As I’m pretty sure you all know, I did a yoga retreat at Raithwaite Estate in April and literally haven’t shut up about it since. I wouldn’t quite say it was a life-changing experience, although it did make a huge impact on me in terms of my yoga ability, my dedication to yoga and my confidence. Plus I got to try out a super exciting new experience for me: Stand Up Paddleboard Yoga (also known as SUP Yoga, because the full name is just far too long!).
The retreat was jointly hosted by Victoria at Tree Living Yoga (who, by the way, has lots of yoga retreats planned at the moment, both in North Yorkshire and worldwide – take a look here) and Simon at Valley Adventures who ran the SUP sessions for us.
What is SUP and SUP Yoga?
I literally had no idea before I was asked to join the retreat that SUP yoga even existed! Stand up paddleboarding is a popular sport on the water that’s sort of half way between surfing and being a gondolier. The paddleboard is much bigger than a traditional surf board – usually 9 to 12 feet – and are either made of plastic, foam, hollow wood or are inflatable. The ones we used were the inflatable kind so were pretty lightweight with a sturdy exterior.
It can be as calm or as exciting as you like. Simon, along with co-owner Dan at Valley Adventures, actually run a variety of different adventures on paddle boards including cruising down the river Tees, surfing on the North Sea and, of course, SUP yoga. SUP Yoga is simply the act of doing yoga on a paddleboard!
My first experience of SUP Yoga
I was nervous before the yoga retreat as I didn’t know what to expect from SUP yoga. I’d never been surfing or even worn a wetsuit before, so I was apprehensive about that to start with, and I also worried that I wouldn’t be fit enough. SUP does require a certain amount of balance and a little bit of strength (it’s amazing for upper body and core, by the way).
Our measurements were taken before the retreat so they could get some wetsuits sorted for us. When we arrived, after meet and greet, SUP yoga was our first activity – so some of us were literally thrown in the deep end! The wetsuits and booties were all laid out ready for us, and Simon provided a few in different sizes too, just in case. SUP doesn’t need to be done in a wetsuit, in fact, you find that most pictures you see of it are people in bikinis or normal yoga wear. But in North Yorkshire, most of the time it does!
After a bit of a struggle with our wetsuits and a lift up to the lake, we were given an on land tutorial in how to get onto the boards, how to hold our paddles and propel ourselves through the water and what to do if we fell in. For the first session, we were advised to get down on our knees first until we’d figured out how the thing worked before standing up. Each board had a strap that went around your ankle so that you would stay attached to your board if you fell off. Simon had already laid out a couple of lines in the water, so we all wobbled our way off the dock onto the boards and slowly pushed our way into the centre where he attached us at the front and back. And here the SUP yoga began!
Victoria started us off gently and easily. We’d gone through a few basic yoga poses on land beforehand as some people were complete beginners to yoga – SUP yoga must have been a crazy introduction to their first yoga session! Victoria recommended we stay close to the board on the first session so we could figure out where our centre of gravity was, so there were some cat/cows, pigeons, cobras and camels (all yoga poses! Although there were also a few ducks and ducklings on the lake and cows wandering alongside!), and finally we started to progress to more upright poses like downward facing dog. We finished up with some chanting and savasana in the sunshine.
I’m not sure what I was nervous about as it was amazing! Having the water lapping around you and rocking you ever so gently while practising yoga is a fantastic experience.
And then we got to have some fun in learning how to SUP! Most of us got to our feet and did a few circuits of the island in the lake. And there were only a couple of splashes from brave people falling in that day.
The next day we were grouped into a circle and embarked on some more advanced poses that we’d practised in our yoga sessions throughout the day as well as some games. We’d all had time to bond so having the circle felt so much more fun as we giggled at each other across the boards. Plus it seemed a bit sturdier too, although we did worry that if one of us went down, we’d be like dominoes!
The final day, we were allowed to have a bit of fun. We paddled around the lake a few times, had some competitions on who could tiptoe to the front of the board first (impossible – this is when I first fell in!), learned how to spin our boards, then had a couple of races – including a relay which I just won for our team. I was up against Toni as the last member of each team who is super competitive, and it was a fight to the finish! At this point, most of the group decided to get out, leaving a few of us still on the water – we decided to have some fun with yoga poses. Toni and I were, of course, challenging each other in various positions, and I lost count of how many times Toni fell in! And then I managed to accomplish my first headstand on a SUP:
SUP yoga wasn’t as difficult as I expected it to be but it was far more fun than I ever imagined. There are so many fun memories I’ve got now from the SUP yoga sessions – aside from the above and our numerous trips into the lake, I’ll never forget Max realising half way through a session she was wearing her wetsuit inside out, Elaine being able to splits (despite being the oldest lady there!) and Lynn leaping into the water because her sister Sue had fallen in and she didn’t want to miss out on the fun! I’m now seeking out SUP yoga everywhere I go!