes in Salford? “Every class is different because we are outside and the weather is unpredictable. Some days we have had glorious sun where you can get properly sweaty just wearing shorts and bikinis – plenty of vitamin D! But at other times it rains… This is an absolutely magical feeling – warm rain running down your face and body. Real connection to nature”.
Overall this was an amazing experience and not just the chance try out a new sport and learn some new moves but also the opportunity to view the city from a different perspective. From the water you truly appreciate the size of the buildings and the stillness that can be found whilst everyone else is rushing from place to place.