Getting started with paddleboard yoga


These days, it seems like there is an extreme version of every sport (extreme ironing, anyone?), and yoga is no exception. It’s not clear who thought of it first, but stand up paddleboard yoga (or SUP yoga) is becoming a much-loved activity for yogis and watersports enthusiasts alike. And we have all the answers to your burning questions about this new way to move, stay present, and have fun outside of a regular yoga studio setting.

What is paddleboard yoga?

A paddleboard is like an oversized surfboard. It’s used for paddling across the water. Paddleboard yoga is a combination of yoga and stand-up paddleboarding. “The board becomes your moving mat,” says Kristy Wright, SUP Yoga Vancouver owner and instructor. “Adding the element of water and often wind to the yoga practice offers the ability to find ease and strength in every pose.”

Who can participate, and where does it take place?

“Anyone who feels comfortable on a paddleboard and wants to explore a bit can do this,” says Gudrun Hardes, co-owner of WSUP Toronto. In general, calm water with a little bit of wind is the ideal spot to practice.

What are the benefits?

“Mentally, it’s the best thing ever,” says Gudrun. “The amazing feeling of being outside with the sun on your body and the beautiful rhythms of the lake are like no other feelings. We actually have to pull people back to shore, as nobody ever wants to come back.

Physically, students are building core strength and overall stability. “Paddling also offers strength-building of the shoulders and legs, and it has certainly been seen to eliminate lower back pain in many of my students,” adds Kristy.  

What can a student expect in their first class?

Many programs require students to take an introductory class prior to trying out yoga on the water. The goal is to get students used to being on the paddleboard before getting into yoga poses. “The class will begin with a beach intro to equipment and the area we will be paddling in, we then will warm up with a 10-to-15-minute paddle to get our body accustomed to the unstable surface and warm our muscles and joints,” Kristy adds.

How is stand-up paddleboard yoga different from regular yoga?

“All poses can be achieved on the board, of course, with practice!” says Kristy. For students feeling timid on the board, Kristy says keeping a low centre of gravity on the board is a great way to start, and they can work their way up from there. But everything else about a regular yoga practice, breath work, or a traditional vinyasa flow, for example, can be expected in a SUP yoga class right down to the final resting post of savasana. “If there is a current, I just keep my eye on the group in savasana so they don’t drift,” Gudrun adds.

Classes range from $25 to $95 depending on the length and what the instructor is covering. Equipment is included in the price of the class.

Kristy Wright is the owner and instructor at SUP Yoga Vancouver, and Gudrun Hardes and Diana Turnbull are owners of WSUP Toronto.