Earlier this month, I tried something WAY out of my comfort zone. I told you back in this post about how I have not had a regular yoga practice in place across my fitness journey, and just recently found one that I enjoy. Well, I took all of that good juju from my newfound enjoyment of yoga and really pushed my own boundaries by trying out SUP Yoga 501. If you aren’t familiar with the “SUP” acronym, it is short for Stand Up Paddleboard. If you aren’t familiar with paddle boarding, it’s a water activity atop a board that resembles a surf board, but in reality is larger and more sturdy. I giggled as I sat here and typed the word “sturdy” because there was nothing too sturdy about me on a board in water trying to do yoga.
I’m really building up how big of a deal this is for you guys because (big breath) I, Haley, am a fraidy cat. I consider myself adventurous in that I like to try new things and go new places, but if there is ever even a smidge of room for my brain to sense “danger” I am quick to run in the opposite direction. So, yeah, my pre-SUP yoga thoughts were basically that I was going to get out in the middle of the Arkansas river on this tiny surfboard-looking device, fall in, and drift to my death. And the thought of Yoga in the middle of all that had me fully planning to set myself in child’s pose gripping both edges of the board until it was time to paddle back in. Isn’t that a pretty picture of life preservation?!
*Photo by Miranda Yelvington
Class was held on the Arkansas River at Two River’s Bridge on a Sunday morning 7:30-9:30. We gathered near the boat ramp and this is where I first met our instructor, Jo Ann Camp. She is a long-time yoga instructor and well-known professional in central Arkansas. I have heard her name so many times from so many people, all of whom sang her praises, so just meeting her was an exciting part of this experience! Ya’ll, her demeanor was so cool and calm that I felt better the second she started talking to us. After welcoming us, she immediately started easing my unspoken fears. “It’s windy today but not too windy…Don’t worry about the water being dirty, if you fall in just get back on your board, etc” She had brought the boards we would be using on a trailer and each board came with a floatation device and paddle. One by one, she passed out a board to each of us and walked us through how to put in the water. I wore regular sandals that day, but I would suggest wearing water shoes if you have them. The next time I go to class, I’ll wear my Chacos. Jo Ann warned us to not be barefoot where we put in at the boat ramp, just in case there was glass or other sharp objects that we couldn’t see. We put our shoes under a secured strap at the front of the board out of our way for the duration of class.
Once I got my board in the water, I climbed on top, sat on my knees, and used my paddle to move toward a cove about 25 yards away where we were all supposed to meet up before anchoring. At this point I was still semi-nervous, which is why I paddled on my knees, but most everyone else stood on their board while paddling. I also want to mention that as we were all getting in the water there was a man in a fishing boat circling to make sure we were all okay. Bless him. His presence definitely eased my worries.
Once we were all in the water, Jo Ann set up our anchor that was attached to a rope with multiple buoys spaced out along it. We were instructed to paddle up to a buoy station and connect using a rope and carabiner that was provided. Again, this made me feel better knowing were were anchored down, and all within close proximity of each other (but not too close!) Class began with simple movements just to get in touch with our bodies on our boards. From there, our poses and sequences built in difficulty. From looking around at other class participants, there were all different levels of yogis present. I, being a beginner, did what I was comfortable with, and even tried a few poses I didn’t expect to try; but, when the poses advanced beyond my practice/ability I felt comfortable doing my own thing even if it was a child’s pose or moving through a vinyasa. Jo Ann instructed the majority of class from sitting on her board and verbally calling out different poses and and yoga terminology. This was neat for me to connect with my own current knowledge of terminology and the poses of which I have yet to attempt or master. She did demonstrate some of the more advanced poses- during which I just sat and watched in awe.
*Photo of Jo Ann Camp by Miranda Yelvington
I know what you’re dying to know. Can’t believe I held off this long to tell you. YES, your girl fell in. More like flopped in actually, but it’s fine. I wasn’t the only one either! Several class participants took a dip at one point or another during class. Here’s how it went down: we were in warrior 2- all is well, reverse warrior- still good over here, Jo Ann mentions we could lift our vision if we would like a challenge and I thought pshhh I got this and look up to the sky….FLOP! Honestly y’all, I wish it had happened sooner. This was probably 60-70% of the way through class and the whole time I had been so in my head about falling in. Would it be cold? Would it hurt? Would I look like a fool? Nope. None of the above. It felt AMAZING to be liberated of my fear! I fell in and got back on my board all within about 10 seconds total- maybe less. Just a quick little dip!
*Photos by Miranda Yelvington
Class ended with the most relaxing savasana of all time. Lying flat on our backs with the sun on our faces and no sound other than the water moving around us. It was beautiful! After class, we paddled back in to the boat ramp and this time -having conquered my fear of falling in- I paddled standing up! This class was SO. MUCH. FUN! It was scary for me in the beginning, challenging for me in the middle, and it was liberating for me in the end. And isn’t that what all of life’s new experiences should be like?
If you haven’t tried SUP yoga 501, put this at the top of your list of things to do. Now is the perfect time to try since it’s summer! If you have the same anxieties about this class that I had, I’m here to tell you that you are in great hands and you will LOVE it! To try a class for yourself, download the free MINDBODY app in your App Store and search SUP YOGA 501. A single paddle board class is $35 but there is a 5 class package option for $160 along with seasonal pass options with pricing dependent upon whether or not you have your own board to bring. You can also check out SUP yoga 501 on Facebook and Instagram. I am so grateful for this experience! I have so much respect for Jo Ann and the business she has built with SUP Yoga 501. I’m also very grateful for Mandy Yelvington and her amazing photography skills! Check out her instagram feed for more incredible photos! Thank you all for reading today, hope to see you out on the water soon!