Jessica Bellofatto sup yoga
Fitness

Standup Paddle Yoga 101 – A beginner’s sequence to start your practice

Liquid bliss. Float your yoga. Mermaid yogis.

Standup paddle yoga had become quite a movement throughout the country. About eight years ago when I took my yoga practice onto the water, it was seen as something odd and people thought I was a little crazy. Today, try googling Stand Up Paddle Yoga (aka ‘Sup Yoga’) and thousands of pictures pop up, along with teacher trainings, retreats, sup yoga-specific clothing, boards, paddles and more.

For me, Sup Yoga goes far beyond the trend. It is where I go to find peace, where I go to connect to nature, where I go to be alone and truly, deeply quiet. It is also where I go to laugh at myself! It is where I like to challenge my yoga practice of over 23 years and where I learn more about myself, my body, my limitations or lack thereof.

Sup Yoga can look intimidating  (hello, Instagram Yogis and Sup Yogis!!).  As a yoga teacher and sup yoga pioneer, I have heard time and again, “ I can’t even do yoga on land, why would I do it on a paddleboard?”

My response to that is that you can, and you should! I often recall the Dr. Seuss quote:

“If you never have you should…these things are fun and fun is good’”

Now there’s a mantra to live by if I ever heard one!

Jessica Bellofatto sup yoga side angle

Jessica Bellofatto shows how to use the board, proper alignment and deep muscular engagement to bring steadiness to yoga on the water.  Photo by:  Diana Lee

Sup Yoga:  Let’s Begin

“It is where I go to find peace, where I go to connect to nature, where I go to be alone and truly, deeply quiet.”

Basic Beginner Sequence:

Cat/ Cow:  Start on hands and knees. Use the handle of the board as a reference point for the middle. Place your hands in front and the knees behind the handle so that your belly/ pelvis is over the handle. On an inhalation, tuck the toes under, move the spine into a backbend, spreading the collarbones as you move the sitting bones back and apart and looking UP (spine is concave). As you exhale, point the feet, tuck the tailbone, round the back, draw the chin to the chest and look into the navel (spine is totally rounded). Continue like this, synchronizing breath and movement for 5-10 rounds, warming up your entire spine and starting to familiarize yourself with yoga on the board!

Jessica Bellofatto sup yoga cat cow

Cat Cow pose is a great way to lubricate the spine and warm up for your Sup Yoga practice.  Photo:  Sunny Khalsa

Steady and Focused

Crescent Moon:  From that same table top position on all fours, slide your right foot forward between your hands and your left knee back so you are in a low lunge position with your back knee on the board. Keep your back toes tucked under for more stability. To increase stability, widen your stance slightly by moving your right foot slightly to the right of center of your board and widening your left leg to the left of center. Engage your legs by pulling the legs isometrically towards each other. Try looking front of your board and MAYBE taking your hands off the board and onto your front knee. Depending on the conditions, and your skill level, this may be easy or very challenging!  You may even extend your arms up to the sky and shift your gaze to look up.

Be mindful that when practicing sup yoga, you need to move and transition much more slowly in the beginning than you might on land. Also, keeping your breathing steady and using your eyes to focus is extremely helpful! Stay anywhere from 5 breaths to 30 seconds or more with a slow steady breath.

Jessica Bellofatto SUP Yoga crescent lunge on BOGA

Lifting your gaze away from the horizon can be tricky. Start by looking straight ahead & then add on.  Photo:  Sunny Khalsa

Mindfulness

Downward Dog Split:  Return from Crescent Lunge to a table top position and then press your hips up and back to Downward Facing Dog, lifting your knees off the board and keeping your hips high in the air. Release your head between your straight arms.  Lift and spread the buttocks high in space. If the legs are flexible enough, stretch your legs straight. Hugging to the midline with your legs, shift the weight to one foot and lift the other leg SLOWLY into the air into a three legged dog pose. Breathe slowly and smoothly through the nose for about five breaths and then put that leg down and try the other side!

Jessica Bellofatto sup yoga down dog split BOGA

Placing equal weight on both hands and keeping the core steady gives a yogi more ability to lift and open!  Photo:  Diana Lee Photo

Breathe Slow and Steady

Seated Side Stretch:  Sit down on the board facing sideways. Bend the right leg and bring that heel into the right inner thigh. Let the knee fall open. Keep the left leg straight. Start by turning your belly, ribs, and chest towards your bent (right) leg. Next,  lay your body down on the inside of the straight (left) leg, stretching your right arm over your head towards your left foot. Feel the big stretch along the whole right side of your body, and probably through the right inner thigh as well. If you are flexible, you may be able to reach for your left foot with your right hand. Breathe slow and steady for up to one minute on each side.

Jessica Bellofatto sup yoga BOGA

Pavritta Janu Sirsasana or seated side bend is a great way to see the world from a new perspective!  Photo: Diana Lee Photo

Surrendering to the moment

Relaxation:  Lay on the board with either bent or straight legs. Release your arms along side your body with your palms facing the sky.  Or better yet, release the backs of your hands into the
water and feel that liquid bliss as you allow the movement of the water to lull you and rock your body into a deep state of relaxation.

I hope you enjoy ‘floating’ your Yoga as much as I do. Let me know how it goes!

— By, Jessica Bellofatto

 

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Standup Paddle Yoga 101 – A beginner’s sequence to start your practice
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