By Kevin Dintino
Welcome back RVA Strong followers! This month’s challenge takes us back to the beautiful James River at Robious Landing for Paddle Board Yoga.
I have to admit that when I was first approached with the idea of trying the 12 different challenges, Paddle Board Yoga was probably the most intimidating of all the activities.I had not even tried Yoga on a stable surface, i.e. land, much less on an unstable surface such as a paddle board on a moving body of water. Thankfully, my instructor Camille from Black Dog Paddle, went easy on me and helped to put my fears to rest.
In terms of equipment, you obviously need a Paddle Board; as general rule, the wider the board the more stability it provides. Like my 1st adventure, Stand Up Paddle boarding (SUP), the center of the board is where the hand hold is located, so keeping your center of gravity over that area of the board is very helpful in maintaining balance/stability. If you are wondering if your board is going to float down the river while you are in your Zen state – don’t fret. The board is anchored with a tether and rock to the river bed so you won’t drift away. Additionally, you and your fellow yoga mates are anchored via a tether to your instructor.
We started our lesson with deep breathing exercises while sitting in the center of the board, legs crossed. Camille took me through breathing and relaxation techniques to the point that both the videographer and myself nearly drifted off to sleep. After working on relaxation techniques we moved into more challenging poses including “table position fours” with arm and leg lifts, “child pose”, “downward dog” and “cobra pose”. We progressed to planks, a lunge position and ultimately attempted a standing tree position. My “tree” was definitely swaying in the wind!!
Like SUP, Paddle Board Yoga requires a tremendous amount of core and hip strength especially in the vertical poses. Like traditional Yoga it also requires a great deal of flexibility which I already knew I do not possess (and am constantly reminded by my wife- wait I think that is a different type of flexibility) and it was indeed confirmed by the downward dog pose. While trying to maneuver into that position I was still 3 inches from being able to have my feet flat on the board.
My instructor pointed out an inconspicuous observation that while Yoga on the water may be more challenging in terms of muscular effort and control it is actually easier on the joints as the board surface and the water (hopefully underneath you) are more forgiving than a typical Yoga floor.
A few simple exercises to help make your Yoga experiences more successful are: planks, side planks, Bosu squats, and therapeutic ball exercises. The ball exercises may entail hip extension and trunk extension while lying over the ball on your stomach. Trunk extensions require you to lift your upper body in the air while your feet are anchored to the ground. Hip extensions require you to lift your legs into the air while your hands are anchored to the ground. Both exercises will help strengthen your trunk musculature thus increasing your core strength. Flexibility for your hamstrings, hip flexors, shoulders and calf musculature is very important and helpful. Balance exercises such as one leg balancing eyes open and eyes closed is a great training technique and obviously traditional yoga would be a nice precursor (unlike yours truly). Like my dad always said – “Do as I say, not as I do.”
What was most surprising to me is that Paddle Board Yoga is very peaceful allowing you to get in touch with the water, nature and most importantly yourself. Being intently focused on maintaining your balance while trying to relax does not provide time for you to think about all of your other concerns such as work, bills, home, etc. Beyond the physical benefits of exercise, being able to forget about all of your worries even for a short period of time is a huge benefit and Yoga, while floating on the water, hits the mark in this category! Such catharsis!
Lastly and maybe the most important lesson I learned was that a Yoga pose is not a destination! According to my instructor, Camille “there is no perfect pose, only a safe pose”. If you are safely aligned and pain free, then it is the perfect pose for you. You might progress with some poses while certain anatomical limitations may limit your progression in others. However, you will still receive the benefits of increasing your overall flexibility and core strength as well as improving your mental and spiritual health!
So I would encourage you to try this challenging yet peaceful workout. You will not be disappointed!
Paddleboard Yoga is RVA strong!