What is SUP Yoga?

Benefits, Risks, and Workouts

SUP Yoga

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If you're a yoga enthusiast who loves being near the water, you may want to look into SUP (stand-up paddleboard) yoga, which is a combination of paddleboarding and yoga in one. This popular yoga session is designed to challenge your strength and balance as you float across the water.

Hailing originally from Hawaii, SUP yoga made its way to the mainland in the early 2010s. Since then, it has risen to the top of the fitness ranks as both a mainstay class and an opportunity to connect with mother nature.

The premise is simple. Grab a SUP board, paddle out to a safe distance in a lake, the ocean, or even in a pool, and start your yoga practice. Here's everything you need to know about SUP yoga including the benefits, risks, and even a potential workout.

Benefits Of SUP Yoga

It goes without saying that many of yoga's qualities support the principles of translate into SUP yoga. This ancient, spiritual practice that is ingrained in Indian culture, is the subject of countless studies touting its benefits. Plus, it has a positive impact on mental health and can be used for lower back pain management.

Dani Schenone, RYT

SUP yoga is also an excellent way to engage in neuromotor exercise, which increases one’s balance, coordination, and proprioception.

— Dani Schenone, RYT

Standing on a SUP board enlists all the core muscles together—transverse and rectus abdominals as well as the obliques. This activity also will fine-tune your mind-body connection as you hold focus during each pose. Here are some other benefits.

Enlists New Muscles

SUP yoga forces you to stabilize multiple muscle groups at one time in order to keep you balanced. This action will cause you to work muscles you didn't know you had.

Gets You Outside

Performed by floating on water, SUP yoga will invigorate you in the refreshing outdoors. Research has long pointed to the cognitive connection between nature and positive mood.

Relieves Stress

The link between yoga and stress reduction is clear. Partaking in regular sessions of this ancient practice has been shown to reduce depression, anxiety, and stress across test subjects. These results suggest that it could do the same for you.

Strengthens Proprioception

By offering immediate feedback—like falling in the water—paddleboarding also strengthens the body’s proprioceptors. According to Schenone, proprioception is a person's sense of their body in space.

"SUP yoga is also an excellent way to engage in neuromotor exercise, which increases one’s balance, coordination, and proprioception," explains Dani Schenone, a registered yoga instructor, and Mindbody wellness expert. "The rocky waters add an additional layer of complexity that challenges one’s equilibrium, making it a great way to increase stability and movement efficiency."

Potential Risks of SUP Yoga

Sup yoga is suitable for most fitness levels, even if you have yet to attend a yoga class. To stay safe, make sure you listen to your instructor's directions and ensure that you are keeping your form in mind.

Dani Schenone, RYT

Be sure to wear a life jacket as you are likely to enjoy a splash in the water a few times [which is normal in SUP yoga].

— Dani Schenone, RYT

For the visual learners, keep a close eye on the trainer and follow what they are doing to ensure you are positioning your body in a safe way. You also should take precautions on the water.

"Be sure to wear a life jacket as you are likely to enjoy a splash in the water a few times [which is normal in SUP yoga]," explains Schenone. "Once you accept you might fall in, you should begin to relax and enjoy the class!"

Keep in mind there are some risks that come with SUP yoga. These include:

  • Falling in at low depth: Be aware of how shallow the water is below your board. Make sure it's deep enough to avoid falling onto any rocks or sharp surfaces that may be directly below.
  • Changing weather conditions: Wind can cause choppy water. For this reason, morning is usually more popular for a SUP yoga class because the offshore wind is calmer.
  • Pushing past your limits: Listen to your body. SUP yoga is designed to give you a workout, but it's also intended as a relaxing session in nature. Stick to your ability level and work on mastering your form before graduating to more advanced exercises.

"To mitigate risk, let your instructor know about your level of fitness and ask them to provide modifications for more advanced poses," suggests Schenone. "And if you are a beginner, avoid doing inversions that you cannot do on solid ground [like placing your feet over your head or your hips over your heart]."

How To Prepare

There are a few things to consider before paddling out to sea. First, check to see if your class provides a paddleboard or if you need to invest in your own.

Although most inflatable boards can come with a hefty price tag, there are affordable ones available with a little digging. You also can look into rental options.

Also, make sure to wear suitable clothing. Both swimwear and sportswear work, as long as what you're wearing is comfortable and supportive.

Be prepared for the fact that you might fall into the water and wear an outfit you won't mind getting wet.

Make sure you wear sunscreen and hydrate, too. Sunny or not, your skin and your body will thank you for the added SPF and water. You can store your water bottle in a dry bag to protect it and other valuables from the water during class.

Also, keep in mind that some classes will have you tether your board to limit drifting while others will encourage you to float on calm waters. Be prepared for both options, or call ahead to determine what to expect.

Finally, to stay safe, you should keep at least two points of contact on the board at all times. You also should opt for a wide stance on the board to enhance your balance.

Try This Sample SUP Yoga Workout

A SUP yoga workout will have your body flowing from one exercise to the other while engaging multiple muscle groups. Focus on going slow and relaxing. Here Schenone details a sample workout you can try.

  1. Start with the butterfly stretch before transitioning into a seated spinal twist moving the body left and right.
  2. Move into the fire log pose, which is also known as the knee-to-ankle-pose. This pose provides a superb stretch for the outer hips.
  3. Flow into a seated forward bend to stretch the spine, shoulders, and hamstrings. Among other things, this pose is claimed to improve digestion.
  4. Go into the cat-cow stretch to stretch the spine and lower back, before shifting into a modified side plank on both your left and right sides.
  5. Cycle through a series of movements next. Start with downward-facing dog, plank, and upward-facing dog, and then back to downward-facing dog.
  6. Come into the standing forward bend and then move into the chair pose followed by the mountain pose and then the standing forward bend again.
  7. Bring it back into plank and transition to a side plank on either side.
  8. Rest in the child's pose.

A Word From Verywell

SUP yoga can be a great exercise that affects almost all of your muscle groups. Plus, the physical and mental health benefits of SUP yoga can have a significant impact on your overall wellbeing. If you are considering trying SUP yoga, make sure you take precautions to stay safe on the water. Also, you should talk with a health care practitioner before starting a new exercise regimen.

3 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. National Center For Complementary and Integrative Health. Yoga: What you need to know.

  2. American Phycological Associates. Nurtured by nature.

  3. Shohani M, Badfar G, Nasirkandy M, et al. The effect of yoga on stress, anxiety, and depression in womenInt J Prev Med. 2018;9(1):21. doi:10.4103/ijpvm.IJPVM_242_16