Holding a cobra or triangle pose in the stationary environment of a yoga studio is enough of a workout for some people. But the more adventurous among Vancouver yogis are increasingly dropping their mats and opting instead for paddleboards.
“On the water, you can’t fake it,” Kristy Wright told the Georgia Straight. “On land, you can kind of stand in a warrior [pose] and have more weight on your left foot than your right foot. But when you are out on the water, the board will give you feedback.”
The yoga instructor and owner of Stand Up Paddle Vancouver added that there are additional challenges one might not immediately think of. Like how to keep a standup paddle (SUP) yoga class from floating out of Burrard Inlet.
“We’ve developed a SUP yoga anchor,” Wright said. She explained it’s a simple device: a bag is filled with rocks, tied to the front of one’s paddleboard, and then dropped to the ocean floor.
Stand Up Paddle Vancouver runs SUP yoga classes May to October. Participants usually meet at Hadden Park behind the Vancouver Maritime Museum. But Wright noted that she’s mobile and has packed her van with paddleboards to teach SUP yoga classes everywhere from Deep Cove to lakes around Pemberton. First-timers are asked to pay $75 for a 90-minute “learn to SUP” class, after which they can participate in regular sessions like Wright’s 6:30 a.m. “morning moving meditation” for $20.
For those intrigued but not thrilled about the prospect of waking up in time for sunrise, Vancouver Water Adventures offers similar classes a little later in the morning. Just down the street, at Kitsilano Beach, it holds 90-minute sessions beginning at 9 a.m. for $35.
The company’s cofounder, Jessica Watson, told the Straight she enjoyed paddleboarding as a fun new activity on the water, got into yoga to help with an injury, and then found she could combine the two for a better workout.
“I actually have really bad hips, and when I’m practising yoga, I find it always helps,” she said. “And it [SUP yoga] is even quite a bit more of a core workout.”
Alternatively, Vancouver residents interested in making a weekend of it can find SUP yoga classes farther afield.
On the phone from Vancouver Island, Catherine Bruhwiler, owner of Tofino Paddle Surf, emphasized the connection to nature that one can feel when practising yoga on a paddleboard.
“Our first ever SUP yoga class was on Earth Day,” she said. “It’s all on the open ocean. We have eagles and seals and crabs and fish jumping and all sorts of fun stuff going on.”
Vancouver residents can book with Tofino Paddle Surf in advance through the company’s website. Regular sessions are held Wednesday and Sunday mornings beginning at 8 a.m. The price ranges from $20 to $40 per class.
Bruhwiler said just about anyone can participate. “We do recommend people have tried paddling once, at least,” she added.
Back in Vancouver, Wright similarly said SUP yoga isn’t as difficult as one might think. “It’s really not so much about strength as it is about balance,” she said. “Our only requirement is that you can swim.”
Wright acknowledged that taking to the water might sound like a lot more work than a quick stop by the studio, but she emphasized that the extra effort is worth it.
Instead of four walls, she continued, a SUP yoga class is bordered by the North Shore Mountains, the city’s glass towers, and Vancouver Island off in the distance.
“It’s the closest thing you’ll ever get to walking on water,” Wright said.