YOGA FOR PADDLERS
Can you smell it? Yup, that’s the fresh taste of Spring in the air! Paddle season is right around the corner and to prepare for another season on the water, I’ve put together a fun yoga sequence aimed at counter balancing your paddling activities. To achieve maximum balance on your board, it’s important for your mind and body to also be balanced. Yoga is a great tool to use to attain that balance.
Seated Side Bend
Lateral extensions are a great way to move energy in the body. Moving through a few lateral stretches whether standing or sitting before heading out for a paddle is a great way to get pumped up. This pose helps to lengthen the side body and intercostal muscles that tend to tighten up when sitting and slouching. Practicing this asana will encourage a deeper and fuller breath. Healthy breathing while paddling allows you to stay present, create good blood circulation, and release tension thus enabling you to surrender to the ebb and flow of the water beneath you.
- Get into a comfortable seated position.
- Take your right hand to the ground far away from your right sit bone.
- With an inhale, reach your left arm up to the sky as you lengthen through the left side of your body. Rotate the rib cage upwards to avoid collapsing in the shoulders. Turn your gaze up to the sky.
JUST KIDDING, I’ve watched way too much Tiger King during quarantine ha ha!
Tiger pose is a great way to awaken the spine and fire up the core. Core strength is important when paddling as it is what enables you to find more balance while standing.. Having good core strength reduces the risk of spinal injury that could happen while paddling when twisting your torso or riding a bumpy wave for example. Firing up your core and building up strength will allow you to have greater distal stability and mobility (aka. Better odds of not falling in). This pose is also a great way to strengthen the shoulders and practice balance while playing teeter totter on two limbs. A great trick to find stability in this asana is to find a dristhi (a point of focus or something that is not moving), just as you would when looking over the horizon while paddling.
- From tabletop position, take a few rounds of cat/cow to awaken the spine.
- Slowly shift your weight into your left leg, and inhale the right leg up and back behind you. Let your right toes point towards the ground.
- Use an inhale to reach the left arm up in front of you. Lengthen from your fingertips all the way down to your right heel. Take a few rounds of breath here.
- Start to bend into your right knee, shining the sole of the foot up towards the sky.
- Option to reach your left finger tips back and grab a hold of your right foot creating a gentle backbend.
- Repeat on the other side.
Low lunge is an amazing hip flexor stretch. It goes deep into the groin, quadriceps, thighs, and psoas. This is a great counterbalancing pose for all the hinging forward paddlers do. In addition to being an efficient way to open up the hips, it’s also a gentle backbend that aids in opening up the front line of the body.
- From downward facing dog, slowly step your right foot between your hands.
- Use an inhale to reach your arms up toward the sky as you open up the chest and press the hips down. (Caution: the knee should be aligned with the heel and not go past the toes).
- Hold low lunge position for a few breaths, using every exhale to lengthen the front line of the body as you deepen into your backbend.
Goddess squat is a great way to fire up the body. It helps build lower body strength, which is necessary when trying to find stability on your board. The added external rotation in the hips is also a nice way to counterbalance the linear position we find ourselves in while paddling. “Cactus-ing” the arms out while practicing goddess squat is also a lovely way to open up the shoulders and broaden the chest. It helps to tone the muscles around the scapulae and upper back.
- Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip width distance apart and turn the toes outwards.
- Reach the arms up on an inhale as you lengthen the sides of your body.
- Exhale, start to bend into the knees and cactus the arms simultaneously. The knees should be pressing back while the hips drop low. For added difficulty, try lifting up on your tippy toes!
- Hold for 10 breaths.
- Repeat three times.
Standing Figure 4
Standing Figure 4 is a great way to practice your balance all while finding a deep hip, hamstring and glute stretch. It’s a wonderful pose to help strengthen the foot and ankle of the standing leg. Just like when you paddle, try moving your toes around in this pose to avoid death-gripping the ground and really test your balance.
- Start standing and gently inhale lifting the right knee up to 90 degrees in front of you.
- Once you’ve found your balance, slowly begin to stack your right ankle over top of your left knee as you sink the hips down into a chair pose position.
- Stay strong in the core.
- If you’d like to deepen into the stretch, you can hinge at the hips bringing your hands down to the ground in front of you.
- Hold for a few rounds of breath and repeat on the other side.
Triangle pose is another great pose for practicing balance and stability. This pose requires a lot of leg strength and core strength. Adding a half bind behind your back with the top arm also encourages an opening in the chest and deepening of the breath. The leg positioning in this pose is also a good way to prepare for riding your SUP in a surfer stance.
- Start in Warrior II with your right leg forward, left leg back.
- Slowly straighten your right leg and find a gentle pop of the left hip (I call this a Beyonce Booty-Tootch).
- Hinge at the hips as you reach the right arm forward.
- Keep the core strong and then draw your right hand to the inside of your left calf or ankle.
- Left arm is reaching up towards the sky and possibly finds a half bind behind your back.
- Turn the gaze up towards the sky and slowly lean your weight back as though there is an invisible wall supporting you from behind.
- Hold for a few breaths and repeat on the other side
Next time you head out for a healthy dose of SUP social isolation, try giving this gentle six pose yoga sequence a shot. See how you feel when you balance out the energy in your body and mind before trying to find balance on water.
It’s amazing what yoga can do for the mind, body and spirit.
Karine is a mom and a doula as well as a yoga and paddleboard instructor the from the National Capital Region who teaches yoga and paddleboard with Paddlefit in Chelsea, Quebec. As a Level Six ambassador, her favourite board to ride is the Ultra Light inflatable SUP.