Friday, July 01, 2016

California Dreaming: SUP Yoga, My First Time

Melinda Palacio

SUP Yoga in Santa Barbara. Yoga on the ocean!

Me in a boat pose

            Last Sunday was the perfect day to try something new: yoga on the ocean. I've been practicing yoga for over a decade and feel very confident in my abilities to OM and stand on one foot. However, a year ago, when I first found out there was such a thing as SUP Yoga (Stand Up Paddle Board Yoga), done on a paddle board in the ocean, I thought that was a near impossible feat for super athletic or crazy people. I never thought I would find myself in a 2.5 hour yoga workshop, designed for all levels, even people who had never been on a paddle board.

Ready to hit the waves
            When I arrived at the kiosk at East Beach in Santa Barbara, I was worried that I had made a big mistake. All seven women and one man were in great athletic shape. One of the ladies mentioned that this was her third exercise class of the morning (the workshop started at 9:30 am). She was dressed in tiny shorts that doubled as a bikini bottom and a tank top. I took no chances and wore pink paisley surfing pants, a long sleeved water shirt, hat, and sunglasses. I was dressed to confront the frigid waters of Santa Barbara. Lucky for me, the weekend forecast promised a heat wave. Aside from the initial shock of the cold water, I was fairly comfortable in my warm outfit. Although Santa Barbara has a reputation for warm California weather, the temperature of the ocean is cold all year round. In fact, I've lived in Santa Barbara for sixteen years and this was my first attempt at a water sport or dipping in the water. I asked a few of my yoga teachers if they had tried the SUP workshop and all said that they've tried it in Hawaii, where the water is considerably warmer. And they all reassured me of how great the experience would be.

           Getting the paddle board past the waves proved to be the hardest part of the class. However, the instructor, Amber White of Sup Yoga California, helped launch each student and told us to paddle to the clearing past the buoys and swimmers. Amber was an extremely patient teacher.  She teamed up with East Beach Rentals to bring this unique class to Santa Barbara's East Beach. 

Amber made sure I paddled out to the safe zone.
            For what seemed like an eternity, I was left to fend for myself and paddle around while I waited for the class to assemble. Relief came when the teacher gave each person an anchor. We dropped anchor and began the yoga session on the water. The first time standing up to salute the sun was the scariest. My knees wobbled from fear and I wasn't sure I would be able to stand, let alone do yoga on the board. 

A moment of zen.
The sun came out and the man in the class took off his shirt.

Feeling steady on two feet. 

              At some point, I stopped worrying and the fear melted away. I focused on the yoga class while my board floated on water and sea lions barked in the distance. Seeing Santa Barbara from the vantage of the ocean was worth stepping through my fear.
Santa Barbara in the background
The moment of truth.

            Since much of my life is documented on social media, I didn't mind signing the waver that allowed the instructor to post photos on Facebook and on her website. In fact, without the pictures, I might think the whole thing an outlandish dream. SUP yoga is an invigorating activity I'll try again. I highly recommend it anyone who knows how to swim and can do a push up. It's a big confidence booster. I was worried that I would spend the entire class trying to stay onboard. I didn't fall in at all. By the time the class ended, the sun came out and I was able to close my eyes and allow my fingertips to trail in the water as I lay on my back for a final meditation in sheer bliss.
A more experienced yogi, Leslie, doing a headstand.

Two classmates enjoying the sun kissed meditation.


Unknown said...

Good balance is a must in Yoga, no less in SUP Yoga!
Liz is a Yoga instructor trained in special Lifesaving techniques.

Looks like fun, girl, and looks like you did great!
Enjoy and have a great Fourth!


Mariana Titus said...

This is so wonderful - Even though I've done yoga for a long time, I'm not sure I would be as graceful as the rest of you - thanks for sharing.

Chris Wiltz said...

What a great way to get exercise! It looks beautiful out there, Melinda, and you look beautiful too. Thanks for sharing these wonderful photos and inspiring me!