down dog on the paddle board
down dog on a paddle board on Lake Murray

Get Active – Try Paddle board Yoga

Paddle board yoga on Lake Murray is something all yogis and anyone who loves being on the water must try. The challenge of finding balance when performing paddle board yoga is difficult but also fun, even if you find yourself in the water. Paddle board yoga fit right in with Athlete’s Arena’s “Let’s Play!” blog series so Heather Kobus signed up for a City Yoga paddle board class lead by Stacey Millner-Collins. The purpose of Athlete’s Arena’s “Let’s Play!” blog series is to encourage AA members and the community to get outdoors and get active for a healthy lifestyle.

California Comes to Leesville, SC

Heather grabbed a friend and headed out to Leesville, South Carolina, about 20 minutes from Athlete’s Arena Irmo for a sunset class of paddle board yoga on Lake Murray. Once she arrived at California Republic SUP she was introduced to Steve Fisher, owner and operator of California Republic SUP. (SUP stands for Stand Up Paddle board.  A little side note from Steve, he said SUP can also be used as a verb – i.e., “Did you SUP today”?) Steve was a longtime California surfer before he moved to South Carolina in 2004. After moving to the east coast, Steve found he missed the surf and wanted to bring some of his California culture to South Carolina. His surf now is paddling on Lake Murray. To share his passion and love of the water and paddle boarding, he introduces people to this sport during his summer break as a veteran high school history teacher, and on the weekends. Steve partners with local yoga instructors to offer rentals and instruction to their paddle board yoga classes.

History of the Paddle Board

As a history teacher and a surfer from southern California, Steve knows a thing or two about the history of stand up paddle boarding.

Most sources that I have seen set the origins in the early 2000s in Hawaii and California.  Surfers began building large surfboards that were about 25% – 40% larger than traditional longboard surfboards.  This allowed surfers to continue surf when waves were tiny pulses.  (A large board with ample flotation allows a person to have the stability to stand on calm waters.) Names of early pioneers that come to mind are Laird Hamilton in Hawaii, and Joe Bark in California.  However, it isn’t a far stretch to give credit to indigenous peoples generations ago who stood in their canoes with long paddles to give them a better vantage point for fishing.   

While paddle boarding will never take the place of surfing in California, Steve says it has been a “suitable surrogate”.

Getting Started with Paddle Board Yoga

Before heading out to give paddle board yoga on Lake Murray a try, instructions were provided to those who were new to the sport or who were a bit “rusty”. This is done so the class could have a more enjoyable time on the water and to ensure everyone makes it to the designated cove without incident. Where to place your feet once you stand, basic paddle techniques, proper paddle height, the anchor system and how to operate your personal flotation device are things you need to know in order to get started.

Steve setting Heather up on the paddle board

After outfitting Heather with a board, paddle, anchor and safety device, she was ready to hit the open water for some yoga.

Paddle Board Yoga Basics

Once Heather arrived at the cove with the rest of the class, Stacey took the class through some standing and lunge poses. From table top to downward facing dog, the key is to take it slow and focus. If you’ve ever done warrior pose on land, it is completely different when you have to try perform the pose on a paddle board in the water. Finding your balance is tricky and it’s easy to find yourself losing balance and hitting the water. Paying attention to alignment and foot placement are important, as well as focusing on the fluid movement of your body. Many of the yogi paddlers in this class found themselves hitting the water, but they climbed back on the board each time they fell off. As long as you know how to swim and are comfortable around water, falling in is not much of a concern. Just hop back on the board, reset your feet, find your focus and resume the pose!

kneeling crescent lunge on a paddle board
kneeling crescent lunge on a paddle board

In addition to having fun with friends, meeting new people and experiencing some quiet solitude on the water, paddle board yoga offers a different kind of workout. During this hour long class, time was spent on performing different yoga poses. Engaging muscles, especially when you are caught by a sudden wave that sets you off balance, provides a sense of strength and confidence during the class. Many of these are muscles you would not likely use with on-land yoga. Yes, paddle board yoga offers a great workout. While Stacey made it look effortless, it is a skillful sport that demands awareness of your body and your surroundings.

Paddle boarding on Lake Murray at Sunset
paddle boarding on Lake Murray at sunset

At the end of the class, Stacey guided the yogis through several minutes of meditation. Lying on the board feeling the presence of nature and the quietness of the surroundings before paddling back to shore in the sunset is good for the mind. The meditation was a good reminder to get outdoors and experience something fun and challenging.

Being active outdoors has many proven health benefits and watching the sunset on Lake Murray can instantly improve your mood. Physical activity is an essential component of a healthy lifestyle. We would highly suggest signing up for paddle board yoga on Lake Murray with Stacey at City Yoga. Or, if you just want to paddle around Lake Murray with family or friends, contact Steve with California Republic SUP. He offers on site weekend paddle board rentals, summer camps, sales and fitness and SUP events.

Get outdoors and be active for a healthy lifestyle, and “Let’s Play!

Message from Stacey Millner-Collins

Yoga is a practice that honors the well being of the entire person…mind, body, spirit. Most people believe yoga is only about increasing flexibility, which it does, but it also builds deep strength, better awareness, lowers blood pressure, and decreases stress, anxiety, and tension. It is open to all people from those who are differently-abled to the elite athlete. It can be practiced anywhere and at any time. Simply standing in line at a grocery store offers the opportunity to align your posture and to focus your mind on the present through basic breath awareness. Most classes guide you through a sequence of poses facilitated by the breath and end with a period of relaxation, called savasana. No matter the length of the practice session, the practitioner often leaves feeling calmer and more energized.