Balancing Act 

Stand-Up Paddleboard Yoga

Jessica Murri

Most yoga classes don't have much giggling, splashing or the oversight of lifeguards. These are not the yoga classes taught every Sunday morning at the West Boise YMCA. Swap out a yoga mat for a 12-foot stand-up paddleboard (SUP), turn the glossy hardwood floor of a yoga studio into a pool of chlorinated water and you'll have SUP yoga.

The SUP trend started locally this summer on Quinn's Pond, where Idaho River Sports rented out a handful of boards and an instructor held yoga classes on the water. It added to the newfound color of the whitewater park and pond, populated with kayakers, body surfers, triathlon swimmers, dogs, families and kids.

All that went away when the pond iced over, but the West Y saw a niche.

The Y partnered with Idaho River Sports, bought 10 SUPs (soon to be 15), sent a few yoga instructors through special SUP yoga certification training and started classes two months ago.

I went to a recent Sunday morning class at 9 a.m., wearing my Patagonia bikini (that I found on sale) and some board shorts that almost match it.

That was a mistake. People, don't wear a bikini. I kept my cotton shirt on to avoid embarrassment, but everyone else was more appropriately dressed in spandex yoga tops and athletic shorts. Apparently if you do it right, you don't get wet.

We anchored our boards to the lane line, thwarting the chaos that would stem from 10 adventurous, albeit unbalanced, yoga practitioners drifting in every direction. The tricky part: Our instructor was also in the line-up. Being toward the end made it hard to see or hear her.

Because of that--and the fact that you're floating on a wobbly, over-sized surf board--this class is not for the inexperienced yogi. The instructor can't exactly walk around and help move your unstable limbs into the correct position. Despite that, only one person fell off his board during class.

SUP yoga probably needs to be done more than once. There are so many new elements to get used to that it's hard to reach any state of meditation. It's humid, loud fans blow in the background and there's that lifeguard perched on his podium directly above you while you lie on your back holding your spread legs into the air, awkwardly rocking back and forth in the "Happy Baby" pose.

But lying back on the board and spreading my arms, letting them float in the pool--that was pretty awesome. The integration of yoga and water during a brief savasana was bliss. The next day, I felt the burn in my arms, legs and core unlike any on-land yoga class.

The YMCA aquatics director said he hopes to add a Saturday night SUP yoga class in the future, and maybe one in the middle of the week. Classes are $15 for YMCA members and $20 for everyone else.

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