Wa’SUP yoga lovers?
If you want to ramp up your yoga routine, move it from the studio to a stand-up paddleboard. You'll be challenged, invigorated and refreshed. Namaste!
SUP yoga – or stand-up paddleboard yoga – is becoming more popular around the world, and not just in tropical hotspots like Hawaii. Yes, we’re talking downward dog, warrior and tree pose on a floating board. It sounds like a quick route into the river, if you ask me. But fans say it’s addictive, fun and easier than you might think.
Practising yoga in the outdoors – on water – brings with it an immense feeling of calm and serenity, it focuses your mind and your breath, improves your technique and leaves you feeling both invigorated and relaxed.
Yoga and SUP yoga teacher Dee Opp, who teaches on the River Thames at Sunbury-on-Thames, says the two main differences between yoga in a studio and yoga on a paddleboard are an increased ability to focus and the beautiful interchange with nature.
Yoga and SUP yoga teacher Dee Opp offers four-week SUP yoga courses from her private riverside studio at Sunbury-on-Thames. She also takes weekly yoga classes and offers private bespoke one-to-one yoga sessions.
Warm and engaging, Dee is passionate about yoga – it’s no exaggeration to say that if she’s not practising or teaching yoga, she’s reading about it, studying yoga, or just thinking about it. A long-time yoga enthusiast, Dee trained as in instructor four years ago and specialises in therapeutic yoga – yoga that focuses on the breath. She’s fascinated by the breath and the body, and their ability to heal both physical and emotional trauma. Her background in competitive swimming and dance had given her a strong understanding of, and connection to, the breath.
She’s especially keen to share her practise with people who may not have access to yoga or a yoga studio. So as well as teaching from her home studio, Dee has also taken her yoga classes into prisons, young offenders institutions and immigration detention centres.
Dee’s regular yoga classes are held in her private studio, and the SUP yoga is on the River Thames which is at the bottom of her garden. Dee has all of the equipment you’ll need top-of-the-range paddleboards and oars, plus drybags and waterproof mobile phone cases.
Before we took to the water, Dee took me through the basics of stand-up paddleboarding including where to place your feet to get the best balance, how hold the oar and paddle, and how to turn. So far so good!
All this unseasonal rain has meant the Thames is running faster than usual, so after getting the board into the water and climbing onto it, we stayed seated while we paddled up river a couple of hundred metres to the turn off that took us to the Swan Sanctuary Lake. Once we’d left the Thames and gone down a little waterway past the Shepperton Marina the water was like glass. Dee demonstrated the technique that would take me from knees to feet, and in one swift movement I was up. We paddled on a little further until we reached the Swan Sanctuary – a superb spot for yoga.
There was a light breeze, although it wasn’t cold. But the skies were an ominous grey and threatening rain. It didn’t matter though – in fact without meaning to sound all hippy, I think it gave me a greater connection to what was around me.
Dee is lovely. She’s calm and softly spoken and super encouraging. She has the ability to make you feel like you’re a superstar on the board. With our boards tethered together, Dee took me through a series of basic yoga poses, guiding my movements and my breath. When the rain came, it felt completely natural as well as refreshing and energising. Taking your yoga practise to the outdoors amplifies your experience. I certainly felt challenged and out of my comfort zone, but I also felt exhilarated and yet also calm and peaceful. I enjoy yoga – and practise weekly – and but taking it to the water was an entirely new experience. I loved it.
WHAT TO WEAR
Wear comfortable clothing that you can easily move in. Swimsuits aren’t necessary, but layering is a good idea – it can get chilly on the water. It may seem obvious, but don’t wear anything that you wouldn’t want to get wet. Even if you don’t fall in you’ll end up a little damp. And bring a change of clothes and a towel, just in case you do go wobble, wobble, plonk!
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for? SUP yoga is for everyone really, but if you already have some experience of yoga I think you’ll get more out of it. No paddleboarding experience is necessary – I’ve been on a SUP only once, and I managed not to fall in!
Not for? If you can’t stand the thought of getting wet, I wouldn’t suggest SUP yoga.
The four-week SUP yoga course costs £125, and there are courses in July, August and September.