|Image via Flickr User Neal bepko|
1. Find the center of your board. Most boards have a handle in the very middle of the board to make it easier to lift and carry to and from the water, but the handle is also a great marker that tells you where to stand so you'll be more stable as you paddle. That means it's also where you'll want to center yourself for most yoga poses. For standing poses, like Warrior I and II, plant your feet firmly, and keep your legs actively engaged and isometrically pull them toward your midline (which should also be toward the center of the board). If you feel wobbly, start with a more narrow stance than you might if you were practicing on solid ground--you can always go wider as you get more comfortable.
2. Stay low. When I first tried yoga on an SUP board, I was so pleased with myself when I was able to lift up into Crow Pose with relative ease. It didn't take me long to figure out that poses practiced closer to the board (like Crow and Bow Pose) are much easier for balance than those standing poses that are considered "basic" in a yoga studio. To make Warriors more accessible, practice from a kneeling position, with the back knee down first. Then, slowly, carefully, mindfully (see tip #3) plant the back foot and straighten the back knee to stand up.
3. Take your time. You might be able to move quickly from pose to pose in a vinyasa class, but if you do that on an SUP board, you might find yourself swimming with the fish! Go slow. Find your sea legs. Move with mindfulness and care, especially as you transition from one pose to the next. You'll be more comfortable on the board in no time!
4. Be a beginner again. A lot of people take to the waters when they want to find a little extra challenge than they might find in a yoga studio. Fine. But here's an important thing to consider. While you might rock your poses on land, it's a totally different experience when you take it on an SUP board. Your balance may be feel off--WAY off! You might even begin to get frustrated that you aren't able to float right up into an advanced pose like you've seen others do in your Instagram feed. Resist the tendency to compare (or compete) and really enjoy the adventure of being a beginner again. Go back to your basics--feet grounded, muscles engaged, gaze focused--and be OK with feeling fully present and alive in poses that you sometimes check out in during your studio practice. That's a more advanced practice than Scorpion Pose, really.
5. Connect. Yoga is all about connection. So take this opportunity to take connection to a whole new level. It's yoga, so you obviously want to connect with your body, your breath, your intention, the present moment. But don't stop there. Connect with nature--whether you're in a place with dolphins swimming by (my favorite!) or just a calm, serene landscape. Connect with other SUPers, kayakers, fishers... wave at people partying on their pontoon boat even though they're totally disrupting your zen and the motor boat making waves that threaten to send you overboard. Because it's the ability to connect that makes this practice different from other fitness activities.
6. Be safe! This is a "duh," tip, but oh so important! Bring along a life vest. And Find an SUP Yoga teacher in your area. (If you're in the Charleston, SC area, look me up!) Rent a board that's long and wide--I like the Boga Yoga board.
Bonus Tip: Most importantly, have fun! You might fall off your board. It happens. It might even be funny to someone watching from a distance. So, what? When you fall, laugh at yourself, climb back up, and try again. Enjoy the process.