Fall is one of the most amazing seasons to get out and paddle. The crowds clear out, the leaves start to pop and, in many places, and the water is often times warmer than the air temps. And if you get lucky, you might just score a 78 degree, bluebird day in November with no one else around.
As temps cool down at night our bodies are also looking for some rejuvenation to deal with the shift to cold & dry weather as well as boosting our moods when daylight hours start to decrease. Yoga is an amazing way to balance out the seasons and it’s super easy to do on a large SUP designed for flat water.
For this sequence, I would recommend using the largest board you have (I chose the Hala Daze at 11’11” and 46” wide but anything that feels stable is a great option). If it’s cold out, give your body time to warm up by paddling for at least 10 minutes to get the blood flowing and wetsuits are also a great option when the air temps drop below 70 degrees.
As with all yoga, modify as needed and feel free to add your own variations and flare.
Warm Up (cat / cow)
A great way to get used to your balance on the board and warm up your spine. Position yourself on hands and knees in the middle of your board and arch your back (like a Halloween cat) and then allow your belly to drop towards the board (like a cow). Repeat 5 to 10 times. Animal sounds are optional…
Inversions (legs up at 90 / shoulderstand / headstand)
Sometimes inversions are written off as “advanced poses” and left out of a basic yoga practice however they are some of the most beneficial poses to improve circulation and boost your mood, two things the body craves in fall. An easy, beginner friendly inversion (and a great way to check out the sky) is to lay on your back on the board and take your legs up towards the sky.
If your hamstrings are tight put a gentle bend in the knees to soften any strain on the low back. If you already practice shoulderstand or headstand in your “land” practice then give em a try here as well, making sure to position yourself in the center of the board once you are at your balancing point. Keep your neck long in all inversions and roll the shoulders down away from the ears. Hold for 10 – 20 slow breaths if possible and add any leg variations that feel good.
Bring yourself back down to earth with childs pose, a great counter pose for all inversions to help the blood re-circulate in the body. Either with your knees together or taking them wide towards the rails of your board, fold yourself forward over your legs into a little ball. Arms may remain by your sides or stretch forwards for a deeper shoulder stretch.
Take several deep breaths rolling the shoulders back and down away from the ears and gently turning the head side to side (as if you were nodding your head no) to release the neck. Remain in childs pose until you feel the heart rate calm from the inversion.
One of the most powerful poses for lengthening and strengthening the spine is the twist. As seasons change, so do our diets and this is a great way to also support the digestive track as it tackles the heavier foods (pumpkin spice doughnuts anyone?) of the season.vStart the seated twist by sitting tall on your sit bones and hugging one knee in towards the chest. Straighten the other leg long and flex the foot to keep it active. Use the bent leg as an anchor and hug it in with the opposite arm or take the opposite elbow to the outside of the knee as pictured below.
See if you can pull your belly up and in as you twist your spine towards the bent leg. Continue the twist all the way through your neck and head taking the gaze into the corners of your eyes and looking as far to the left (or right) to check out your surroundings. Hold each side for 5 breaths
Along with inversions, backbends are another amazing way to boost your mood and help circulate energy. Sometimes considered advanced because of the flexibility necessary in the spine, always make sure you feel warm before trying these poses. Another round of cat/cow is also a good way to check back in with mobility.
A beginner friendly backbend to start out with is bridge pose and you can adjust the height of your bridge as the back and shoulders open up. Start off lying on your back with your knees bent and feet hip width apart and as close to your sit bones as possible. Bring your arms long by your sides and reach for your heels. Pressing into the arms to lift your hips, slowly roll through your spine to lift up onto the shoulders.
If it’s available, interlace your fingers together under your back and wiggle the shoulders together for more support. Hold for 5 breaths.
If bridge feels ok and you have tried wheel before on the ground (land practice) then move on and give wheel pose a shot. This is one of the more challenging poses to try on a SUP as the orientation can be a bit challenging, especially if the board is moving.
Start off in the same manner as bridge except for placing your hands under your shoulders. Press into your hands and lift up to the top of your head, repositioning hands to be about shoulder width apart. As you feel strong enough to do so, start to straighten your arms to open up into the full bridge pose. Hold for 5 breaths and take a generous rest on your back with knees bent after you finish all backbends.
But what about Shavasana (Final Relaxation)?
Shavasana is often times the final pose in a yoga practice where you lay on your back with eyes closed and let the body relax. While shavasana is great to do on a board in warmer temps, consider cooling down a Fall practice with a mellow paddle instead as it will keep the blood flowing and prevent the body from stiffening up.
A few breaths lying on your back, staring up at the sky is ok, but make sure you don’t feel cold. And once you get back home and are in a warm location, take a well earned shavasana / nap, potentially after eating a bunch of doughnuts or your favorite post paddle snack.
Written by Adi Carter (Hala Team Rider)
Photos by Jesse Brown
Outfit by prAna
Shot in Hudson Valley, NY