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March 24, 2020 14 min read

What Is SUP Yoga?

Intimidated by paddle board yoga? Don’t be. There’s no doubt you’ve seen the stylish pictures of SUP yogis on your Insta feed, rocking bright-colored leggings while practicing yoga on some of the most beautiful waters in the world. You have to admit, it looks like a lotof fun - but it might also look difficult to an untrained eye. Here’s the big secret: it's not nearly as hard as it looks! SUP yoga is a skill that almost anyone can learn, and it’s a wonderful way to reconnect with your body andsoul.

In this article, we’ll demystify SUP yoga step by step. We’ll explain:

  • Everything you need to know about SUP yoga: starting with the basics.
  • Why you should try SUP Yoga: yogis have taken to the water to enhance their mindfulness, to challenge their yoga skills, and much more!
  • SUP Yoga Clothing: what to wear on the water
  • The perfect board for Yoga: what type of stand up paddleboard to use.
  • Gearing Up: how to keep your board suitably outfitted and anchored.
  • Beginner SUP Yoga Poses
  • Sample SUP Yoga Routine you can print, laminate and take out with you on the water!

If you already like practicing yoga on land, you’ll take to SUP yoga quickly with some patience and a few simple adjustments. But even if you’ve never tried yoga before, you’re bound to have a great time trying out SUP yoga. Just get to know the poses in this article so you have a few basics under your belt, and bring an open mind. You’ll adjust to floating downward dog before you know it!

Whether you’re looking to dive deeper into a mindfulness practice, burn some calories, or get more in touch with nature, SUP yoga has benefits that just about everyone can enjoy. So let’s do some warm-up stretches, dip our toes in, and get started.

Reasons To Try SUP Yoga

Paddleboard yoga has so many joys to offer. Here are just a few reasons to get started.

  1. Become more mindful: because you’re balancing on a totally different surface than you’re used to in your home yoga studio, you’ll need to be more present when practicing yoga on a SUP. Yoga focuses your breath and is naturally uplifting, so it’s a recipe for mindfulness.
  2. Train your muscles in a new way: in addition to the usual muscles worked by yoga, SUP yoga exercises even more muscles, especially your core, for a challenging, full-body workout.
  3. Challenge your yoga skillset: SUP yoga is a challenging and new way to experience your tried-and-true yoga routine.. You’ll especially notice that you’re strongly utilizing your core and your legs as you challenge yourself to stay balanced on the water. You’ll be experiencing new scents and sounds all around you that are a far cry from the usual sensory experience of a yoga studio on land.
  4. Renew your passion for yoga: practicing yoga on the water will strengthen your love for it and provide a whole new depth to your repertoire of moves and capabilities. There are few things more invigorating than proving to yourself that you can conquer a new challenge, and letting go of fears along the way. Oh, and of course, paddle board yoga is loads of fun!

Health Benefits Of SUP Yoga

Science is one our side here: there are plenty of research-backed benefits of making SUP yoga part of your routine.

  1. The outdoors Are good For you: Research has repeatedly shown that time spent in nature can improve your mood and reduce stress. In fact, even the act of regularly looking out at an ocean view can improve mental health, let alone actually spending time on the water.
  2. Yoga breathing Is meditative: yoga is a meditative practice for nearly all practitioners, and meditation is a well-known stress reliever. Yogic breathing also has many health benefits, and is a great way to center yourself in times of stress.
  3. SUP yoga makes you stronger And more flexible: SUP yoga is an invigorating full-body SUP workout, engaging numerous muscles from your arms, shoulders, and core down to your legs. Yoga also improves balance and flexibility, so you’ll stand taller and move more gracefully with regular practice.
  4. Your brain loves novelty: Switching your yoga routine from land to water sends your mind for a loop - in a good way. When our routines change and we experience new things, our cognition improves and our mind becomes more adaptable.

Land Yoga vs. SUP Yoga

Land Yoga vs SUP Yoga

Traditional yoga (on land) and SUP yoga aren’t as different as you’d think, but it does take some adjusting when you first give it a try.

  1. Make Adjustments to your yoga flow: when you engage in SUP yoga, you’ll likely be incorporating elements of both hatha and vinyasa styles into your routine. Hatha yoga is a slower and gentler approach, while vinyasa yoga is about ongoing movement between poses. Depending on your typical land yoga habits, this might take some adapting.
  2. Make sure your balance is on-point: you’ll need more balance and greater focus for SUP yoga, especially when you’re first getting started. You’ll be floating in tandem with the wind, waves, and a smaller space for your feet. Your senses will be heightened and invigorated.
  3. Enjoy the natural surroundings: the soothing sights, sounds, and smells of the open water and great outdoors will fill your soul with peace and contentment. It’s simply not something you can experience within the confines of a yoga studio. This will especially enhance the spiritual benefits of your yoga practice.
  4. SUP yoga will feel harder at first: give yourself time to adapt to this new form of exercise. Even the most experienced yogis will need to make adjustments and give themselves patience when they first learn yoga SUP. Luckily, you don’t need to be a pro to catch onto this - far from it! You’ll have the basics down with consistent practice and effort.

How to Outfit Your Paddle Board for Yoga

SUP Yoga Gear

Paddle boards for yoga have special gear needs, and they’ll need to be tethered or anchored as you practice. Before heading to that first SUP yoga class, make sure your board is fully outfitted and ready to go. Although nearly any SUP can be used for yoga, look for a wide, stable board with an extra large, soft traction pad. Learn more about choosing a paddle board.

Anchors and Tethers

A securely tethered board keeps you stable and in place during your SUP yoga session. You don’t need to be tethered, but some people find it distracting to be drifting during their routine. There are several ways to tether your board, which we’ll cover shortly.

Paddle

Any adjustable SUP paddle will do great for SUP yoga - just make sure you have a place to store your paddle when you’re moving through your poses. Some boards, like the 10'6 Komodo, have special paddle holders for this exact purpose. Otherwise, you can store your paddle in your board’s bungees, or wrap your leash around the paddle in order for it to float behind you.

Personal Flotation Device

A personal flotation device (PFD) is so important in case of an emergency. We suggest getting a compact PFD to wear around your waist.

Emergency Whistle

Emergency whistles can save the day in a situation where you need to call for help. Keep yours close at hand - many paddlers like to keep them attached to their PFD.

Dry Bag

dry bag can keep your phone and an extra set of clothes secure and dry. Lots of yogis like to dress in layers, and a dry bag is perfect for stashing any layers you take off in the middle of yoga class.

Bungees and Straps

Bring extra bungees or straps to your board for an extra option to hold your paddle, a water bottle, or any other gear you’d like to keep close by but out of your hands.

Tethering Your Board

Keep your SUP secure during yoga class with an anchor, tether line, or floating dock. Although not necessary, your board should be tethered to something so you don’t float away in the middle of your practice. A great option is a Paddle Board/Kayak Anchor, which is used to keep your SUP in place when you're far away from any tie-up points. Other SUP yogis like to attach their boards to a tether line using d-ring clips, a SUP leash, bungees, or a strap. Just make sure whatever you use is strong and secure!

Paddle board anchor for tethering your SUP

Make sure you also have a paddle board leash so you don’t get separated from the board if you fall into the water while on the board. You can also use your leash to tie up your paddle while practicing yoga.

Tips & Tricks

With these quick tips, you’ll feel like a SUP Yoga pro quicker than you can say “savasana”.

  • Avoid wind and boat traffic: when you’re first learning, choose sheltered stretches of water away from waves created by large boats. Go out on days with low winds until you’re more experienced.
  • Take your time: slowly work your way up to the yoga poses you’ve mastered on land, keeping in mind that they might feel very different when you first try them on the water. If you plan to do SUP yoga on the ocean, first practice on a flatwater location like a lake.
  • Find a quiet and peaceful space: let’s be real: SUP yoga is mesmerizing to watch. It’s simultaneously soothing and aspirational, so it’s no surprise that people like to observe SUP yogis in action. If this makes you feel stressed out, especially when you’re first learning, try to find a more secluded spot further from the beach.
  • The calmest, least windy time of day is the early morning: not only are morning SUP sessions are favorite and a great way to start the day, the wind is at it's calmest in the early mornings.
  • Keep two points of contact on your SUP: start with poses that involve two points of contact on the board at all times. Avoid poses that involve keeping just one limb on the board. (We’re looking at you, tree pose.)
  • Widen your stance: keep your feet at a wide stance on your board. Aim for a hip-width distance, even in poses where you’d keep your feet closer together if you were on land. This will give you a more stable base. You can narrow your stance as you improve your paddleboard yoga technique.
  • Poses with lunges are best: opt for lunging poses like Warrior I and Warrior II as you get the hang of balancing on your board.
  • Let setbacks be part of the learning process: there’s a reason we call our yoga rituals “practice.” Every day that we show up to the mat (or, in this case, board) is a little bit different, and there is no such thing as getting it perfect. Remember this as your body gets used to paddle board yoga. If you struggle to balance at first, take it as an opportunity to deepen your experience, breathe through it, and keep trying.
  • Listen To Your Body: there may be certain yoga poses that you’ve mastered on land, but that are painful when you try them on your SUP. If this is the case, stopany time you feel pain. Your body is telling you something important, so listen!
  • Set the intention for your practice: get more in touch with the spiritual and mindfulness benefits of practicing yoga by setting intentions. Trust us, you’ll love your practice that much more.

Beginner SUP Yoga Poses To Try

Beginner SUP Yoga Poses to Try

Take note of the most common SUP yoga poses before hitting the water so you have a framework. First things first: child’s pose, or balasana, is an important neutral pose when practicing yoga. It is your grounding point, and the pose you will start most classes from. If at any time during class you feel overwhelmed, in pain, or just in need of a rest, feel free to return to child’s pose and rest there for as long as you need to.

Downward Dog Yoga Pose

Downward Dog (Adho Mukha Shvanasana)

One of the most common yoga poses, downward dog, calms your body while strengthening your arms, legs, and shoulders.

Warrior 1 Yoga Pose

Warrior I (Virabhadrasana I)

This standing pose helps you feel strong, focused, and powerful. It strengthens your legs, back, and your abs.

Warrior 2 Yoga Pose

Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II)

Warrior II is a wonderful hip and inner thigh strengthener. It benefits both your upper and lower body.

Cobra Yoga Pose

Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)

Cobra pose will stretch your shoulders and chest, build flexibility in your back, and lift your mood.

Triangle Pose Yoga

Revolved Triangle Pose (Parivrtta Trikonasana)

Revolved triangle is a pose to try after you have a bit of SUP yoga experience under your belt. It’s great for improving flexibility, balance, and hip strength.

Boat Yoga Pose

Boat Pose (Navasana)

This pose involves a seated position, with the legs extending upward at an angle. It’s excellent for balance and hip strength.

Mountain Yoga Pose

Mountain Pose (Tadasana)

This exuberant pose is powerful for your legs and arms.

Pigeon Yoga Pose

Pigeon Pose (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana)

Pigeon pose is an incredible hip opener and provides a sense of calm. Take great care that you don’t feel any pain or pressure on your knees during this pose, and if it feels uncomfortable stop and ask a yoga instructor for help.

Camel Pose (Ustrasana)

Ease gently into camel pose to strengthen your backbend and stretch the front of your body. This pose is known to induce joy!

Chair Pose (Utkatasana)

Most yogis dread chair pose (hello, burning thighs), but you’ll certainly feel good when it’s over! It’s great for strengthening your quads.

Corpse Pose (Shavasana)

This relaxing, healing pose is usually done as the very last move in a yoga class. You’ll feel calm throughout your body and may experience a meditative effect. Some people consider savasana their favorite part of yoga class, and once you try it, you’ll see why.

Best Paddle Boards For SUP Yoga

Most All Around stand up paddle boards can be used for SUP yoga. That said, there are some paddle board features will make SUP yoga easier, so put them on your radar before choosing a board.

How to Choose the Perfect Yoga Paddle Board

  1. We Recommend Inflatables for Yoga: while you can do SUP yoga on a hard/epoxy SUP, an inflatable board (iSUP) provides a much better experience. iSUPs float higher above the water than hard SUPs, which makes it easier to move through your flow. They provide more stability during your yoga flow, are more durable, and are also super portable. iSUPs can be deflated and thrown into your trunk after your session!
  2. Choose a board with a wide, stable deck: make sure your board is at least 31” wide, so you’ll have plenty of room to stretch and commit to your yoga poses. If you’ll be performing SUP yoga often, go with a board that’s at least 33” wide - the extra stability will come in handy and even though you’ll lose a little bit of speed.
  3. Choose an iSUP at least 6” thick you need an iSUP with a thickness of at least 6” to ensure it’s stable enough to support your practice. A thinner board will not properly support your weight and will not be stable enough for most yoga poses.
  4. Extra long, comfortable traction pad: choose a board with a soft, comfy traction pad that has a bit of extra length. A long deck pad will provide the space, grip, and comfort to move through your yoga poses - similar to a yoga mat.
  5. A dedicated mount to store your paddle: your board needs a paddle holder or bungees so you’ll have a place to put your paddle during the yoga session. We really love boards that come with built in paddle holders, like the Komodo. They come in super handy during our yoga sessions. In a pinch, you can wrap your paddle with your leash and let it float behind you.

Take a look at our favorite yoga friendly paddle boards below.

GILI 10'6 Komodo Paddle Board

GILI 10'6 Komodo Yoga Paddle Board

Features:

  • 10'6 x 33” x 6"
  • Inflatable & Super Portable
  • Full-Length Traction Pad
  • Built-in paddle holder
  • Action Camera Mount
  • Removable Bungee System
  • Snap-In Fin & Removable Side Fins
  • Dual-Layer Fusion Technology

The 10'6 Komodo, our most versatile board, is wide enough (33") for yogis to practice freely. The paddle holder ensures your paddle won’t go rogue and float away during downward dog, and the full-length traction pad and removable bungee system is perfect for yoga. Capture your moves with the integrated action camera mount. This board is also great for those of you with dogs or like to bring an extra paddler on board. 

Shop the GILI 10'6 Komodo Paddle Board

GILI Meno Paddle Board

Shop the GILI Meno Inflatable Paddle Board

Features:

  • 10'6/11'6 x 35” 6"
  • 6” Thick
  • Inflatable & Super Portable
  • Soft, Comfortable Traction Pad
  • Carbon Rail for extra stability and rigidity
  • Action Camera Mount
  • Dual Bungee Systems
  • US Fin Box with 3 Fins, Removable Side Fins
  • Premium iSUP Bundle: Rolling Bag, Carbon Fiber Paddle, Dual Chamber Pump, Fin Kit
  • Dual-Layer Fusion Technology

The Meno series are our widest SUPs, and are the most stable! Great for SUP yoga and the whole family, the 10'6 and 11'6 Meno feature a carbon fiber rail for added rigidity. These boards inflate twice as quickly with the dual chamber pump, and feature a host of premium accessories. The rolling bag takes a load off your shoulders, and the 5-piece fin kit has you ready for any water condition and depth. 

Shop GILI Meno Inflatable Paddle Board

Gili Adventure Paddle Board

GILI Adventure Inflatable Paddle Board

Features:

  • 11'/12' x 32” x 6"
  • Inflatable, Portable
  • Smooth EVA Traction Pad
  • Snap-In Fin & Removable Side Fins
  • Dual Bungee System
  • Fast, Touring Shape
  • Dual Layer Fusion Technology

Designed for longer SUP journeys, the Adventure can do it all. If you want a board that can paddle long distance and you can also practice SUP Yoga on, grab the Adventure. With front and rear oversized bungees, you'll have room to store your paddle plus some extra gear. Now available in 11' or 12' options, the 11' option is best if you're going to use it for yoga.

Shop the GILI Adventure Paddle Board

Gili 10'6 AIR Paddle Board

Buy the GILI 10'6 AIR Inflatable Paddle Board

Features:

  • 10'6 x 31” x 6"
  • Oversize 3-point front bungee
  • Inflatable, Super Portable
  • Soft, Large Traction Pad
  • The most affordable board in our line-up
  • Snap-In Fin Box with Side Bites
  • Our lightest board at 18 lbs
  • Single-Layer Technology

The GILI AIR is the best inflatable paddle board we could make at an entry-level price. Super light, but wide and stable enough for yoga. We've included our staple extra-large, soft traction pads for a comfortable yoga surface, and you can store all your gear with the oversized front 3-point bungee. Looking for your first SUP - look no further!

Shop the GILI AIR Inflatable Paddle Board

What Should I Wear To SUP Yoga?

What you should wear for SUP Yoga

Paddle board yoga clothing isn’t too different from what you would wear paddle boarding for a typical day of SUP. It’s much like what you’d wear to any type of yoga class, with a bit of extra preparation for the sunshine and water. Opt for water-resistant clothes if you can. Remember that layers are your friend and make sure anything you wear can stay in place during upside-down poses like downward dog!

SUP Yoga Clothes For Men:

  • Yoga clothes: comfortable pants or shorts you can move in, and a moisture-wicking top.
  • Boardshorts: you can perform yoga in boardshots, but wear something underneath for those upside-down poses!
  • Rashguard: comfortable and also offers sun protection.
  • Sunscreen: don't forget your sunscreen at home, and reapply if you take a dip in the water.

SUP Yoga Clothes For Women:

  • Yoga clothes: water-resistant leggings, joggers, or yoga shorts paired with a moisture-wicking top.
  • Swimwear: on a warm day a bikini or other swimwear is perfect for your yoga practice.
  • Rashguard: throw a rash guard on top of your swimsuit for extra sun protection. Rashguards will also keep you warmer on chillier days.
  • Sunscreen: just like the men, sunscreen is vital for keeping your skin protected and healthy.

SUP Yoga Classes

Ready to meet like-minded SUP yogis? Time to try SUP yoga classes!

What To Expect In SUP Yoga Class

Most SUP hotspots in the US are home to at least one SUP yoga studio, if not more. You’ll usually be able to find regular classes that meet weekly or even several times a week. In most SUP yoga classes, you’ll begin with a warm-up. The class will head to a peaceful spot to “park” your boards for class. You’ll move through breathing, flowing, and popular poses, with your instructor providing any guidance you need. If it’s your first class, remember: you likely won’t be the only first-timer or beginner!

How To Find A SUP Yoga Class

Of course, the easiest method to find a SUP yoga class near you is simply tapping into online resourcesh. If you can’t turn up any results, ask your local SUP rental company. They’ll know the local SUP yoga scene and can recommend the best classes. You can also check Meetup.com or local Instagram hashtags. And of course, if you ever see someone practicing yoga on their SUP, ask them - they’ll probably be happy to help!

Remember: You Don’t NEED A Class To Practice

Classes are fun, but they’re not the only way to do SUP yoga. We recommend taking at least a few classes at some point to hone your technique and meet fellow SUP yogis. However, (and this is a big however), you absolutely don’t need to be part of a SUP yoga class to practice. Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself to learn the basics on your own and get out on the water any time you need a bit more calm in your life.

Summing Up

Whether you’re starting as a SUP fan, an avid land yogi, or both, SUP yoga is an incredibly enriching way to spend time on the water. You’ll breathe in deep amid the fresh outdoor air, you’ll work muscles you never even knew you had, and you’ll get to conquer a thrilling new challenge. It’s the perfect way to get outside on a Saturday morning or forget the stresses of a long day in the evening. So are you ready to get started? Namaste, yogis!

Sam Sandahl
Sam Sandahl

Sam has a deep love for anything on the water, especially SUP! Since joining GILI, she's become an expert on all things paddle boarding, and she loves sharing her knowledge and experience.


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