What is SUP Yoga?

SUP yoga takes your practice out of the studio and onto the water on a stand up paddle board. In addition to yoga’s regular benefits, the subtly moving board offers extra strength and balance challenges. The outdoor environment relieves stress, provides a connection with nature, and makes a fun workout space.

Aside from straight up paddle boarding, SUP yoga is one of the most popular activities you can do on a stand up board. Whether you’re a paddler wanting to try a downward dog or a yogi excited to get on the water, it can, however, be challenging to know where to begin.

To answer the question “what is SUP yoga” I’ll give you a detailed look at this fantastic on-water pastime. We’ll take a look at all the benefits of paddle board yoga practice and answer common questions about this popular pastime. 

RELATED: Discover your best paddle board for yoga options in 2022.

What is Paddle Board Yoga?

Paddle board yoga is a type of yoga practice that combines SUP boarding and yoga. It is essentially yoga performed on a paddle board.

Unlike yoga on a mat, you practice SUP yoga on a board that will subtly yet constantly move. Even the best land yogi will discover an extra challenge as they hold their yoga poses. SUP yoga will test core muscles and balance in ways that you don’t find when practicing yoga on land.  You’ll also find that you need to keep your focus more as you move to avoid getting wet.

You’ll find that SUP yoga practice is a relaxing, grounding, and fun experience. Getting out amongst nature and feeling the natural water movement adds a peaceful element to your practice. Paddling to and from your site is also excellent exercise itself.

Who Started SUP Yoga?

SUP yoga was started in the United States in 2013, and one of the earliest practitioners was the yoga teacher Rachel Bråthén. The major public introduction occurred at the Wanderlust Festival in Hawaii. 

Yoga fans were enthralled by the outdoor experience and extra challenges in making their poses on the water. SUP yoga rapidly grew in popularity and is now practiced around the world anywhere there is calm water.

What Are the Main Differences Between Yoga on Land and SUP Yoga?

The main difference between yoga on land and SUP yoga is that the board is constantly moving. 

The SUP subtly rises and falls beneath you as it floats, and wind and small waves move it. Your muscles will need to constantly adjust as you hold your paddle board yoga poses to maintain your balance.

SUP board yoga engages your core muscles even more, to avoid falling into the water. Your focus will also need to stay on point. If you allow your mind to wander while holding a tricky pose, you’ll almost certainly end up wet.

Many people find that being in touch with nature creates a more mindful and spiritual experience. Being exposed to the breeze, natural noises, and smells can be highly relaxing. 

The limited space, along with the board’s movement, means that SUP yoga workouts have a smaller range of poses than those on your studio yoga mat. You’ll find that you need to build up slowly even if you’re pretty experienced, as you’ll likely find each stage a bit trickier to hold and flow through.

What are the Benefits of Practicing Yoga on a Paddle Board?

When you practice SUP yoga there are a wide range of benefits. While land yoga shares some of these, the benefits of sup yoga are even more numerous because of the addition of balancing on the water. If you practice yoga regularly, but then switch to SUP yoga – you’ll probably notice the difference in your yoga workout intensity right away. 

1. SUP Yoga Gives You a Full Body Workout

By combining paddle boarding with yoga, your body gets a highly effective workout. Paddling out to your yoga site and back will exercise your core, legs, shoulders, arms, and back. Your yoga session will further stretch and strengthen your whole body.

2. SUP Yoga Challenges and Improves Balance, Flexibility, and Strength

You’ll find that your balance is tested as a beginner by even the most straightforward of moves on a SUP. 

Yoga poses enhance your flexibility. On the SUP, they will boost the strength of ligaments and flexor muscles as you constantly adjust to keep your balance.

3. SUP Yoga Encourages Focus and Mindfulness

The movement of the SUP means that you need to maintain intense focus at all times. This mindful presence helps you stay grounded and can offer continuing benefits when you’re away from the paddle board.

4. Yoga on a SUP Reduces Stress and Helps Create a Calm Body and Mind 

SUP yoga is highly effective at relieving stress. The relaxing movements of floating on the water combine with yogas controlled movements. You’ll find that even a simple session will leave you with a calm body, a relaxed mind, and an overall feeling of serenity

5. Paddle Board Yoga Improves Your Breathing Control

SUP yoga is all about slow movements and holding poses for extended periods. Slow and controlled breathing techniques maintain your focus and make smooth transitions.

6. SUP Yoga Can Improve Blood Circulation

Gaining greater control over your breathing improves your blood circulation. Improved circulation reduces feelings of stress and also boosts cognitive function and wellbeing.

7. SUP Yoga Gets You Out Amongst Nature 

Even the most well-equipped yoga studios can’t compete with the beauty of being outdoors. Studies have even shown that just looking at the ocean can improve mental wellbeing. Yoga on a SUP puts you in direct contact with nature and provides fresh air and stunning views.

8. Paddle Board Yoga is a Refreshing Way to Enjoy Yoga in the Summer

Rather than spending the warmer months inside a studio, SUP yoga allows you to enjoy your practice outdoors. You can even readily take a swim if you get too hot.

9. Stand Up Paddle Board Yoga is Fun and Free

SUP yoga is a fun and challenging pastime. Yoga on land can be enjoyable, but you can’t beat the fun you’ll have as you try to master poses on water.

Once you have your board, it doesn’t cost anything to go onto the water. No one is charging you by the hour for studio space or membership. You’ll also find an enjoyable amount of freedom in making your own rules about what poses you do and for how long. If you want to relax in a child’s pose or take an extra-long Savasana, you can.

10. SUP Yoga Makes Yoga a New Challenge

If you’re already a master of yoga on land, you’ll find a whole new challenge when you take it on the water. You’ll probably need to rework familiar poses to make them with the board’s movements.

The new environment, as well as the board, makes SUP yoga a completely new experience. So if your practice has hit a bit of a rut, getting onto a board could make a huge difference.

11. SUP Yoga Is Extremely Rewarding

Because it’s challenging, SUP yoga is also hugely rewarding. As well as improvements to your strength, balance, and focus you’ll find it highly satisfying to master a tricky move.

Whenever we take on something new, it can be daunting at first. However, rest assured that you’ll feel fantastic the first time you complete a session, having stayed completely dry.

What Should You Wear for SUP Yoga?

You’ll want to wear stretchy or loose-fitting clothes to allow you to make your poses in comfort. As you might end up in the water, it would also be good if clothing is water-resistant.

In the summer, swimwear might be ideal, but it will usually be a bit cooler once you’re on the water, so wear clothes or take layers that will keep you warm enough. You’ll also want to consider the effects of the sun, so pack sunglasses, wear plenty of sunscreen, and bring a hat for when you’re paddling.

SUP Yoga Clothing for Women

In warm weather, boardshorts with a rashguard will be perfect. Take a light hoody along in a dry bag in case the weather cools off. When it’s cooler, wear moisture-wicking men’s yoga clothing and take some layers so you can adjust if the temperature changes.

SUP Yoga Clothing for Men

In warm weather, boardshorts with a rashguard will be perfect. Take a light hoody along in a dry bag in case the weather cools off. When it’s cooler, wear moisture-wicking men’s yoga clothing and take some layers so you can adjust if the temperature changes.

Read our review of the Glide Lotus yoga paddle board.

What Are the Best SUP Yoga Poses for Beginners To Try?

The best poses for beginners are the ones that are simple and require little movement. 

Child’s Pose – The comfortable neutral pose stretches your shoulders, hips, thighs, and ankles while relaxing your back and neck. Allows you to focus on your breathing and feel the movement of the board.

Downward Facing Dog – Probably the most famous yoga pose. Strengthens your arms, legs, shoulders, and core as you breathe and balance.

Upward Facing Dog – The reverse pose. Excellent for opening your back and strengthening your arms, wrists, and abs.

Warrior 1 and 2 – Standing poses that will challenge your balance and strengthen your abs, legs, hips, and thighs.

Chair Pose – A tough standing balance pose that builds your quads.

Boat Pose – Ideal for practicing on the water. You’ll have to concentrate on maintaining balance as you test your core and thighs.

Savasana – The relaxing “corpse pose” made at the end of your workout. Just lie, breathe and feel the water beneath.

Can You Take SUP Yoga Classes?

Yes, you can take a SUP yoga class. For many people, these are the ideal way to start off and build yoga skills. As well as introducing you to some SUP yoga poses, your yoga instructor will show you how to find the ideal local spot to practice.

A SUP yoga class will let you meet other people in your area who share the interest, all while reaping the benefits of SUP yoga. If you don’t have a buddy to go paddling with, SUP yoga classes can be the ideal way to find one.

What Should You Look for in a Paddle Board for Yoga?

There’s a lot to consider when choosing your board for yoga. For a detailed look, you can check out our guide that takes you through the seven best yoga paddle boards.

In the main, try to look for paddle boards with plenty of open space for you to workout on, which probably means getting one that is 33” or wider. It’s also essential to have a nice and stable board, and in general, the wider the board, the more stable it will be.

You’ll want a large and comfortable deck pad so you’re not getting fatigued too quickly as you practice your poses. Make sure that the pad has decent grip when wet, so you’re not slipping around. It’s also helpful to have some secure storage, so you don’t need to worry about losing your gear. 

Do You Need Any Additional SUP Equipment for Yoga?

Yes, you will need a few extra items that might not come with the standard paddle board kit. These could be:

  • Anchor – You don’t want to be drifting off while you practice, so an anchor and rope are essential for SUP yoga.
  • Personal Flotation Device (PFD) – In some locations, a PFD is required by law when you’re on your board. Even if your local rules don’t mandate them, a compact waist-mounted PFD is an excellent idea. Remember – safety first!
  • Dry Bag – Vital for keeping clothing and gear dry while you workout. 
  • Water Bottle – Make sure you take plenty of water with you so you can stay hydrated. SUP yoga can be thirsty work.
  • Phone Bag – Keep your phone safe by putting it in a waterproof floating case.
  • Whistle – If you do run into problems on the water, having a way of attracting attention is really important.

​​Conclusion

Practicing yoga on a SUP is a fantastic way to enhance your yoga challenge or add a new skill to your paddle boarding. 

SUP yoga can give you a fantastic workout, improve your balance and offer stress-releasing outdoor pleasure. Unlike many pursuits, SUP yoga is a water sport that you can make entirely personal. After class or two, you’ll be ready to enjoy energizing downward-facing dogs and relaxing savasanas. 

Make sure that you check out our guide to the best yoga paddle boards.