Words and pics: SUP Yoga Brighton (Gerry Broom)
Stand up paddle board Yoga is a pretty new thing to hit UK shores. In a SUP Yoga class you will perform Yoga poses on the surface of a board, with some modifications to stay dry! You don’t need to be a Yoga expert to enjoy the benefits of SUP Yoga – classes should cater for all levels of ability.
Yoga poses on a SUP are more physically demanding as your body will automatically make lots of small muscular micro adjustments to keep you balanced. The poses will have to be well aligned to balance the board and you will use your core a lot more than on dry land. Strengthening your core has a whole host of benefits including preventing injuries, improving posture and making your SUP technique more efficient. Performing poses balancing on an unstable surface really makes you focus so you are present and enjoying the moment rather than dwelling on the past or racing ahead to the future. To keep from taking a dip it’s a good idea to gaze at something that isn’t moving, as this really helps. Balancing will be harder at first but SUP Yoga will improve this by increasing proprioception and bodily awareness – which will also improve your SUPing.
After a long paddle, a few simple stretches will increase your range of movement, release tension, stretch tired muscles, get rid of lactic acid build up and prevent injuries. Building strength often shortens muscle fibres so as we get stronger our flexibility reduces. A few simple stretches at the end of a SUP session will make a difference. SUP Yoga is supposed to feel good – don’t push past the stretch into discomfort or pain, just enjoy the poses wherever you are. Try these stretches next time you are out on the water, remembering to breathe deeply and evenly through the nose for about ten breathes in each pose.
Eagle Arms in Lunge
We tend to carry tension in the shoulders and thighs, especially after paddling, and releasing these tight muscles feels amazing. From all four’s step the right foot through to a low lunge, find your balance and raise both arms out in front crossing at the elbows with the left arm on top. Keeping the elbows stacked tightly press the backs of the hands together; to go deeper double cross at the wrists and press palm to palm. Gently lift the elbows higher while keeping the navel lifted, dropping the tailbone until you feel a nice stretch between the shoulder blades. Repeat on the other side.
This pose is great on flat water – if there is too much swell or you don’t feel comfortable balancing, just do the arms from a seated position and then try the lunge as a separate movement. This is one of my favourite poses after paddling.
A great place to start. From all fours tuck your toes and press your hips up and back to make an inverted ‘V’ shape. Press the forefinger and thumb onto the board and try to keep the arms active but not locked. The back and legs should be straight with the kneecaps and thighs lifted and the heels relaxing down onto the board. Suck the lower belly up to lengthen the spine while gazing back to the knees or toes.
This pose stretches the back, hamstrings and shoulders – giving a great upside down view of the water.
If the back is rounding and the hamstrings feel tight then bend the knees a little and push the seat bones up and away until you feel the back lengthen. Patience here will allow the legs to straighten over time while keeping a flat back.
Lie on your back and cross the right leg over the left, taking the rail of your board with the right hand. Place the left hand to the outside of the right knee and draw it across your body, rolling your hips to the left as you gaze over the right shoulder. You will have to use the right hand to hold yourself on the board as the spine opens into a spiral.
Twisting helps release tension in the spine and massages the internal organs, increasing their blood supply. The movement of the water beneath the board makes this feel even better.
Lying on the belly, bend the knees and take the ankles, as you inhale lift the upper body off the board keeping the spine long. You shouldn’t feel any pinching in the lower back – if you do, try relaxing your buttocks and lowering a little out of the pose. If it feels good to move further then press the feet up and away, lifting the legs up as well. Keep the inner thighs active and try and keep the knees in line with the hips. Gaze forward.
You don’t have to go very high to feel this pose working, opening the front of the body and shoulders. The feeling of rocking gently on your belly as you balance in this pose is wonderful.
Simple but effective! The muscles of the back and hamstrings are often tight and this pose will float the stiffness away. With your legs straight out in front of you, lift your ribcage up away from your hips and find your seat bones pressing down into the board. Exhale, keeping your spine long as you fold forwards. Place the hands on the board by the feet and gaze to your toes. Try and keep the toes pointing up towards the sky and lift the navel up.
It’s common to find tightness in the hamstrings so if you find this pose tough bend your knees a little and focus on lifting the torso to find your seat bones before trying to fold.
These are just a few of the poses you can try while participating in SUP Yoga. Once you’ve mastered them, it’s time to move onto others, but for now, concentrate on these and I’m sure you’ll feel rewarded and your body will thank you. For more info on SUP Yoga contact www.supyogabrighton.co.uk