A One Board Quiver session of SUP Yoga

SUP yoga is one of those disciplines of standup paddling that has always seemed a little contrived. Now don’t get me wrong! I’ve done plenty of yoga and I meditate semi-regularly. I’m not prejudiced against yoga at all. It’s just that doing it on a paddleboard seemed like an odd combination, like a Hawaiian pineapple pizza. But no question, like pineapple pizza, SUP yoga is definitely a thing, so I wanted to give it a try as part of my one board quiver.

I contacted Melia Marzolo of Sky Baby Studios in Cold Spring, NY. She had an online calendar where I could register for a class and even pay right on the web page. Very convenient, especially when we were going to be meeting by the water, far from any credit card machine. Melia had a fleet of inflatable Boga Yoga boards for her and the other three students, but I stuck to my Pau Hana. It wouldn’t be as cushiony as those soft inflatables, but the 32” width would be very much appreciated.

SUP Yoga, Ian Berger, SUP Examiner, Pau Hana, Sky Baby Studios

That’s me on the left!

We paddled out about a hundred yards into Foundry Cove. Normally Melia began the class with some paddling around the cove, but the wind was blowing and we had an absolute beginner with us. (Beginner on a SUP, definitely not with yoga.) So she set out a floating rope with mushroom anchors at each end. We then attached our boards and began the session.

It’s been at least fifteen years since I did a yoga class. I thought I’d remember my stretches and positions, but that didn’t happen. Lots of times I did the wrong thing, maybe because I misheard Melia, or maybe because I was worried about falling off my board, or maybe because I just didn’t know what I was doing. The stretches were pretty technical, but we were shown how to make modifications to keep your balance. Even then they were tough! Stretching is one thing. Stretching into cat’s or child’s pose on a rocking SUP is a whole different world than a yoga mat!

I never got wet, but I did go thump to the board once. Melia was very patient with me and offered some helpful suggestions. What struck me was that SUP yoga was a whole new way to use a paddleboard. I couldn’t strut my SUP skills here. I was the least skilled yogi in the group. The stretches made my body ache — in a good way — and the balance issue made each pose a real challenge. There was also a complete lack of competition which was really refreshing. Not that it wasn’t hard! When we were done and ready for savasana (corpse pose, or rest at the end), I was good and ready. We closed our eyes and laid back while Melia chanted in Sanskrit. The water rocked us back and forth like a cradle. A goose honked nearby. What a wonderful sensation. I always loved this part of a yoga session, but doing it on my board was special. Even the dance of the water on my fingertips was soothing.

Spiritual renewal

Savasana was over too quickly, and we came back to earth. But some strange thoughts were going through my head. Good strange thoughts. So often when I’m on the water, I have this competitive streak. I want people to know that I’m a great paddler, I’ve done this and that, and so on. After the yoga, I didn’t care about that one bit. It was stupid. What did it even matter? The only paddling I was interested in was the most leisurely pace around a couple of buoys. I didn’t even want to talk to anyone. I hadn’t been in that spiritual place for some time and it was pretty special.

So how did my Pau Hana perform during this spiritual renewal? Quite well. This isn’t a dedicated yoga board, but that extra width was nice. I could feel the board sway, but it never went over. The deck wasn’t as soft as a traditional yoga deck, but I expected that.  The tie-downs were fine for holding my paddle or a bottle of water. The only real issue was that it didn’t have a nose tie-down which is standard for most yoga boards. I was able to jury rig something, but in the future I should try something better. (In a pinch you can attach the tail with your leash.)

What’s been fun about this series is seeing how well this Pau Hana board would do in different situations. So far it races well against boards of its class. It’s also a fine workout board as long as you adjust your stroke and speed expectations. Now I can say that it also does fine as a yoga platform. Yes, you can find your inner light on this board, which is pretty neat. Of course, a dedicated yoga board would be softer with a nose attachment, but it can be done on an all-rounder . All you need is adequate width, a good deck pad, some tie-downs, and a way to attach the nose. I also learned that SUP yoga is an amazing combination of two fun activities. Great job, Sky Baby Studios!

Now where can I get a Hawaiian pizza around here?

SUP Yoga, Ian Berger, SUP Examiner, Pau Hana, Sky Baby Studios

All smiles!

Learn more about Sky Baby Studios at: www.skybabyyoga.com

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Ian Berger

Ian Berger grew up in love with the ocean, so discovering stand up paddling was a bit of revelation. Once he bought his first paddleboard, he realized this was the sport for him. Ian Berger lives in Peekskill, NY with his wife Kirsten and three children. He teaches middle school English and drama, and also has a passion for writing, which he shares with his students. Every morning Ian wakes up to write — sometimes science fiction or comic Young Adult novels, sometimes plays, but very often about stand up paddling. The Hudson River is his home turf, and you can usually find him there when the weather is good.