Why standup paddleboarding is the latest trend in yoga
Yoga has been practiced for thousands of years, and up until very recently, on solid ground.
Over the past few years, however, practicing yoga in the ocean has become a “thing,” and Santa Cruz is at the epicenter of this new shift. While standup paddleboarding (SUP) has been around for 70 years, and popular locally for about the last 10, the SUP yoga phenomenon is just beginning to take hold in Santa Cruz and beyond.
One local yogi and SUP yoga pioneer, Gloria Lou Riola, is both the owner and an instructor at Ocean Yoga Bliss, an SUP yoga business based in Capitola. “About four or five years ago, I noticed people were doing paddleboard yoga, and I got really interested in it,” says Riola. “I had a friend who was a yoga teacher and she was into it too, so that’s how we got started. I didn’t know of anyone else doing it in this area.”
Appropriate for both beginners and experts of paddleboarding and yoga, SUP yoga has many benefits for both the body and the mind. First of all, anyone who has tried yoga knows it’s much harder than it looks—the static strength and mental focus required to hold even a basic pose is no easy task. Already a great workout for your core (muscles of the abdomen and lower back), even the slightest amount of imbalance is easily perceptible when standing on water, making SUP yoga an even more challenging workout. The possibility of falling into the water also activates an adrenaline release, sharpening the senses and helping to further focus the mind. Although Riola says the the ability to swim is a requirement in her classes—the only requirement, in fact—she says falling off the board is much less common than one might expect.
As great as the physical benefit of SUP yoga can be, the mental and spiritual benefits can be even greater.
“Yoga in general is great for many types of psychological issues, including depression, stress, and anxiety,” says Riola. “I think it’s good for everybody. SUP yoga combines the benefits of the traditional, calm blissful feeling in addition to being out in nature surrounded by seals, otters, whales, and dolphins, breathing in the salty air and inhaling the negative ions.”
“Negative ions” are not pessimistically inclined, but rather molecules that have lost an electrical charge, and are naturally created in high abundance during storms, and around places like mountains, waterfalls and beaches. Scientists think these negative ions may actually have positive effects on the human body by increasing oxygen flow to the brain and catalyzing biochemical reactions that produce higher levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin. This is the same neurotransmitter that antidepressants act on, as well as drugs like MDMA, LSD, and marijuana. The more serotonin that’s active in your brain, the more likely you are to experience relaxation, peace, and happiness—in a word, euphoria. In fact, short of visiting a waterfall, beach, or mountain retreat, even just taking a shower can produce some of these negative ions, and perhaps a better mood.
So whether due to an enhanced mind-body connection, the joy of exercise, nature’s nurture, or the positive effect of inhaling negative ions, SUP yoga is here to stay. “Within the past three years, I’ve been noticing a lot more SUP yoga worldwide and a lot more SUP yoga teacher trainings being offered as well,” says Riola. “I see it as a growing trend, and it’s nice to take your yoga practice out of the studio.”