When I tell people that I teach yoga on a stand-up paddle board on the free flowing Gatineau River in Wakefield, QC, I’m met with various reactions ranging from enthusiastic to skeptical. For the curious and the disapprovers alike, I’d like to share a few insights that I’ve gained while teaching on the water and how it’s helped me gain a new perspective on yoga and life.
This is my second season teaching yoga on a board. When I was offered the chance to teach SUP Yoga, I responded with excitement and fear in equal measure. Although I felt confident in my teaching abilities on terra firma, and have paddled since I was a child, I wasn’t as confident in combining the two! My love of water and yoga ultimately propelled me to teach and now I know why I accepted the challenge… to see people light up, to see joy and excitement in their faces, if only for the hour and a half that we’re out there, makes it all worthwhile for me. When I hear students exclaim, “that was exhilarating!” or “blissful” after they get off the board, I know I’m on the right track.
In our hectic lives we’ve squeezed the joy out of everything we do, in our haste and constant doing there’s little room for joy left. As westerners with our competitive natures, I’ve observed that even our yoga practice has become heavy and serious. Practicing on the board, takes all that away, it changes the game so to speak, shakes things up. No longer can you ‘hold on’ to stay in a pose or ponder what you’re going to have for dinner while in downdog, rather, relaxation, ease and a calm and focused mind are necessary to practice in this unique water environment. The board shows you where your studio practice is off, one student so aptly observed. The water seems to wash all of our “stuff” and seriousness away, leaving more room for joy.
The whole nature of the practice connects us to nature, the big blue sky above, green tree lined shores at eye level and the clear, clean water below (a whole different perspective in downdog!), pulling us towards its serenity, one can’t help but feel a sense of joy while literally flowing to the sounds of nature and your breath. To paraphrase the revered and much loved yogi, Vanda Scaravelli, “We do yoga for the fun of it…nothing more, nothing less.” For me and others who are Yoga SUPers, fun is at the heart of our practice and falling in, plunging into the cool clear water below our feet is just part of it, as we literally and figuratively let go and let joy!