Stand up paddle boarding yoga (SUP Yoga) is the hottest trend these days among athletes and yogis who want to try out exciting new recreational activities. Performing yoga poses while balancing on a paddleboard in a lake or body of water is an incredibly cool way to get your asana on!
This guide to paddleboard yoga will describe what SUP yoga is, offer some tips for getting started as a beginner, review the best paddleboards on the market, suggest some ideal poses for SUP yoga, and present a list of places near you where you can practice stand up paddle board yoga. Let’s dive in!
1. What is SUP Yoga
2. Basic Tips for Beginners to Stand Up Paddleboarding
3. Cool Paddle Board Poses You Should Try
4. The Best Paddle Boards for SUP Yoga
5. Where to Find SUP Paddle Yoga Near You
6. SUP Yoga Frequently Asked Questions
What is SUP Yoga?
Standup paddleboarding (SUP) has been around for years. You’ve probably seen folks standing up on lakes with a paddle in their hand. A typical paddleboard is a flat board that resembles a surfboard, but is slightly shorter and fatter.
The idea of adding yoga to SUP is a relatively new phenomenon, but it’s really taking off in popularity. SUP yoga is essentially performing yoga poses on a paddleboard, usually on a lake or other relatively calm body of water. The ocean would be more difficult to perform SUP yoga, due to the bigger waves.
What makes paddle board yoga fun is that it provides an additional level of challenge to your yoga practice. Instead of having a flat, stable surface like the floor of the yoga studio or your living room, you have a slightly wobbly surface of the board atop the water. That means you need really strong balance to pull off most water yoga poses.
Where can you perform paddle board yoga? Well, if you want to perform SUP yoga on your own, you can rent a paddle board in many state parks and public places that have rivers and lakes. If you’re looking for a paddle board yoga class, see our “paddle board yoga near me” section later in this article. Many major cities have SUP yoga group classes that you can sign up for.
What are the benefits of SUP yoga? You’ll improve your balance and core strength for sure. And you’ll have a blast, performing yoga poses in a totally different environment. If you get satisfaction from sitting on a yoga mat in the studio, just imagine how much enjoyment and inner peace you’ll feel after taking this activity out into nature!
Basic Tips for Beginners to Stand Up Paddleboarding
SUP yoga requires a few adjustments from your usual yoga practice, in terms of wardrobe, hydration, and modifications. When you’re ready to try out paddleboard yoga, check the weather, bring some water, and keep these basic tips in mind.
Dress for the sun and water.
Okay, this one might be obvious. But beginners might not be aware of the difficulty of SUP. There’s a good chance you might fall off your board at some point. That’s no big deal. Expect it, and embrace it! Come prepared with waterproof sunscreen and a beach towel or absorbent yoga towel. You can wear either a bathing suit or regular form-fitting yoga clothing, if you don’t mind them getting wet.
Eat and hydrate yourself beforehand.
Stick with your normal routine in terms of eating before yoga class. Some folks like to snack in advance to give themselves energy for their class, while others prefer to wait for a big meal after yoga. Either way, drink a lot of water before you begin.
The downside of the paddle board is that there’s no place to store a water bottle, so hydrate yourself sufficiently before starting. Leave your water bottle on shore, along with your phone.
Take things slow and remember to breathe.
Expect that your balance and coordination will be a little more unstable than usual, so don’t go crazy right away trying to perform complicated poses. Start with the most basic poses like Downward Dog, Child’s Pose, and Forward Fold to find your center and get comfortable on the board.
Remember to breathe! Let your breathing and your intention guide you, as you normally would during a yoga class. Be willing to modify poses to simplify them when you’re just getting started.
Relax and have fun!
Often, new endeavors can feel somewhat intimidating. Don’t let that be the case here. Folks who perform SUP yoga love nature and yoga, so they will have great respect and empathy for others who are getting into it. Bring your typical mindset to the activity, and you’ll get the most out of it, both physically and mentally.
Cool Paddle Board Yoga Poses You Should Try
Ready to learn some cool SUP water yoga poses? As noted earlier, if you’ve never tried standup paddle board yoga before, start simple with Child’s Pose and Lotus Pose to find your balance on the board. Then work your way up to Downward Dog and Forward Folds when you’re comfortable standing on the board.
As you gain some experience, you’ll discover that certain positions lend themselves to the practice. Here’s a look at some of our favorite SUP yoga poses – and remember that you can always modify and simplify any poses that feel too challenging!
Good Beginner SUP Poses
Start here to center yourself, and return here whenever you feel like you’re having balance issues. Relax in traditional Child’s Pose with your arms out in front of you. Or, to really connect with the water, modify the pose by resting your hands off the edges of your board so your fingers feel the water while you remain still.
Downward Facing Dog, Upward Facing Dog, One Legged Dog
Down Dog is a good pose for establishing your balance, because you have all four limbs available to push against the board and keep you balanced as you adjust to the waves or the gentle roll of the water beneath you.
Stay in this position as long as necessary to find your comfort level with the board. Then, to slightly increase the difficulty level, alternate lifting each leg high in the air behind you (One Legged Dog).
Make the transition to Upward Facing Dog. This is a fun position to hang out in, because you’re looking straight ahead and you have a moment to take in the scenery in front of you.
Starting on your back with your knees bent, raise your hips and lower back up off the board. Keep your shoulders on the board as you gaze straight up at the daytime sky.
Standing Poses (Mountain, Chair, Tree)
When you’re ready to tackle standing up on the board, Mountain Pose is an easy one to start with. Stand up and keep your elbows at your hips. Establish your balance there. Then move into Chair Pose by raising your arms skyward and gradually lowering into a seated position. You’ll feel a sense of accomplishment when you’re able to dip deep into Chair Pose while on a floating paddleboard.
You could also toss in a few Forward Bends here to get used to the process of leaning your body forward on the board. Or, try a Tree Pose to practice standing on one leg.
Intermediate Postures To Try
Move on from the basic standing poses to a Crescent Lunge. For maximum stability, we suggest keeping your back knee on the board, at least when you’re first trying this SUP yoga pose. Remove the modification when you’re ready.
Crow is hard enough to hold on land. If you can pull this one off atop a paddleboard, and hold it while the board gently floats around, then you’ve got some serious strength and body control going on. Well done!
Challenging Stand Up Paddle Board Yoga Poses
All of these challenging SUP yoga poses are super-cool to look at, so if you’ve got a friend on shore, now would be the time to have them snap a couple pics.
Side Plank & Half Moon Pose
Here’s where things start to get tricky. It’s possible to hold Side Plank or Half Moon Pose on a paddle board. You’ll need a strong core, and the ability to use your fingers for stability. For balance purposes, remember not to jerk your head up too quickly.
Full Wheel Pose
The deep back bend known as Full Wheel Pose is a fun one to try on a paddle board. A common mistake in Wheel Pose is spreading your feet or hands too far apart, but fortunately that’s not possible on a paddleboard, because the board is only so wide. If you go too wide in SUP yoga, your limbs are in the water!
Warrior 2 Pose
Warrior 2 is a pose that adds a high degree of difficulty in a paddle board yoga environment. Depending how strong the water is moving beneath you, you may have to keep adjusting your arms to maintain the position. This is another posture that feels good on a board once you establish the position.
It goes without saying that you shouldn’t try a Headstand on a paddleboard unless you can easily perform one on solid ground! If you’ve got that foundation and experience, then go ahead and go for a Headstand on the board. You’ll need to find the absolute center point of the board, and orient yourself there. It doesn’t get much better than being totally inverted while floating on a calm body of water!
Easy Closing: Savasana
Close your practice with Savasana, relaxing as you lie on your back on the board and float silently. To add to the aquatic experience, rest your feet in the water, just as you dangled your hands in the water on Child’s Pose to begin.
What Makes a Good Paddle Board for Yoga?
What makes a good yoga paddleboard? You want a board that is sturdy, so that you can perform all the poses your heart desires without losing your balance and falling into the water. You don’t want a board that is too small. Smaller boards are great for quickly moving around in the water, but with SUP yoga, you’re mostly staying in one spot.
Another factor is whether the board is inflatable or solid. Either is totally fine for SUP yoga. Inflatable boards take up less space in your house, but must be inflated (they come with an air pump) when you’re ready to use them. Solid boards are more like surf boards in that you’ll need to make sure you have room in your house and car to fit such a long board.
Most stand up paddle boards available for purchase online are inflatable boards. If you really want a solid one, search for “rigid” or “foam core” to find ones that aren’t inflatable.
You also want to take into account the brand – its reputation, its history, and the number of positive reviews it has. Boards can range from $300-700, so there’s a huge range to consider. And it’s also nice to buy a board that comes with a paddle so you don’t have to purchase one separately.
If you’re just renting a paddleboard, you may not have a choice which board to use, so don’t worry too much about it. Only those who are really experienced with SUP are really going to notice the differences between the boards.
The Best Paddle Board for Yoga: Peak Expedition 11 Foot Inflatable Board
If you plan to buy your own board for SUP yoga, our top recommendation is the Peak Expedition 11 Foot Inflatable Board. Peak is an established brand that makes some of the best SUP boards around. This one comes with a pump, paddle, and backpack.
Despite weighing less than 20 pounds, the Peak Expedition board can support up to 275 pounds (one or two people.) It’s six inches thick, which provides a very solid base. Like all inflatable boards, it has a soft EVA deck pad that offers some comfort and traction for your hands as you perform yoga poses. The company offers a 1-year warranty on materials.
If 11 feet feels like too much board for you, Peak also makes a great 10-foot board (that one is currently out of stock on Amazon.)
More Top-Rated SUP Yoga Paddle Boards
Here are a few more of the best yoga stand up paddle boards that meet the criteria mentioned above.
Note: As of this writing, many of the best stand up paddle boards for yoga are out of stock on Amazon. This is because the popularity of SUP is exploding right now. As people finally stop sheltering at home and begin going outside again, they are choosing activities such as SUP where they don’t have to be around a lot of people. So there’s a rush on SUP equipment. If the particular boards we’re recommending are out of stock, browse Amazon for something similar, as there are dozens to choose from.
Great Beginner Choice: FunWater Inflatable Ultralight Tiki Cruiser Stand Up Board
The FunWater Inflatable Ultralight Tiki Cruiser Stand Up Board is one of the best combinations of quality and price. It’s on the more affordable end of the spectrum, but it still provides great stability and includes all the goodies that most inflatable boards come with, such as a pump, paddle, and backpack. This package even includes a waterproof cell phone case.
The FunWater Tiki Cruiser is 10 feet, 6 inches long. That’s a good length for beginners. It weighs only 17.6 pounds, making it one of the lighter boards on the market. Yet it’s still 6 inches thick. That’s why it gets such great reviews. The light weight means it does get jostled around a bit more in waves, but if you’re on a calm lake or stream, this one will be just fine. It’s a perfect way for a newcomer to SUP to get good board at a good price without compromising quality.
It’s also 33 inches wide, slightly more than the usual 32 inch board width. That extra inch will come in handy when you’re performing poses that require your arms to be spread wide.
Best Solid Board: Isle Rigid Board With Lightweight Foam Core
Looking for a solid board that isn’t inflatable? The Isle Versa Stand Up Board is a great option. It comes in two sizes: 11’2″ and 10’5″, so you can choose a shorter board if you prefer. The short board is 4.5 inches thick, while the longer board is 5 inches thick.
The durable epoxy board supports 245 to 300 pounds, depending whether you choose the small or large board. Isle has been making SUP boards since 2004, and the Versa has been one of the top SUP boards for more than six years now. This one is appropriate for experienced users or beginners.
Good Budget Option: Aqua Plus 10 Foot Inflatable SUP Board
The Aqua Plus 10 Foot Inflatable SUP Board is another affordable option for folks looking for their first board. It has a cool blue and pink design and meets the standard dimensions of 32 inches wide, 6 inches thick, and 10 feet long.
This one also includes a waterproof phone case and a pack for carrying everything. It can support up to 310 pounds, making it more sturdy than the other boards in the same price range. Aqua Plus offers a 1-year warranty on materials as well.
Paddle Board Yoga Near Me: Where to Find SUP Yoga
Great, so now that you’re informed about standup paddle board yoga, where can you actually do it? You can go on your own to any lake or river if you’ve got your own board. Or search for paddleboard rentals in your area.
But what if you want to take a class? Here’s a partial list of places in the U.S. that currently offer SUP Yoga classes or instruction. Visit the individual websites for more information, since this list will likely change over time.
What is a paddle board yoga class like? Typically, it’s a 60 to 90 minute Vinyasa yoga practice that runs through some introductory and common yoga poses. Some classes may include a meditation element. All will improve your balance and strengthen your core.
Boston MA: Cape Ann SUP (website)
Portland ME: Portland Paddle (website)
Rivertown NY: Rivertown SUP & Yoga (website)
Philadelphia PA: Aqua Vida SUP Yoga (website)
Smyrna DE: Kula SUP Floating Yoga Studio (website)
Havre de Grace MD: Beach Bee Yoga (website)
Cleveland OH: Shaka Fitness (website)
Chicago IL: Chicago SUP (website)
Detroit MI: That’s WASSUP Detroit (website)
Indianapolis IN: Nomad Yoga and SUP (website)
St. Louis MO: SUP St. Louis (website)
Sarasota / Anna Maria FL: Salty Buddha Paddle & Yoga Co. (website)
Nashville TN: Nashville SUP & Yoga (website)
New Orleans LA: NOLA Paddleboards (website)
Dallas TX: DFW Surf (website)
Houston TX: Shaka Power Yoga (website)
Colorado Springs CO: Dragonfly Paddle Yoga (website)
Denver / Boulder CO: Rocky Mountain Paddleboard (website)
Las Vegas NV: SUP Yoga Las Vegas (website)
Boise ID: Idaho River Sports (website)
Seattle WA: WASUP Yoga (website)
Seattle WA: SUP Yoga Seattle (website)
Seattle WA: PaddleFlow Yoga (website)
Willamette Valley OR: Shine On SUP Yoga (website)
San Francisco / Sausalito CA: OnBoardSUP Classes (website)
San Diego CA: Floating Yogis (website)
Ventura CA: YogAqua Classes (website)
Oxnard CA: Sea Dog Yoga (website)
SUP Yoga Frequently Asked Questions
What are the benefits of SUP yoga?
As previously noted, balance and core strength are the main benefits specific to SUP yoga. It takes extra effort to maintain postures while standing atop a floating board, so your core will be more engaged than usual. That’s in addition to the full range of benefits that traditional yoga provides, such as improved muscle tone and mental clarity.
How can I learn to balance better?
Balance just comes through practice, especially when you’re on a paddleboard. One good tip is to keep your gaze on a spot in the distance, rather than looking directly down at the water. Just as you move your body slowly and deliberately on a paddleboard, do the same with your head and your eyes. You’ll be more coordinated when you move your face in steady movements, rather than jerking your head around quickly.
Can I do SUP yoga if I’ve never done regular yoga?
You could, but we wouldn’t recommend it. When you’re a yoga beginner, it’s hard enough to keep your balance on a hard floor as you work through the most common poses. Adding in the element of a paddleboard and a moving water surface really heightens the difficulty.
If you’re going with a group of friends for the sole purpose of having a fun afternoon in the sun, then sure, go for it. Just expect that you will likely have some issues with balance and won’t have the most productive and rewarding yoga experience.
What happens if I fall in?
Just get back on the board and keep going! There’s no shame in slipping off the board. It will happen at some point to everyone who tries this form of yoga. It’s not a big deal; just carry on!
Are there any other products I should have for SUP yoga?
Aside from sunscreen and a bathing suit, there aren’t any other products that are absolutely required for SUP yoga vs. traditional yoga. However, there are a few that are optional. Some folks performing yoga on a board may want a pair of water shoes or yoga shoes to gain some additional traction on the board (although paddle boards have good traction already.)
Also, if you enjoy the challenge and thrill of stand up paddle board yoga, you should definitely look into aerial yoga, which combines acrobatics and gymnastics with traditional yoga!
Are there any SUP yoga retreats?
Absolutely! At this moment in time, while we’re still social distancing, there aren’t that many SUP yoga retreats happening. But during a normal year, you can find several retreats in the USA and worldwide.
Here are a couple examples of a beginner retreat in Maine, a women-only SUP camp in Michigan, and a luxury retreat in Croatia. There are some yoga retreats in California that offer SUP yoga as well. We’ll add more to this section once social distancing ends and instructors begin scheduling group retreats again.
When and where did standup paddleboarding begin?
For those who are curious about the history of stand up paddle boarding – the non-yoga kind – here’s a brief summary. SUP has its roots in Hawaii, and obviously descends from surfing. Modern SUP is said to have begun in Waikiki in the 1940s from folks like John AhChoy, an older man who was unable to get up and down on his surfboard, so he just stood on his board and paddled out through the water.
His sons Leroy and Bobby, as well as other folks like Duke Kahanamoku, continued the habit of standing and paddling on a board, and gradually standup paddleboarding became its own thing. It wasn’t until the 2000s that the activity came to California and exploded in popularity.
In 2008, the US Coast Guard classified SUP boards as vessels, just like canoes and kayaks. That means paddlers have to wear a flotation device if they’re in the ocean and away from a surf area.
SUP yoga is an even more modern creation, having just emerged in the past decade or so. Considering there are so many forms of crazy yoga these days, from beer yoga to acro yoga, it was inevitable that somebody would try performing yoga on a paddle board!