SUP Yoga: Best Way to Beat the Heat

What’s the best way to beat the heat? Get out on the water! One way to do so: how about a downward facing dog…on a paddleboard?! Yup, yoga and paddleboarding are not only two of the most popular fitness activities, now they’ve become one!

photo 5I recently attended Jessica Bellofatto’s (of KamaDeva Yoga) stand up paddleboarding yoga class at Paddle Diva in East Hampton. Jessica and Gina have teamed up to produce a well-known floating yoga studio and hold classes regularly all summer. The weather couldn’t have been better (in my opinion, the hotter the better when it comes to water sports.) Clearly I’m not the only one who was anxious to get out and try something new in the hot sun, there was a big crew of us ready to hit the water. With bikini and SPF on and paddle in hand, I headed out to get my SUP on. I was a bit shaky, but snapped right back into the groove, curious, and a bit nervous, for what was to come…

There were a few first-time paddlers in the group. Gina and Jessica gave a quick intro for newbies and we all headed along the channel. The thing I love most about stand up paddleboarding is that newcomers can become SUP experts in a snap. It really only takes a few minutes to get comfortable on a board, so the playing field is pretty level (though there’s no competition here.) Equally as beneficial is that SUP is a great workout everyone can appreciate, whether solo or in a group. The sport allows for casual socialization with other paddleboarders, but is also a great excuse for some alone time. When you’re paddling through the open waters with the sun shining down, (especially in the Hamptons!) there’s nothing not to love. The surroundings almost make you forget the fact that just about every muscle in your body is fired up and working hard. Stand up paddleboarding is a full-body workout, you’ll feel those arms and abs pretty immediately…I love that feeling!

After about 30 minutes of paddling, we were all comfortable on our boards, and ready to test out some yoga. We ‘anchored’ near the shore and started off, like most yoga classes, with some seated breathing, a little chanting, and some easy stretching to get focused. We moved through downward dogs, chaturanga, and even got into some lunges and warrior poses. The more advanced poses were definitely a challenge (it’s hard enough balancing on a still mat!) but there was an added sense of peace brought on by the easy waves and hot summer sun.

photo 4Jessica’s clearly a pro at teaching this complex style of yoga. She performed lots of the moves (effortlessly) and made her voice and herself available to paddleboarders facing all directions, listening for her cues. I was facing away from Jessica most of the class (not on purpose, but the yogi just goes where the board goes) and Jessica lead us through the class perfectly with simple vocal cues. She acknowledged when a pose took some extra balance and coached us through the challenge. I was far more confident than I had expected and I was eager to try each pose.

Every few minutes, someone would laugh, scream, or splash!-plop right in. And, in such intense heat, that’s half the fun. We had lots of laughs, but it didn’t break the serenity of our practice. Jessica allowed the class to flow naturally, reminding us to breath, but also laughing right along with the rest of us. Her comfort and ease in the water and on the board was truly breathtaking. Her form was flawless, as if her board was indeed as still as a yoga mat. Her trust in the board and the water was palpable, it assured me to push a bit further myself. Did I mention that Jessica is 24 weeks pregnant?! She’s an inspiration, beautiful yogi, welcoming teacher, and of course, nothing less than a true paddle diva.

photo 3I had a great time and can’t wait to return to another SUP yoga class soon. I hope you’ll join me! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: try new things! Try things that scare you! Trust me, you’ll be so glad you did and may even find a new hobby! This was my second attempt at SUP Yoga and I have to say: I’m hooked.

One Healthy Breakdown: Don’t choose between yoga and paddleboarding, combine the two! Get out there, get wet, and have fun!

SUP Love! Paddle Boarding at Paddle Diva

photo 3Yes, the rumors are true: I’m now a ‘Paddle Diva.’ Yesterday, I checked stand up paddle boarding off of my summer bucket list! Although it was my first time trying “SUP,” it definitely won’t be my last. Upon arriving at Paddle Diva, (located at Shagwong Harbor on Three Mile Harbor Road in East Hampton) I was greeted by one of Gina’s regulars, Kate, who explained that she tried SUP two years ago and has been addicted ever since. After an hour on the water, I completely understand what all the fuss is about; I think I may have caught the SUP bug myself! (The perfect temperature, calm waters, and warm sunshine probably didn’t hurt either.)

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Our group included Gina, Kate, and three first timers (an adorable local couple celebrating their 21st wedding anniversary, and me.) It was great to have a small group, we all got the hang of it pretty quickly and were able to stay close and chat when we wanted and spread out a bit and enjoy the solitude as well. This is definitely a flexible and all-inclusive sport, as it can be social or allows for some good alone time on the open water. And, it’s pretty doable for anyone, of any age. Although her focus is empowering women on the board, Gina teaches everyone from kids to older adults in the most non-intimidating way. If I can do it, you can do it.

Gina is a water diva in the most down-to-earth meaning of the words. She’s awesome, all about women in paddle boarding and making it happen daily. Gina keeps in tip top shape paddling, mountain biking, and running outside, all year long. She started Paddle Diva in 2009, knowing that SUP was going to catch on like fire, and wanted to serve women in the community accordingly. She invented the DIVA board to better accommodate women for the sport. Gina is truly one with her board. And everyday is clearly an adventure for her. Our noontime paddle wasn’t just another lesson for Gina, as she takes each and every opportunity to get to know the individuals she paddles with and what they do in life. She bonds easily with people and her exuberance for life is contagious.

photo 4In addition to getting to know Gina and being able to check something off my summer bucket list, I definitely felt the paddle burn! As I sit down at my computer to write this article, I can feel some serious soreness coming on through my arms and upper back. SUP is a great workout, it’s as challenging as you make it. While paddling, I could feel every stroke in my arms and abs. Regular paddle boarders develop strong core and arm muscles and benefit from improved body alignment and balance, prevention of back pain, and easing the overall aging process. The exercise can be as intense or relaxing as each paddler chooses, slow strokes allow for a leisure ride while a more aggressive pace clearly picks things up. SUP racing has become a popular sport – now that would be intense!

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SUP is really a full body workout, good for the body, good for the mind. It’s also a unique way to get to know the Hamptons from a whole different perspective, looking from the water in, rather than from the land out! Gina offers a variety of classes, from SUP yoga at her ‘floating yoga studio,’ to mini fun race events, private and group lessons. I’d highly suggest getting on the board!

One Healthy Breakdown: I’m hooked on SUP. Proud to be a Paddle Diva.