Find out What’s SUP with this new fitness trend

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Find out What’s SUP with this new fitness trend
Ready to paddle out and take on the world of SUP Yoga?

Follow Kiki through some asanas – aka poses – ranging in difficulty that you may see during your next class.

Photos by Max Jackson
Poses and descriptions by Kiki Baxter
Location: The Florida Keys
Kiki’s outfit: Onzie pants
Kiki’s board: Island Water Sports of South Florida

Find out What’s SUP with this new fitness trend
Bound Angle Pose (Baddha Konasana)

Set an intention for your practice and take a moment to honor the god/spirit/source/universe of your understanding. Then, connect with your breath by drawing your awareness to your inhale and exhale. This will help slow down your heart rate and calm nerves, if any.

Find out What’s SUP with this new fitness trend
Seated Single-Leg Hamstring Stretch

Stretch your hamstrings during your warm up or your cool down. Sit with a tall spine and extend one leg straight while bending the opposite leg at the knee so that your foot touches your inner thigh. Sit up taller and hinge forward. Use the sides of the board to deepen the stretch. Switch sides.

Find out What’s SUP with this new fitness trend
Balancing Tabletop

Start in on all fours – a tabletop position – with your wrists planted directly under your shoulders and your knees under your hips (about two fists apart). Draw your belly button to your spine and engage your core. Reach your right leg back behind you while flexing your foot and drawing your hip towards the board. Reach your left arm in front of you (like you’re going to shake someone’s hand). Balance and breathe. Switch sides.

Find out What’s SUP with this new fitness trend
Upward Facing Dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana)

Starting on your belly, press into your hands and tops of your feet. Lift your thighs from the board and draw your wrists towards your hips. Keep your shoulders down and away from the ears. Inhale. *Don’t confuse this with Cobra (Bhujangasana) which is a different kind of backbend with wide legs on the ground.

Find out What’s SUP with this new fitness trend
Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)

A full-body stretch and strengthener! Start in plank pose (top of a push up) right over the middle of your board. Without moving hands or feet, push your hips back and find yourself in an upside-down V-shape. Spread your fingers and draw your shoulders back. Take weight off of your wrists by reaching up in the hips and down in the heels. Gaze is between your hands or toes. Hold for 3-5 breaths.

Find out What’s SUP with this new fitness trend
One Legged Downward Facing Dog (Eka Pada Adho Mukha Svanasana)

Transition from your down dog to your sequences, by opening up the hip and stretching out the leg. For closed-hip sequences (Warrior I, Crescent), keep your hips parallel to the ground. If you’re opening up to Warrior II sequences or wide-legged folds, reach your leg up and open (knee towards the sky).

Find out What’s SUP with this new fitness trend
Crescent Lunge (Alanasana)

Start in Downward-facing Dog and step your left foot between your hands and in the middle of the board. Keep your knee bent over your ankle. Stay high on your right toes with a straight leg. Place hands over the bent knee for balance and then reach your arms up. Hold for five breaths then switch sides.

Find out What’s SUP with this new fitness trend
Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II)

Start in downward facing dog and step your left foot between your hands and in the middle of the board. Keep the knee bent over the ankle. Pivot your right foot until your toes point all the way to the right and straighten the leg. Stretch the arms out and gaze at your left middle finger. Hold for 5 breaths and switch sides.

Find out What’s SUP with this new fitness trend
Split (Hanumanasana)

This is pretty self-explanatory. It’s a fun pose to try and balance with, but make sure you’re warmed up!

Find out What’s SUP with this new fitness trend

Try this hip-opening variation of Pigeon for an added quad stretch. Start in Pigeon. Reach for the extended leg with your same-side arm. Wrap your foot around the crease of your elbow and try to interlace your hands behind your head. Breathe.

Find out What’s SUP with this new fitness trend
Boat Pose (Navasana)

You have to do Boat on the water! Balance on your sits bones with your legs either bent or extended straight and reach your arms out in front of you. Draw your shoulders back and away from your ears.

Find out What’s SUP with this new fitness trend
Bow Pose (Dhanurasana)

Start on your tummy, bend your knees and reach for your ankles. On your inhale, reach your heels to the sky, keeping your knees hip-distance apart. Find your breath and rock forwards and backwards as you inhale and exhale.

Find out What’s SUP with this new fitness trend
Full Wheel (Chakrasana)

Warm your way into this full-backbend by starting in Bridge. Lie on your back with your heels close to your hips (about fingertips reach). Lift the hips and interlace your fingers, reaching your hands towards your heels and drawing the shoulders open. Once you’ve warmed up a few times, try Wheel. Lie on your back with bent knees. Place your hands by your ears, fingertips pointing in towards your body. Press into your hands and feet and lift your hips up. Stay grounded in your heels and keep the knees hip-distance. Try lifting one leg up and balancing on three limbs.

Find out What’s SUP with this new fitness trend
Headstand (Sirsasana)

Master your headstand on land before you try it on a paddleboard, and remember there’s so much more to yoga than doing a headstand on a paddleboard! Start in a Tabletop and grab opposite elbows. Keeping your elbows where they are, reach your hands out and interlace your fingers, untucking your bottom pinky and releasing the thumbs. Drop the crown of your head between your hands and find a drishti (focal point). Come up high on your toes and straighten your legs. Walk your legs in, engage your core and float your toes to the sky. Squeeze your legs together and engage your core. Breathe. Counter each inversion (heart over head) with Child’s Pose.

Find out What’s SUP with this new fitness trend
Modified Headstand (Sirsasana)

An easier way of working into headstand is trying it from a tripod. Place hands flat on the board and drop the crown of your head in front of your finger tips. (It may be helpful to grab the outside of the board.) Use your arms as a shelf for your knees and place one shin on the back of your triceps until you’re balanced. Find a drishti (focal point). Float your legs to the sky. Counterpose with Child’s Pose.

Find out What’s SUP with this new fitness trend
Hero’s Pose (Virasana) with Eagle Arms (Garudasana)

After gripping your feet in standing sequences, your feet will need a nice stretch. Sit on your heels with your knees touching. Curl your toes under (you may have to help your pinky toes tuck). Choose any variation for your arms that works for your body: - Fold over the legs and reach the arms out, like Child’s Pose. - Place hands on the board behind you for a deeper stretch in the feet. - Try Eagle Arms (Garudasana) for a deeper heart opener by wrapping one arm under the other. Stretch your head back, if it’s available to you. Hold for a few breaths and switch sides.

Find out What’s SUP with this new fitness trend
Reclined Bound Angle Pose (Supta Baddha Konasana)

I always close my practice with this position, just before Savasana. It’s a gratitude moment to feel my heartbeat and my breath filling up my body.

Find out What’s SUP with this new fitness trend
Reverse Plank

Sit up tall with legs extended and hands planted firmly by your hips. Press into your hands and reach your hips towards the sky. Tilt your chin back.

Find out What’s SUP with this new fitness trend
Corpse Pose (Savasana)

A yogi’s treat at the end of the practice! Lie down on your board with your eyes closed, if you choose. If it feels safe to you, dip your hands in the water. Rotate your arms so your palms are open to the sky – it’s an invitation for your body to receive all of the beautiful messages and information from your practice. Scan your body and breathe, releasing any remaining tension.

A new trend is bringing together yogis and fitness lovers alike by taking them off the mat and putting them on the water. Stand Up Paddleboard (SUP) Yoga is one of the latest variations of the 5,000 year old practice, offering practitioners a challenging and fun way to get outside to engage their bodies and minds.

SUP is when a person stands on a 10 to 12 foot board using a paddle to push them through the water. And while it’s been around for centuries, SUP was introduced as a sport back in the 1990s by American surfer Laird Hamilton. Shortly after, the yoga community joined in, incorporating the mind-body practice.

However, SUP Yoga has really made a splash in the past five or so years, becoming a regular feature in exercise routines and Instagram posts. But it’s not all for show; there are real benefits.

“Water is the most important and abundant element. There is definitely something spiritual about practicing yoga on such a healing element.” – Heather Berg

“There are yoga studios popping up almost everywhere, so the idea to find a way to ignite or amplify your yoga practice can tempt any avid yogi,” says Heather Berg, a SUP Yoga instructor at What’s SUP of South Florida and a “floating yogi” since 2007.

For those looking for a full-body workout, the unstable surface of the water allows practitioners to engage more muscles, especially the core, as they balance themselves and transition from pose to pose. In addition, it teaches them where their center of balance is and how to create a stable foundation, all while burning up to 540 calories an hour.

Students wanting to engage their minds can draw on the outdoor elements to work on their consciousness. Berg says, “Because we are flowing on an unstable foundation, it requires more awareness to all the important aspects of yoga: foundation, breath, energy locks and focal point. When we bring the mindfulness to all of these simultaneously, that is where the magic happens.”

An added bonus to the practice of SUP Yoga is the community – it’s open to anyone who is willing to try. “The word ‘yoga’ translates into union,” says Berg. “Yoga recognizes that there is no separation between male and female and between mind and body.”

She continues, “Once we transcend our limited beliefs that our ego creates, like ‘I can’t balance on the board,’ or ‘That’s for fit young people,’ we can become more compassionate to ourselves.”

This mentality is a large part of what has spurred the popularity of classes, leading them into the mainstream for yogis of all levels.

A class at What’s SUP hosts 10 people on average, plus the instructor, for a nearly two hour-long session. It begins with a short lesson for those who have never been on a paddleboard, followed by paddling out to a secluded alcove. There, the group uses sand-filled jugs to keep the boards as stationary as possible. This is followed by a 50 to 60 minute, all-levels Vinyasa class.

Berg further explains, “We start out with poses that are more grounding so you can get used to the feeling of doing poses on top of the water. You can push yourself as hard as you want or back off and relax on the board; it isn’t a competition.”

Luckily, with the open-minded community comes a judgement-free zone because with the looming possibility of falling in, new floating yogis tend to come in with some nerves. (Ed note: Even Heather admits to falling in every once in awhile!)

Kiki Baxter, a local instructor who has been teaching SUP yoga for a year, says, “When I teach SUPyo – as I like to call it – the very first thing I have my students do is jump in the water. You’re gonna get wet; you’re not going to die! Laugh at yourself, hop back on your board and try again.”

Getting over the possibility of falling in makes the practice easier and helps prevent injury as wary students tend to grip the board with their feet, activating unnecessary muscles. For those who are really timid, What’s SUP provides life jackets.

“Whether you can or you can’t quite master these positions, remember yoga is a practice, not a perfection.” – Kiki Baxter

Additionally, to make the entire experience more enjoyable, Baxter suggests “wearing anything you feel comfortable in that won’t distract you from your practice or having fun.” Quick dry yoga pants, a bathing suit, shorts and/or a swim shirt with a fit that can withstand poses like downward-facing dog are all acceptable options.

Lastly, at the end of the session, the instructor will lead the group through Savasana – a time for yogis to lie back and release any remaining tension – before paddling back to shore.

As for what the future of SUP Yoga holds, Berg is unsure if it will just be a fad or hold onto popularity with the likes of Bikram and other common variations. She says, “I cannot predict the future, but I know, personally, SUP Yoga has strengthened my practice immensely. It has forced me to slow down even more and to appreciate what my body can or cannot do.”

She concludes, “It’s not about contorting your body in a bikini on a board. For me, it’s about connecting with nature and sharing my love of yoga for over 20 years and SUP.”

Want a glimpse at popular SUP Yoga poses? Check out Kiki’s routine in the gallery above. And for upcoming classes with What’s SUP, head over to their website to view the monthly calendar.