Within the confines of a studio you may find an ambience of soft lights and pleasant sounds, but with warmer weather coming our way, why settle for a replica of a natural surrounding? And what better way to experience the true thing then on the water doing Stand Up Paddleboard (SUP) yoga?
With the help of Santa Barbara Fitness Tours, I was connected with a certified SUP Yoga instructor, Morgan Balavage, who met my friend and me at their Santa Barbara Harbor location.
After a brief safety overview, we headed out on the paddleboards for a warm up as we got in the groove of the smooth rhythmic motions of the water. Morgan then guided us to a calm harbor location where we dropped our anchors (so as to not arrive back on shore!).
Morgan’s philosophy is to make paddleboard yoga approachable for people who have never been on a paddleboard or practiced on a mat.
Beginning with a tranquil set of yoga postures geared toward connecting body with breath, we moved through cat-cows in a table-top position on the most stable position to build trust on the board. The warm-up continued through seated stretches and a few series of sun salutations.
Then came the fun part: challenging standing poses. While Warrior I is a common pose on the mat, it is incredibly humbling when you’re on the water. But it’s also empowering — even if you only catch your balance for half a second.
What I noticed is that every pose required constant self-correction and awareness – because even a momentary space out might land you in the water.
Morgan ended the class with a series of yin poses, such as caterpillar (seated forward fold) and sleeping swan (pigeon), the movement of the water releasing deep layers of resistance.
What I learned: SUP Yoga is really a practice in learning to embrace rather than battling the elements: A breeze can deepen the breath, the warm sun may deepen poses by making muscles more pliable, and a pelican watching you in the distance can invite you to focus on something small and still.
By practicing on the ocean with the union of the water and the gentle ripples of the water, the universe is truly felt.
Have you tried either paddleboarding or paddleboard yoga?
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Photo: Amelia Travis, Stoked Yoga