Paddle board yoga?
The system of physical exercise that originated some 5,000 years ago as part of a spiritual quest to attain liberation from worldly suffering has evolved into a discipline that, for most of the western world today, derives from Hatha yoga, focusing on exercises to bring about self-awareness and transcendence. The paddle board is merely another tool — like the yoga mat — to help achieve that sense of well-being and confidence.
Lori Card, who began practicing yoga as a child and in April received certification to teach Stand Up Paddle Board Yoga, now holds classes in Meredith, Center Harbor, Holderness, and Plymouth. She said that, for her, yoga teaches observation without reaction, acceptance without judgment. Yoga remains spiritual as well as physical, she said, for the two are inseparable.
She said the exercises associated with yoga originated as a means to prevent or relieve the muscle cramps that came as a result of long periods of meditation.
Most of those who come to her paddle board yoga classes have previously taken studio classes, although Card says that is not necessary to participate. Some who take the class come to it from the other side, having previously done paddle boarding and deciding to take the yoga class as the next thing to do.
She explained that the paddle board itself came about when surfers were looking for something to do when there were no waves. They started using a paddle, and then developed poses to strike while on the board.
Scott Crowder, who operates Ekal Activity Center at Church Landing which supplies the paddle boards for Card’s Meredith classes, said there are racing paddle boards that are narrower with more of a point in front, and wider boards built more for stability. Those that he supplies are hybrids that glide well in the water while still providing a great deal of stability.
Card’s classes at Church Landing take place through Sacred Waters Yoga at Mill Falls which has a daily schedule offering various types of classes, taught by a dozen instructors. In addition to all levels of yoga, there are offerings such as gentle prenatal yoga, warm yoga, and aerial yoga, as well as classes for teens only and separate classes for men and women. There is sunrise yoga at 6 a.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and a 7 p.m. Yoga Basics Plus class on Mondays.
Paddle board yoga is offered on Mondays at 7:30 a.m., when the water is calm and the day is still new. Taking place in a resort community, Card said most of the participants are there for the first time, although there are some repeat students, and Sacred Waters offers a punch card to provide discounts to those who want to take a series of classes.
What are the advantages of paddle board yoga? Card said it promotes a better sense of balance, for one thing. Many people who initially say they could “never do” paddle board yoga have given it a try and found it to be great.
While most who attend paddle board yoga are good swimmers, Card noted that non-swimmers still can participate. The classes take place in shallow water — off the main beach at Church Landing, in a wooded area, or near Indian Island — and part of Card’s certification involved rescue training.
The class includes instruction in paddling techniques and starts with simple exercises that even those without yoga experience can do. As she works her way through the exercises, Card can judge the level of the participants and she tries to end with something challenging for those willing to give it a try.
Card said that some of the postures that are easiest in the studio prove to be the hardest on the paddle board — such as the Standing Warrior pose.
It is not unusual for someone to lose their balance due to muscle fatigue or making a wrong step and end up falling in, but Card noted that, unlike in the studio where there is a hard floor, falling into water does not hurt. Balancing on a paddle board will put into use a lot of tiny muscles and the most common area for fatigue is in the feet which are constantly gripping the board during most of the exercises.
In the end, the paddle board yoga increases one’s balance and one’s confidence. Card said many people find on the paddle back to shore that they are much more relaxed — like having had a glass or two of wine.
While relatively new, paddle board yoga is quickly growing in popularity and Card sees it really taking off as more people have a chance to experience it. Many who try it get hooked and end up buying their own paddle boards. She noted that people are welcome to bring their own boards, if they have them. Ekal can provide boards to those who do not own one of their own.
As paddle board yoga becomes more popular, Card can foresee social events based around the classes. She already is looking at full moon paddles in Wolfeboro and is thinking about a fall foliage paddle at Profile Lake. She also gives private lessons and recently did a paddle board yoga class at a birthday party.
Most classes see four to six participants, while 10 is the maximum, said Card.
Michele Brown, director of marketing and public relations at the Inns and Spa at Mill Falls, is among those taking the class, and she said she finds that getting out in the elements prompts people to be more sociable and talkative than when taking yoga classes in a studio. “There’s more getting to know people,” she said.
“People feel more confident with the board and paddling when they’re done,” said Card. “They end up being more comfortable with their bodies, more playful, and more confident in themselves.”
For more information on stand up paddle board yoga, see Lori Card’s website, www.lovinyoga.com.