You can’t drive across the Congress Street bridge in Austin without seeing dozens of people on stand up paddle boards (or as we like to say around here, “SUP” boards.) At first glance, it doesn’t look like much of a work out. You’re… well, standing. And paddling. But one time trying SUP is enough to find out that it’s an incredible core workout, and keeping your balance on a board while moving is harder work than it looks. Turns out that’s just the beginning when it comes to the workouts possible with SUP, and paddle boarding is a great way to take your yoga experience to the next level. We met up with Jarvis Boards founder Tony Smith and yoga instructor Angel Marya, to talk about how paddle boarding and yoga can come together for a powerful experience on the water.
photographed by chris nieto
People are OBSESSED with stand up paddle boarding. What makes it so addictive as a workout?
Tony: I think SUP has exploded in popularity because it’s a ton of fun, a great workout, and is accessible to paddlers of all ages. We’ve been fortunate to have built boards for college graduates to 70 year old retirees. Paddlers use them for fitness paddling, yoga, fishing, and just relaxing outdoors with friends and family.
What makes Jarvis Boards special?
Tony: All of our boards are handcrafted from wood with passion right here in Austin Texas. To us, these are functional pieces of art. Each one that we build is signed, numbered, and dated for the customer that we are building it for. However, they don’t just look great, we have also added some unique features such as paddle clips to make transportation easier, as well as secret compartments to store your keys or drink on board.
Is SUP yoga really a thing? It seems so hard!
Tony: SUP yoga is 100% a thing. Since you’re on a moving platform, it definitely makes yoga more challenging and rewarding. Being outdoors over the water is an amazing experience unlike practicing yoga elsewhere.
How did you and Angel connect to create this guide for SUP yoga?
Tony: Angel and I connected via the internet actually. She ordered a board from our website and we shipped it to her in North Carolina. In her normal SUP yoga practice she started posting pictures on Instagram. From there we became friends and she’s been our biggest advocate.
Scroll down to see five of Angel’s favorite SUP yoga moves!
TOGETHER WE RISE
Angel: Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (or Upward Facing Dog,) opens the chest and strengthens the whole body while aligning the spine and invigorating the kidneys and nervous system. From a table or plank pose, slowly drop your hips toward the board, pressing your palms down into the board and drop the shoulders down and back. From there, press your chest forward and reach the crown of your head up towards the sky.
Angel: Yoga provides a path to quieting the mind so that we can feel the innate stillness and joy of being alive. Keep it slow and steady.
One of the best poses to regain stillness and build strength on a SUP is Chaturanga. It strengthens and tones the wrists, arms, abdominal muscles, and lower back while also strengthening the muscles surrounding the spine, helping to improve posture. This simple pose will help you understand your balance and feel the board and water beneath you, grounding your body and mind to the poses it will soon encounter.
To experience this post, start in Downward Facing Dog as you extend forward into plank position, exhale, lowering your chest between your arms at a 90 degree angle, hovering just above the board.
For added strength, include in a series of push-ups prior to lowering your chest from your feet or knees.
Angel: The very center of your heart is where life begins. Give your heart to the earth.
Camel Pose (or Ustrasana) is a more advanced position both on land and on a paddle board. However, the stance and balance are very similar and when performed correctly, nearly all the major muscles of our bodies are being stretched. On your knees, hip distance apart, place your hands on your hips as you would into your back pockets. Keeping your hips over your knees, inhale as you lift out of your lower back and start to bring your elbows closer together as you tuck your chin and extend back. With abs engaged, chest raised and spine long, slowly drop your hands to your heels lifting from the sternum. Don’t forget to breathe! To exit, slowly tuck your chin back towards your chest, walk your hands to your hips and engage the lower belly as you sit back to your knees, one hand to heart, the other to the board and collect your breathe. Take this pose at your own page and be mindful of how your back and knees feel as this can be intense.
Angel: The goal of any yoga pose is no different from the goal of spiritual life; to put you in touch with the larger universe or reality. The spirit of a warrior resides within you.
Sun Salutations and Warriors are trickier on water than land. Core strength is key as you move into and out of these poses. From a down dog, coming into a lunge on the right leg first, start to slowly test your balance as you rise on an inhale into Warrior One with back foot at a 40 degree angle, front knee at 90 and hips forward, elongate through your waste, hands to the sky. As you exhale, start to open up through your hips as you windmill your left arm back and around at shoulder height extending through your finger-tips.
A great modification as you work into this pose is to take a knee OR to widen the stance of your feet on either side of the board rails. Practice your way up to standing as you feel the strength radiate throughout your body!
DON’T FORGET TO PLAY!
Angel: Playtime is an active form of learning for the body, mind and spirit. As your land practice develops and you learn more advanced poses, take your research to the water! While photos may make the poses look effortless, it takes a great deal of time and dedication to reach certain points of physical capacity. Be patient with yourself and allow your body to take you to new levels. Here it’s also important to know remember the “Starfish Pose” (aka make like a star as you flop into the water!) It saves you from any injuries and makes falling that much more exciting.