A Skeptic Looks at SUP Yoga

SUP yoga instructor and founder of In Love Yoga and Music, Talee Roony, serenades a yoga class taught by fellow instructor, Amelia Travis during a SUP yoga workshop at Mother's Beach in Marina del Rey. Photo by Rachael Thompson Photography
SUP yoga instructor and founder of In Love Yoga and Music, Talee Laurén, serenades a yoga class taught by fellow instructor, Amelia Travis during a SUP yoga workshop at Mother’s Beach in Marina del Rey. Photo by Rachael Thompson Photography

A Skeptic Looks at SUP Yoga

When SUP yoga really caught on a few years ago, I brushed it off as a fleeting fad—a gimmick that inundated my Instagram feed and nothing else. These yogis had it backwards, I thought. Standups are meant for one thing: standing. Not sitting, not stretching; definitely not downward facing dogs or child’s poses. I clung to a narrow mentality: Standup paddlers stretch to paddle, not the other way around.

But, as time went by, the fad never faded. Just the opposite; it got more popular. Many of my yogi friends made the switch from sand to SUP. I even heard some guys in the lineup at Black’s Beach in San Diego talking about a SUP yoga class they took in Mission Bay. Despite my disregard, it was clear: SUP yoga is here to stay.

To understand why, I tracked down Talee Laurén, certified SUP yoga instructor and founding guru of In Love Yoga and Music in San Clemente. Talee takes a unique approach to SUP yoga. She’s also a talented musician, and uses her ukulele to serenade her classes during their flow for a uniquely calming and spiritual spin. I figured, if anyone could, Talee would be the one to make me a believer.

I asked her, “What’s all this SUP Yoga fuss about?” She responded with a question of her own: “Well, have you tried it?”

Me? No, never. Why would I? I’m a paddler. I’m a surfer. I stretch to SUP. That’s it.

“SUP yoga is such a healthy experience in itself,” Talee said. “Getting out in nature, poising your body, going through flows and breathing exercises on the water—it totally opens your body and mind. But it’s also a really good balance exercise.”

“Yoga is one of the best things you can do for your paddling and surfing. If you can, why not do it on the same tool you use to surf and paddle?”

I decided to give it a try. Talee offered to give me a lesson on her personal board, which was designed specifically for yoga (so much for my theory that SUPs are made solely for standing). The board had very little rocker and was much wider than most standups, built for stability. I found it was much more secure than even the bulkiest of beginner boards.

I paddled out from Baby Beach into Dana Point Harbor with Talee to begin my lesson. She brought along her ukulele and spirits were high as a cool afternoon breeze nudged us gently out into the sprawling marina. Even before the flow began, my skepticism of SUP yoga began to unravel. The setting alone—the calmly rocking water, the warm hue of Southern California’s golden hour, the music, the company of an enlightened enthusiast—was enough incentive for an old dog to learn new tricks.

talee rooney headstand
Talee Rooney, a master of SUP Yoga, puts on a fine display of the more advanced techniques. (Eds note: Mike did not try this pose)

Then came the actual yoga. I’ve been through Vinyasa flows before in classroom settings, I’ve even endured my share of Hatha (better known as hot yoga), but my experience that day eclipsed all preconceptions, both physically and mentally. The added necessity for balance commanded complete focus, planting me firmly in the moment and delivering a meditative state like none I’d experienced through yoga before. The poses were amplified by the fluidity of the moving board, and paralleled the challenges of balance and stability that surfing demands. I finally understood: yoga and SUP are a match made in paddlers’ heaven.

By the time I made it back to the beach—lightened, enlightened, glowing with endorphins and soothingly sore—I was converted. My original theory still applies—standups are for standing. But standups are also for sitting and slowing down, stretching, meditating, breathing, even downward facing dog and child’s pose. The capabilities of our SUP is limited only by our minds. The potential for expanding your standup practices are boundless. And if you’re still a skeptic, like I once was, don’t take it from me. Get out there and try it for yourself.

For more info on Talee Laurén and In Love Yoga and Music, click here.

To get involved in SUP yoga in Orange County, check out Paddleboard Bliss Yoga.

For SUP yoga in San Diego, check out San Diego Paddle Yoga.

For SUP yoga teacher trainings, check out Stoked Yogi.

For more on SUP Yoga from SUP magazine, click here.