Sure, you could ride around in the water on your paddle board, but some people take SUP riding to the next level. These yogis will stretch, pose, and flex their way to healthier bodies, all while retaining balance on their paddle board. It makes you want to try this form of yoga. Is SUP yoga hard?
SUP yoga is admittedly not as easy as regular yoga since you need to stay upright on a paddle board. Certain boards are designed with yoga in mind. With the right training and plenty of practice, though, you can overcome your trepidations and soon become a seasoned SUP yogi.
In this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know as a SUP yoga beginner. This includes moves and poses to train your body, the equipment you must have, the gear you should wear, and whether you should join a class or go it alone.
We’ll also get into the benefits of SUP yoga and finally, share some tips and pointers you can implement for success on your paddle board.
Preparing Your Body for SUP Yoga (Off the board First- with videos)
Experienced yogis have a great sense of balance, reaching deep into their core to stay upright while pulling off difficult poses. Yet for SUP yoga beginners, all the basic yoga challenges are magnified, at least at first. You don’t want to go out there and embarrass yourself, falling into the water time and time again as you try to pose.
Listen, as a beginner, you have to expect you’ll make mistakes. They’re unavoidable, but as long as you learn from them, they’re okay. To maximize your chances of a smooth experience, you should begin to train and prep your body for SUP yoga before you ever step on your paddle board. Then, once you begin doing SUP yoga regularly, you can work on improving your flexibility, balance, and strength across your whole body.
Before you get to that point, here are some exercises we recommend you do on solid ground. Practice them as much as you can before you embark on the fun adventure that is SUP yoga.
Cow Face Pose
The cow face pose focuses on your chest, triceps, armpits, thighs, ankles, shoulders and hips, giving them all a nice stretch. Your side body will also extend.
To begin with the cow face pose, you want to be in the staff pose, also known as Dandasana. With the staff pose, you have to sit up straight. Your thighs should sit flat and pressed down, as should your hands. You want your heels on the floor, your feet flexed, and your toes apart. Lengthen your spine and push your shoulder blades near each other.
Once you get into the staff pose, you can transition to the cow face pose. To pull this off, bend your knees so now your feet’s soles touch the mat or floor. Move the left foot so it’s beneath the right knee, then keep sliding it until it’s beyond the right hip.
Take the right knee and put it atop your left knee, extending the right foot until it’s beyond the left hip. Keep a block beneath you as you sit and then extend your hips.
Next, lift your left arm up, bending it at the elbow and moving the palm behind you, positioning it higher on your back. Keep traveling your hand down until you’re midway down your back. Now, roll your shoulders. Repeat the same with your right hand, trying to hold your hands together behind your back.
You can work your calves, ankles, hips, and thighs through the eagle pose. You’ll have to be in the mountain pose for this one, also known as Samasthiti or Tadasana. With the mountain pose, you stand straight up. Then, tilt your kneecaps somewhat and tuck in your tailbone a little. Your two big toes should meet but the rest of your toes should be spread. Your arms are to stay open with your palms out and spread.
From there, begin the eagle pose. Bend the knees, moving your right leg across your left one while you’re still standing. Keep your toes of this foot beneath your calf. Stretch your arms, moving one bicep over the other. Next, bend both your elbows, connecting your forearms until your hands can touch.
Raise your elbows to your shoulders, stretching the fingertips as you do. Don’t raise your shoulder blades during this part. Now do it again, focusing on the other side this time.
Warrior III Pose
Another yoga pose where you get to balance on a single foot is the Warrior III pose. You again want to be in mountain pose for this. Then lift your arms upwards. Move your right leg up and out. Next, lift your arms so your biceps are at the same height as your ears. Then you need to lean, moving one leg so it’s almost behind your body. If you can, do some foot flexing down to the heel. Then, do it all again with the other foot.
For the dolphin pose, make sure you’re in the tabletop pose first. The tabletop pose can go one of two ways. You can either get down on your hands and knees and brace your back up straight so you’re posed like a table. Once you’re a more experienced yogi, you may wish to reverse it so your chest is up and flat like a table.
For the dolphin pose, do the first version of the tabletop pose where you’re down on all fours. Bring the forearms down so they’re touching the mat or floor. Keep your elbows under your shoulders and spread your fingertips.
Next, raise the knees, tucking the feet and lifting your pelvis up as you go. Lengthen your shoulder blades and begin to straighten out your legs but not your neck. Hold the pose for a few seconds if you can.
Side Plank Pose
The last recommended training pose we’ve got for you is the side plank pose. This trains your entire body, so it’s certainly worth doing. You’ll have to be in the plank pose for this, where you brace your hands and toes on the mat, leaning your body at a slanted angle. You have to keep your arms perfectly straight but slant your legs, using your toes for balance. Keep your head aimed down.
Transition into the side plank by taking your right leg and rotating it. Your right arm should hold the brunt of your weight when you do this. Then, begin to raise the left side of your body, balancing on your right side as you do. Make sure you feel certain of your footing. When you do, lift your left arm up and hold. Do it again on the right side of your body.
What Equipment Do You Need for SUP Yoga?
Okay, so you’ve got your moves to practice for your first SUP yoga adventure. You might even do some of these moves on your paddle board when you’re comfortable. What else do you need before you set out?
Well, equipment for one. Just which equipment should you have? Let’s go over it now.
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You want to make sure you get a paddle board that’s mostly flat and wide. This will give you the room you need for all your SUP yoga poses. Some manufacturers do make boards specifically for SUP yoga, so shop around for one if that’s what you want.
It should go without saying that you can’t do SUP yoga without a SUP board, also known as a paddle board. If you’re joining a class, then you might be able to rent a board rather than buy one. Depending on how often you plan to do SUP yoga, though, it might be worth spending the money to invest in your own paddle board. One option on Amazon is the Boardworks SHUBU Flow All-Water Yoga Inflatable Stand-Up Paddle Board shown below.
The Bluefin Voyage offers many of the same features at a slightly lower price.
If you are completely committed to paddle boarding in general and yoga specifically, and you are certain you want a dedicated wide board with a good stability rating. Check out the Connelly NAVA board (from Amazon).
You must get your paddle board out in the water so you can begin stretching and flexing. Thus, you need a paddle. If you’re renting a paddle board, then disregard, as the paddle should be included with your rental.
When you’re shopping around for your own paddle, check that it’s sized to your body. If you get a paddle that’s too big and heavy, you’ll exhaust yourself before you can ever do a single yoga pose. That would be a real shame.
Some paddles come with coil leashes that you can attach to the paddle to the board so you don’t lose your paddle accidentally. As a beginner, this is a good accessory to have. It’s also useful in ocean riding where the waves could quickly and easily take your paddle away.
You also want a leash for your board. If you ever rode boogie boards and used the Velcro wristband that attached to the board, a paddle board leash is pretty much the same concept. Instead of wrapping the leash around your arm like you would a boogie board though, you want to attach it to your ankle. A leash is again handy in ocean riding so your SUP board can never get too far from you.
Obviously, once you get out to your desired location on the water, unhook the leash. Otherwise, it will seriously inhibit your flexibility and yoga poses.
If you have room in your budget, then you may choose to add an anchor to your shopping list. Dropping an anchor in the water will keep your paddle board in mostly one place while you practice your yoga moves. Many of our recommended personal watercraft anchors will work with SUPs as well.
While you can afford to skip the anchor, you absolutely need your emergency whistle. This is mandated by the Coast Guard, so it’s not something you ever want to leave at home by accident. You can wear your emergency whistle or keep it with your personal flotation device.
Personal Flotation Device
Speaking of that, yes, a personal floatation device is another must that the Coast Guard insists on. You want an efficient life vest but one that’s not so bulky that you can’t stretch or bend. Make sure you do your research to get a good vest.
Check out Tim’s paddle board accessories recommendations for other ideas.
What to Wear During a SUP Yoga Session
You’re not done with your shopping yet. Next, you have to buy the proper clothing for SUP yoga. It can be kind of daunting trying to figure out what to wear that’s appropriate for this unique form of yoga. Should you slip into workout clothes or swimwear? Both can work, which can only complicate things.
Fear not, because, with this handy list, even beginners can dress like yoga pros.
You can’t wear sneakers on a SUP board because you’ll more than likely slip and fall right into the drink, ruining your shoes. Flip-flops aren’t great for yoga because they’ll topple right off your feet the second you lift your legs.
Instead, you need water-safe shoes like sandals with straps. These may look like flip-flops, as some come in a thong style, but they have an ankle strap for keeping the shoe on your foot as you move, bend, lift, and stretch. Or you can go barefoot, which is great for learning to keep your feet relaxed while strengthening them for general paddle boarding to avoid foot pain.
Sunglasses with Strap
While sunblock isn’t a clothing item, we hope you never leave the house without applying it. That’s true of those days that appear overcast as well.
Besides sunblock, you should also safeguard your eyes with some sunglasses. You want to ensure these block both UVA and UVB rays to keep your peepers healthy. A strap attached to the arms of the sunglasses should hopefully prevent your glasses from tipping right off your face and disappearing in the water forever.
Hot yoga can get quite toasty, up to 90 degrees Fahrenheit, and any good workout will have you sweating. What we’re saying is your yoga clothes are probably already soaked by the time you’re done exercising. If they get wet from the water, then that’s not the end of the world either. Tim has more paddle board yoga clothing tips in What to Wear for Paddleboard Yoga.
You certainly want moisture-wicking fabrics so your clothes don’t feel damp, sticky, and tight. Shop for brands like Onzie and Jala Clothing, as they manufacture gear that’s just for SUP yogis like yourself.
If you don’t have any yoga clothes to wear or you’re not in love with the idea of ruining your favorite set in the ocean, that’s okay. You can always try a rash guard. This unisex clothing is a type of shirt that can have long or short sleeves and even no sleeves. Most rash guards are nylon or spandex and can get wet.
You can also wear traditional swimwear when practicing SUP yoga. As a man, swim trunks are fine, but make sure they’re not so loose and baggy that they get in the way of your movements. You might also want to consider pairing your swim shorts with a rash guard so your upper half is protected from the sun.
Women can wear whatever they’re comfortable in, be that a one-piece or even a bikini. Just double-check that everything stays in place so you’re not risking a wardrobe malfunction as you pull off that awesome new yoga pose. It’s also very annoying to have to keep adjusting your swimsuit while trying to focus on your balance. You’re bound to fall into the water at some point.
You may also be interested in learning How to Do a Handstand on a Paddleboard.
Joining a SUP Yoga Class: Where to Find Them
By this point, you’re more familiar with SUP yoga, and maybe you’ve even gone out and tried it a time or two yourself. You’re a little self-conscious about it, though. In fact, you have a feeling that you would get more from the experience if you had an experienced yogi leading you.
That’s not a problem at all. SUP yoga classes are available in countries all over the world, including the United States and the United Kingdom. If you’re looking for a class in your neck of the woods, we recommend you start with a simple Google search. Just type in the name of your city, town, or neighborhood and then add “SUP yoga class.”
Using Active360 as an example, you can do group lessons with one of several instructors. You must be at least 18 years old to participate in a class. The class length varies from an hour and a half to two or three hours. The more expensive classes cost 69 pounds ($85 USD) and the cheaper ones 20 pounds ($25 USD).
If you wanted, you could even get private lessons for yourself or a group. You can also rent canoes and paddle boards through Active360 so you don’t have to buy your own.
The Benefits of SUP Yoga
You joined a SUP yoga class or two and had a lot of fun, but you also fell off your paddle board and into the water far too much for your liking. Sometimes it felt like you spent more time bobbing in the waves than on your board.
As we said before, this is totally normal, especially for your first few SUP yoga sessions. The more you stick with it, the easier it will become. To further incentivize you, here are some of the top benefits of SUP yoga.
You Work Your Entire Body
If you do just a handful of the poses we talked about earlier in this guide while on your SUP board, then you’re going to get a full-body workout. There’s no need to hit the gym and do strenuous weightlifting when you can enjoy a nice yoga session on the water.
It’s a New Challenge
Do you feel like your life has slipped into a predictable daily routine? Then you should spice things up by trying something new. SUP yoga could be that new activity. The challenge it poses will provide fascination, drive, and excitement in your life. Even once you adjust to the routine, you can keep adding new poses to your repertoire that keep SUP yoga fresh and novel.
You Get to Spend Time Outdoors
Don’t we all wish we had more time to enjoy the great outdoors? It’s just with so much going on in our day-to-day lives, who really has time? Now, instead of being confined to the indoors yet again at the gym, you can finally do what you said and get outside with SUP yoga. The backdrop of serene water and quiet trees will put you in that focused, concentrated mindset a yogi needs.
Yoga isn’t like other exercises where you’re constantly counting reps and thinking about pushing your body to the limit. Well, you can push your body to the limit through yoga, but in other ways. Once you achieve a pose, it’s all about holding it, but the time in between is yours alone.
You learn to close yourself off to distracting thoughts of unread emails or unplanned dinners and just focus on what you’re doing right now. That kind of mindfulness can really come in handy in other areas of your life as well.
The Opportunity for New Friendships
If you do join a class like we suggested in the last section, then you could meet up with fellow SUP yoga enthusiasts just like you. Maybe they’re beginners, too, which can really take the edge off learning and mastering this new hobby of yours. You’ll have pals who can give you pointers and share their own techniques for success as they learn them.
This is part of what makes paddle boarding so appealing to many people.
Tips for a Great SUP Yoga Session
Speaking of pointers and techniques for success, we want to wrap up this guide by sharing some of our favorite tips for SUP yoga beginners. After all, you want to have a blast on the water but pull off some cool moves as you do so, right?
Pay Attention to Your Breathing
Do you ever end up holding your breath in tense moments? Don’t be surprised if you wind up doing the same during SUP yoga without even realizing it. Yoga is all about mindfulness and focused breathing, so make sure you control yours as you pose and stretch. Eventually, your breathing will resume to a normal rate, but you have to get over your anxieties with SUP yoga first. That will take time, practice, and experience.
Expect to Fall
Even the most masterful yogis tip into the water sometimes, so you’re going to as well. Maybe even a lot of times, as we said. That’s okay. What’s important is that you can climb right back onto your board and continue like nothing ever happened. That tenacity will take you far in the world of SUP yoga.
Don’t Bring Your Phone
Even in a seemingly waterproof case, you don’t want to chance your phone plunking into the lake or ocean. For one, you might never see it again. Also, even if you do, it’s probably going to be broken.
Besides, if you have your phone in your pocket, you’ll unintentionally stress about it the whole time. That will prevent you from getting into the right mindset to truly enjoy SUP yoga.
Don’t Lift Your Feet for Long
When you have a single foot up and you’re on a SUP board and you’re trying to balance yourself like that, you increase your chances of slipping and falling into the water. It’s better to stick to poses where you can keep both feet on the paddle board.
Bring Some Food
No, you can’t eat your snack on your paddle board, but it’s something to look forward to when you get back to dry land. Plus, it’s important to maintain your hydration and your hunger levels before and after exercising, so please don’t skip the fuel.
Don’t Practice in Crowded Areas
The pressure becomes much more immense when you feel like everyone is watching you, such as in crowded space. That’s enough to make even seasoned yogis nervous, let alone you, a beginner. Go somewhere a little more private whenever you can.
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How many calories can you burn doing SUP yoga?
Here’s another awesome perk of SUP yoga that we didn’t mention before. If you spend up to 60 minutes on your board and you really break a sweat, you can torch 416 to 540 calories. That’s quite significant! Learn more about paddle boarding as a workout. Also, check out paddle boarding versus running as exercises.
Should you use an inflatable paddle board for SUP yoga?
The convenience of an inflatable paddle board makes it a great option for SUP yoga. You do want to make sure that you’ve fully inflated the board. Otherwise, it will be mushy and unstable in the middle. That’s the last thing you want when doing yoga.
Don’t overinflate the board too much, either, as that puts it at risk of exploding beneath your feet. I wrote a great guide to filling inflatable paddle boards, so go check it out!
Now that you’ve read all that, lie back, relax, clear your mind and breathe. Do this for 3 minutes. Afterwards, scroll back up and order one of those nice stable paddle boards or sign up for a class. Yoga is a great way to build balance, strength and patience all at the same time. It’s a gradual process that never ends. You can practice it for years. Unlike paddle board racing, you aren’t interested in where you finish. It’s about the journey.
Get out there, stay safe and breathe.