When we look out across the beach here in Sanur, BALI, watching the yoga classes swim out to practice on their SUP boards we can start to wonder how two such seemingly different activities came together.
Stand Up Paddleboards as we know them today have been around since the 60s as a way for the surfers in Waikiki to get out on the water when the waves were down. Since then it has grown as a water sport of its own with people being attracted to the strong core and shoulder workout that they could achieve. But to relate this popularity only to the physical benefits is to miss out on the true drawcard for SUP – the calm unison of body and mind.
Yoga originated in India well over 5000 years ago. While the expression of our yogic practice has changed significantly over the years (the handstands and gymnastic-esq tricks are very new!) the essence has remained the same. In yogic philosophy, we have a set of guidelines called The Yoga Sutras of Patañjali where, in 1.2 we are told, Yogash citta vrtti nirodha: yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind. One of the 8 steps to this Samadhi is our Asana or the physical practice that we come to think of today.
It is impossible to tell who first tried doing yoga on a Stand-Up Paddleboard. What we can tell is that around 2011-12 its popularity began to spread, and when we look at the essence of both disciplines it’s not hard to see why.
Physically, yoga is known for its strengthening and balancing benefits. It pushes us to use our bodies as a whole from the core out and in that challenge, we find the opportunity for clear concentration. This concentration is also evident to anyone who has ever set a foot on a SUP! So, it comes as no surprise that yoga practicing surfers would begin to link them together on a quiet day on the water.
The special thing about SUP Yoga is the direct connection to nature, the calming effect of the water, the soft rocking waves, the fresh air, the beauty of nature surrounding you.
Yoga asana while the board is constantly moving challenges your body to work harder to stay stable – if you put too much weight through one side of your body, the board will react. It also challenges the mind. Finding stability and comfort on the water requires us to look within, to find joy in ‘working-it-out’ and allowing us the freedom to try something that we would never have imagined as possible. Then, we might get a glimpse of that moment, when the mind chatter stops, and we are perfectly still in nature, and in body and mind.