Thursday, March 20, 2014

What's SUP?

Instructor, Rachel (left), and another class participant.

I've been wanting to try stand up paddleboard (SUP) yoga for the longest time, and weather and schedule finally coordinated so I could make it to a class.  Bonus, I went with a dear friend,  Pamela.  We met (way back!) in high school.  I am visiting Florida, and she now lives here.  She drove from central Florida to our home on the west coast so we could have this fun outing.  Flashback - one of our past adventures was the flying trapeze!  

Pamela (left) and me (right) in a flying trapeze class, spring 2012, in Chicago, Illinois 

Here we are two years later and thousands of miles away - Anna Maria Sound, Florida

The class is taught by Rachel of Starfish Yoga.  After a quick tutorial and paddle fitting, we were off!  We launched from the northwest edge of Perico Island into Anna Maria Sound.  We ducked under the Manatee Bridge, and headed south to a quiet area surrounded by mangroves.  Jumping mullets amused us, and we saw a hawk with a fish in its talons.

There was a steady northeast wind that pushed us south.  A few times we broke from yoga to paddle a bit north or navigate away from the mangroves.  The water in the sound is shallow, no worries if you fall in the water.  The main thing is to stay away from oyster beds.  They are quite sharp, and will slice your bare feet if you fall on one.  Pamela and I managed to stay on board the whole time, but a classmate did topple in.  The water was not too cold.

It was a lot of fun, and good exercise!  Especially the paddle back to the launch site with a headwind.  After awhile my shoulders and mid-back were fatigued, and my hands felt a little tender from the paddle.  Pamela and I both found standing to use considerable leg muscles.  I'm sure this lessens as you develop "SUP legs."  I found it most effective to paddle seated on my heels (vajrasana, or thunderbolt pose).  Pamela headed north seated, with legs stretched out.  Standing added resistance when moving into the wind.  

In all, I think anyone in reasonable physical condition can SUP.  If you can kayak, you can SUP.  Even the yoga portion could be done by someone with little yoga experience, the sequence was basic.  And a more seasoned yogi will find plenty of challenge adapting poses to the SUP!

Kayaking is the most similar experience I can relate SUP to, but SUP has even more intimacy with the water.  Only a few inches lift you off the water.  It's very easy to see into the water, and you can really feel the movement beneath you.  Like being on one of those inflatable pool floats, but bigger, and of course with more rigidity and support.   It was a lovely outing, I'll be back!  

Heading out

Sukhasana and intention setting.
Assistant Lisa (standing) keeps an additional eye on us.
Pamela in the front left there, I'm way off on the right.
Photo by Rachel

Urdhva hastasana
Photo by Rachel

Anjaneyasana (me on right)
Photo by Rachel

Utkatasana (me on the left in aqua shorts)
Photo by Rachel

Pamela takes a rest

Manatee Bridge viewed from uttanasana

Sunshine Skyway Bridge in the distance (crosses Tampa Bay)

Give SUP yoga a try if you're in the Anna Maria Island (AMI) area!  As of this post, Rachel teaches on Wednesdays at 11 a.m., weather permitting.  Mondays are on the schedule as well, once the weather is more consistently agreeable for being on the water.    

Rachel at Starfish Yoga

Like to try SUP, but without the yoga?  Contact AMI Paddleboard.  They have guided mangrove tours by SUP or kayak, and will also just rent you the equipment (bikes too, which is an awesome way to get around AMI).  

AMI Paddleboard

And lastly, want to go to a yoga class on good old dry land?  There are several options in the area, and that's worthy of a whole other post, but for now:

Island Yoga Space

Yoga on the beach
Rachel - Manatee Public Beach, Monday and Thursday at 8:30 a.m.
Erin - Pine Ave Beach (by the Sandbar Restaurant), Saturday and Sunday at 8:30 a.m.

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