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

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    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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