Autumn is here at last. Gone are the summer crowds, the parking fees, and the unrelenting heat.
This is the best time of year to get people thinking about unleashing their inner SUPward facing dog pose. No matter your skill, SUP Yoga will improve your stand-up paddleboarding skills and so much more.
At my SUP Adventure School, I ask a lot from my boards. All of the Hala boards I use in classes are multi-taskers, but can they all yoga?
I spent all spring and summer putting the Asana, Carbon Hoss, Carbon Straight Up, Carbon Nass, and Carbon Playa boards to the test.
Let’s start with the more obvious choice for SUP Yoga — the Asana. With its wide, stable platform and long, yoga mat style deck pad, the Hala Asana could have invented SUP Yoga. A yoga practitioners dream, this board is the perfect landing pad for any floating asana.
Although it doesn’t have carbon reinforcement, it’s substantially built and designed for gentle cruising. From beginner to advanced students, this board makes nearly any yoga pose attainable, so go ahead and impress your friends with the more challenging balance poses.
Pose: Take advantage of the 34” width of this board and try Wide-Legged Standing Forward Bend (with a twist).
Tips: Align feet slightly behind the center of your board so that when you bend forward, you maintain stability.
Advanced: Look up at the sky!
Benefits: Opens hips, stretches hamstrings, calves, low back, and spine while strengthening your upper back and shoulders. It also improves balance.
Nicknamed the “mother board” by my students, this board can pretty much do it all. With the same wide deck as the Asana and the “cruiser” shape, it’s my top choice for beginner to intermediate paddlers when it comes to touring and learning SUP basics.
For SUP Yoga, the added benefit of carbon makes this a favorite board for a more demanding, vigorous practice and for challenging poses that require added stability.
Pose: Get a new view of supported Headstand.
Tips: Place the forearms onto the board, just in front of the handle. Engage the shoulder blades and core muscles, keeping weight centered over the board. If you’re a beginner, try lifting just one foot off the board. Don’t forget to breathe!
Advanced: Full headstand or headstand splits (pictured).
Benefits: Strengthening the core and shoulders while relaxing and strengthening the nervous system.
Carbon Straight Up
My first board from Hala, the Straight Up has a special place in my heart. When you step on to this fun, fast, agile board, you’ll know why it’s nicknamed “the one board quiver.”
It can pivot turn on a dime, run rivers, ride small waves, keep any yoga practitioner happy and even bring you to the finish line of your first paddleboard race (2 of my students raced this board at the Carolina Cup this year!). This truly is the best multi-tasker of all of my SUPs.
Pose: Open your heart in Wheel Pose.
Tips: Set up the pose with your lower back against the soft handle. Since this pose opens the lungs, take advantage of the fresh air and breathe deep! Ahhhh.
Benefits: Stretches your spine, shoulders, and hips, opens up your chest and lungs and strengthens wrists, arms and legs. Energizing.
With it’s 30” deck, you may think the Nass is out of range for yoga. I thought so too until I tried it. It has been my favorite teaching board ever since. The added length provides yoga practitioners with a larger deck pad for practice which is great for taller folk and plenty of space up front to bungee creature comforts to the nose.
While the width may deter beginners, this is the board I’d choose to keep things fun and interesting. Its shape makes it a good choice for racing - I placed 13th on this bad boy with some very aggressive race boards on my heels! It is the perfect size for the serious adventurer or the yogini with wanderlust.
Pose: Take advantage of the length and stability and stretch out in Three-legged Dog Pose.
Tips: Keep hands and feet equidistant from the handle before lifting one leg to the sky.
Advanced: Bend your knee and point your toe toward the opposite side of the board, trying to touch your head. Just for fun: On a hot day, try to get that toe to the water until you lose balance and make a splash! Instant cool.
Benefits: Strengthens arms, core muscles, and legs, stretches side waist, hamstrings, calves and inner and outer hip and improves balance.
If I had a board specially designed for me, it would have turned out JUST. LIKE. THIS. First, the specs on this board are unique for an inflatable in that it sits slightly lower to the water than most – which feels just right for me. Second, it checks all of my boxes; it’s fast on all bodies of water, it’s a little wave carving machine AND less width keeps my yoga practice challenging!
If SUP Yoga is your main SUP thing, this probably won’t be your first choice. But if you want to surf, endurance paddle AND namaste all day, then the Playa might be your new best friend.
Pose: Find your inner surfer in Warrior 1
Tips: Step into the pose from the center of the board with one step back and one step forward, landing with feet equal distance from the handle. Release resistance and try to relax the weight down into your feet, “surfing” over the ripples and wakes.
Advanced: Look up at the sky.
Benefits: Strengthens quads and core muscles, opens upper back, chest and shoulders, stretches hip flexors and calves.