What’s Up With SUP? One Uncoordinated Girl’s Experience With Stand-Up Paddleboard Yoga

What’s Up With SUP? One Uncoordinated Girl’s Experience With Stand-Up Paddleboard Yoga

Stand-Up Paddleboard (SUP) Yoga: an activity during which one performs yoga poses while balancing on a paddleboard in the middle of a lake or body of water.

See also: activities you would never expect to attempt if your general lack of grace is often likened to that of a baby giraffe.

Photo courtesy of girlsurfnetwork.com
Photo courtesy of girlsurfnetwork.com

This month, in the midst of a muggy Michigan summer, I found myself lacking story ideas to share. All of the inspiration, creative energy, and joy I feel from writing seemed to have been buried under piles of stress and anxiety from other corners of my life. I just felt… Stuck.

Then, amid a brainstorming email session with editor Erin, came the answer:

“Have you tried Stand Up Paddleboarding yet?”

I will admit, when I first read the suggestion, I snorted out loud. I can’t do stand up ANYTHING… And I have a major love/hate relationship with water. But the more I thought about it, the more excited I became about the opportunity. Whenever my initial reaction is, “I could never do that,” I take it as a sure sign that I should definitely, without a doubt, go out and do exactly that thing.

So here it goes.

Photo courtesy of SUP Yoga Northern Michigan
Photo courtesy of SUP Yoga Northern Michigan

As I prepare to park, I see my fellow yogis warming up on the lake shore next to paddle boards which appear simultaneously enormous and wayyyy too narrow. I briefly consider driving right past the lake, the scary water, the splashing sound of failure, and just writing about salad instead.

Many of the women in my class have done this before, but only once or twice.

“Fall in early,” they advise. “Get it out of the way.” Crap.

After a brief paddle lesson from instructor Janina, it’s into the lake we go. Easing the board into the shallow water, I climb on and sit on my knees for the first few strokes. Easy! It’s like canoeing! I can totally do this.

I try to stand up. Rocking back into my heels and crouching like some kind of Native American scout in a Gap swimsuit, I’m stuck. My legs are already shaking trying to keep the board from wobbling underneath me, and now I’ve floated out far enough that I can’t put my feet down. My confidence disappears and I wonder if I should just sit after all…

Cutting gracefully through the water behind me, I hear Janina: “Keep your eyes on the horizon… And inhale!” I laugh, almost lose my balance, do as she says- and I’m standing.

Once safely out on the lake, we move through stretches and then basic yoga poses including down dog, planks, and finally, the warrior sequence. Every single pose is difficult, and I won’t lie- I let my fear of the murky water keep me from fully going for all of the poses. But I modify, take breaks, and go right back into the flow for the entire class.

During some downtime, I even decide to go for my favorite pose, wheel (a back bend). As I arch my back to see an inverted sky meet water, I can’t help but smile. Always keep your eyes on the horizon… and inhale.

SUP yoga is an intense workout for everything from calves to quads to core, but the peaceful connection to nature also forced me to look inward in a way regular fitness (and even traditional yoga) classes never have before. If you are looking for a reflective, fun, and challenging strength workout, try one of the Michigan SUP Yoga companies below!

Photo courtesy of Summit Outdoor Sports
Photo courtesy of Summit Outdoor Sports

SUP Yoga Northern Michigan
Burt Lake, MI

Yen Yoga & Fitness
332. E. Front Street
Traverse City, MI 49684

Funky Buddha Yoga Hothouse
1331 Lake Drive SE
Grand Rapids, MI 49506

12330 James St
Holland, MI 49424

Paddle the Mitten
Benton Harbor, MI

Paddle the Mitten
Hell, MI

Breathe Yoga Studio
799 Industrial Court
Bloomfield Hills, MI 48302

Summit Sports Outdoors
East Lansing, MI

YMCA of Marquette County
1420 Pine Street
Marquette, MI 49855

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Thanks primarily to long marathons of the Food Network (shout out to Alton Brown!) and many failed kitchen experiments, I have come to appreciate the ever-important role of food and fitness in a healthy a lifestyle. My view? It doesn't make you an elitist to be educated about what you put in your body. There is no rule book that says you have to become a vegan overnight, or cut out gluten entirely, or start wearing a beret and shopping solely at fair-trade markets. You can still go out with friends, shop at Meijer, and keep quick, easy food on hand. You're in a hurry, you're on a budget... I get it. But you CAN make just a few small changes and lose weight, prevent disease, and have more energy. I'm here to prove it. Join me on my ever-growing quest to find the most delicious, nutritious food and learn from the people who grow it, sell it, and cook it- right here in our own backyard.