SUP yoga 101: A first-timer’s guide to flowing with the ocean

A young woman lunges forward on a stand up paddle board in the ocean with her hands above her head.

As yogis, we’re always looking for ways to elevate our practice or push our skills a little further.

Some conquer gravity-defying poses in Aerial yoga, while others jump into freezing cold lochs on yoga and wild swimming getaways.

But out of all the wild and wonderful yoga styles out there, one stands out from the crowd: SUP yoga.

Just picture it.

There you are floating in the middle of the ocean with one foot lunged out before you and the other digging into the paddle board for dear life as you flow through some seriously challenging poses to the rhythm of Mother Nature.

We don’t know about you, but that sounds pretty incredible.

Whether you’re an ocean lover or a complete landlubber, SUP yoga is a unique practice serving up relaxation, reconnection and adventure in one single session.

Surface the remarkable benefits of SUP yoga and find your balance in the water with a few nifty poses for first-timers right here.

What is SUP yoga?

SUP yoga is a nourishing mix of yoga and stand up paddle boarding.

Much like a traditional yoga class, you’ll practise a hybrid of Hatha and Vinyasa yoga poses with an experienced teacher, but that’s where the similarities stop.

In a SUP yoga class, you’ll trade in your yoga mat for a large inflatable standup paddle board. And the solid ground beneath you? Well, it’s metres of crystal blue water teeming with technicoloured fish and tiny crabs. 

Now, this is where things get tricky. 

While most SUP yoga poses are pretty straightforward, practising downward-facing dog on a body of liquid takes some serious balance and concentration.

Luckily, you’ll have a highly experienced yoga teacher to guide you, and if you fall, there’s a refreshing ocean or lake there to embrace you.

This incredibly freeing and refreshing practice also boasts a number of health benefits that make wobbling on a SUP board worth every minute.

What are the benefits of SUP yoga?

A middle-aged woman practises yoga on a SUP board in the ocean to recharge and reconnect with nature.

So, what are these amazing benefits we speak of?

Well for one, SUP yoga classes offer out-of-tune yogis and tired travellers an opportunity to spend quality time soaking up the energies of the great outdoors and reconnecting with Mother Nature.

In the water, the stresses and restrictions of daily life fall away, and it’s just you and the endless blue horizon.

With nothing holding you back, you can flow through restorative yoga poses with a clear mind and calm body. But that’s not all.

Practising yoga on a stand up paddle board also:

Cultivates mindfulness and inner peace

Practising yoga in the water is one of the most relaxing experiences you can have.

Out in the water, you have the space to simply be with nature or your deepest thoughts. This serene setting allows you to slow down and be present in the current moment.

During a SUP yoga class, you’ll feel a wave of relaxation wash over you and all your stress and worries disappear, creating a space for peace, mindfulness and personal growth to happen.

Improves core strength and balance

Inflatable paddle boards add a whole new dynamic to your yoga practice.

As you flow from downward-facing dog to four-limbed staff pose and into child’s pose, you’ll need to keep your core muscles engaged and mind focussed throughout to maintain your balance and avoid falling.

Floating yoga also works muscles you usually wouldn’t in a traditional yoga class, giving you a full-body workout.

Bolsters blood flow

SUP yoga practice is often performed in the ocean. This encourages practitioners to sync their breath with the ebb and flow of the waves and promotes blood flow in the process.

And with improved circulation, comes a healthier body and stronger immune system.

Decreases stress and anxiety

SUP yoga is also a fantastic stress and anxiety buster.

Apart from the soothing effect of yoga, practising restorative asanas in calm water works wonders for your emotional and mental wellbeing.

The soothing sounds of the ocean coupled with the serene setting allow you to let go of negative thoughts and step out of patterns that no longer serve you.

Is SUP yoga suitable for beginners?

Your first time practising paddle board yoga will undoubtedly be a bit wobbly. But with some practice and patience, you’ll find your balance in the water in no time.

If you’re just starting out, it’s a good idea to join a SUP yoga retreat or class and master the basics under the guidance of a trained yoga instructor.

Most beginner SUP yoga classes take place in calm water so that you can gain your balance and confidence without getting soaked from head to toe every two minutes.

After you’ve found your footing atop the water, you can plunge further into SUP yoga on a yoga teacher training retreat and conquer more challenging yoga poses.

What’s great about SUP yoga is that you can start out on your knees and make your way up to a steady standing position when you’re ready.

A top tip is to keep your feet hip distance apart and your knees bent to aid your balance.

But just remember to have fun and relax. You’re practising yoga on water after all! 

Easy SUP yoga poses for beginners

Although paddleboard yoga might look intimidating, whatever you can do on land, you can do on water.

It’s always best to join a professional SUP yoga class or retreat if it’s your first time.

Once you’ve mastered the basics of standup paddle boarding, you’ll be able to take a swing at a few simple yoga poses that’ll add that extra challenge or adventure you’re missing from your practice.

These simple seated poses can be performed on inflatable paddle boards or hard boards, but remember to wear the right protective gear and practice with a group.

Let’s dive in!

Child’s Pose

A young woman practices child’s pose on a SUP board in the ocean.

  1. Sit on your stand up paddleboard with your toes tucked under your buttocks and hips slightly apart.
  2. Exhale and fold your upper body forward, spider-crawling your fingers to the top of your board.
  3. As you breathe, lengthen your torso a little more and feel the tension in your back, neck and shoulders release.

Cat-Cow Pose

A young woman arches and hunches her back on a stand up paddle board in the ocean.

  1. Come onto all fours with arms in line with your shoulders and knees under your hips.
  2. Find your balance, and when you’re ready, take a deep breath in and arch your back so that your head tilts back to the sky.
  3. On exhale, round your spine and bring your chin to your chest.
  4. Repeat a few times, using your breath to guide each movement.

Seated Side Stretch

A young woman stretches to one side on a stand up paddle board in a SUP yoga class.

  1. Start in the middle of your SUP board in an easy seated position.
  2. With your hands palm-down beside you, take a deep breath in and slowly reach your right arm up towards your left side.
  3. Breathe and feel a deep stretch in your side body.
  4. Come back to the centre and repeat on the other side.

Pigeon Pose

A young woman extends her legs forward in pigeon pose on a SUP yoga retreat.

  1. From all four, bring your right leg forward and square it on the stand up paddle board with your ankle in line with your arms.
  2. Make sure that your left leg is fully extended behind you. If you’re looking for an added challenge, try to bring your ankle closer to your wrist.
  3. Once you’ve reached your max, peel forward and let gravity push you deeper into the stretch.
  4. Take a few deep breaths before repeating on the other side.

Corpse Pose

A middle-aged woman relaxes on a stand up paddle board in corpse pose with her hands and feet floating in the water.

  1. Lie back on the SUP board and let your arms rest beside you with palms upwards.
  2. Take a deep breath in and become aware of your body and the water moving beneath you.
  3. Exhale slowly and ground yourself a bit further into the present moment, feeling all your aches, pains and worries wash away.
  4. Be still and breathe.

Once you’ve found your balance on the board and gained more confidence in SUP yoga, you might want to take your practice up a notch, and a yoga retreat is the perfect way to do it.

Whether you’re interested in teaching SUP yoga as a full-time career or simply want to master a new practice, there’s a huge variety of SUP yoga retreats to explore on Basubu.

Browse tropical beach retreats in Bali or advanced yoga teacher training courses in Costa Rica, and tailor your trip to your every desire.

Take the plunge in SUP yoga today with Basubu and experience yoga like never before.