Downward Facing Dog Paddle

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Eric HermanThe ancient Hindu art of yoga has a new twist that’s catching on with fitness experts, celebrities and others who want to explore new ways of staying in shape while having fun. It’s called stand-up paddleboard yoga. That’s right, it’s yoga on the water using stand-up paddleboards, and as trendy or even silly as it might initially seem, it’s an activity loaded with physical and psychological benefits. 

The practice simply involves doing yoga exercises while floating on a paddleboard. The idea is that the need to balance on a floating board adds a level of difficulty that further strengthens your core muscles and improves balance and coordination. Added to that, say advocates of this new style of exercise, it’s an opportunity to find mental, physical and spiritual balance in nature — a perfect marriage of forces that works perfectly with the fundamental ideas behind yoga, tranquility, enlightenment and fitness.

“It takes an intense amount of strength and balance because the water is moving beneath you,” explains Dashama, yoga teacher. “It’s a wonderful way to connect with nature while trying something fun and new.”

Indeed, the exercise does bring together two popular physical activities, yoga, which is thousands of years old, and stand-up paddle boarding (SUP for short), a sport that has caught on in a huge way in just the past few years almost anywhere you find large bodies of water, from the Florida Keys to the San Juan Islands to Hawaii. Here where I live on the Monterey Bay, SUP has become extremely popular as a safe and easy way to cruise through kelp beds and come face-to-face with marine life.

(At this writing I’ve personally yet to try stand-up paddle boarding, but plan on doing so this summer. I do take yoga classes and am challenged by many of the positions on solid ground, so it may be a while before I give it a try while balancing on a floating board. Frankly, that’s a vision that seems more destined to engender laughter than anything else. Then again, laughter is healthy too, so yoga on the water thusly seems a win-win proposition, middle-aged bruised ego notwithstanding.) 

Combining the sport with yoga offers a double dose of core exercise that is sure to tone muscles and lift spirits. It does require a SUP board, which runs from about $400 and up, and you do need to be near a body of relatively calm water. There’s certainly no reason you couldn’t do it in a pool and it remains to be seen if this new hybrid activity will catch on as a mainstream form of aquatic exercise.

If that seems a reach, consider that not all that long ago, people thought water walking was silly, but as it turned out, that too is an amazing form of exercise and has grown to the point where there are water walking competitions. And let’s not forget the dismissive way many people have felt about synchronized swimming, which in actuality stands one of the most demanding and grueling of all sports. 

Of course, yoga doesn’t lend itself to contests, but it certainly is a massively popular form of exercise and almost certainly doing yoga on a floating board will turn out to be an exercise with wonderful benefits.

You can check it out in several places on the Internet. I enjoyed watching Dashama on YouTube, www.youtube.com/watch?v=x_VvWjHPYiU, and can easily see that it would be both difficult and ultimately fun. Of course, few of us will look as graceful as she does, but neither yoga nor stand-up paddle boarding are about vanity but instead all about increasing quality of life through fitness and exploration.

That’s why I’m thinking that this might just catch on and so now when we look out over the water, we might just see a floating “prone cobra” from time to time.  

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