What is SUP Yoga? Everything You Need to Know to Get Started | Perfect Paddles

In SUP Activity Recommendations, SUP Fitness, SUP Gear Recommendations, SUP Yoga by Daniel

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Comprehensive Guide: SUP Yoga

sup yoga

Ready to give SUP yoga a try? Check out this complete breakdown of the activity below!

Yoga has grown exponentially over the course of the last ten to fifteen years. From its original inception it has branched out into other forms divergent from its traditional form. 

One of those branches happens to be SUP yoga. 

No doubt you have seen plenty of pictures online of yogis practicing poses on their SUP boards. Often, the pictures are located in beautiful settings, under perfect conditions. They fold forward, up into wheel poses, even headstands. 

It’s enough motivation to want to give SUP yoga a try. 

But perhaps you’re left thinking, “Is it really for me? Is it too difficult? How many classes should I take?”

With all of these questions in your mind, you may find yourself to be hesitant to give it a go. 

Instead of allowing the doubts to linger, we’ve decided to put together a comprehensive guide on SUP yoga where you will learn:

  • Who SUP yoga is for
  • Health benefits of the practice
  • Different types of yoga explained
  • Equipment essentials to get started
  • How to practice
  • And more!

Whether you are an avid yogi on the land or a complete beginner, when you finish reading this guide you will know everything you need to get start today. 

How This Guide Works

Are you ready to give SUP yoga a try?

Before you head to the water, it’s always a great idea to learn as much about an activity before you give it a go in order to have the correct foundation of knowledge…

To help you start and quickly progress with proper safety. This is important, especially with an activity that requires strength and balance like SUP yoga. 

So, instead of fast-forwarding to standing on your board in tree pose, let’s first build a foundation of understanding that will help you on the water at your very first class.

We will cover everything you need to know in order to start your journey into SUP yoga. 

After reading this, be sure to head to our SUP Search section where you can find an outfitter near you who holds SUP yoga classes. 

SUP yoga is a great way to get in touch with nature, dive head first into mindfulness, or burn some extra calories with a smile on your face (instead of a painful grimace). 

Find out how and more by continuing below…

sup yoga

Getting Started 

How is SUP Yoga Related to SUP?

While not obvious, there is a direct relationship with stand up paddling and yoga. In fact you may have already experienced the need for a stretch after a long paddle, or stiff legs, and aching feet that can come after a long time standing on your board.

One of the important milestones on the SUP learning curve is the ability to move your feet in time with the movement of the water beneath you. Mobility and flexibility are cornerstone skill sets to develop while building your paddling skill set. 

Additionally, if you can pull off a downward dog, or handstand you will build your confidence in your equipment as well. If it can support you doing one of those moves you can keep it stable when the water gets bumpy.

One more thing, SUP is the perfect vessel to build a healthy, water-based life, through all of its disciplines.

Connecting to your body, the SUP community, mother nature, and most importantly the moment. Yoga is about breath, and movement and SUP is similarly about connecting to the moment and the energy that is on the water. Your SUP yoga practice will help you in moments when the conditions change, finding your breath, and creating momentum in those moments is a critical skill to keep you safe and paddling onward in all types of waters.

Who is SUP Yoga for?


SUP yoga does require participants to have adequate balance and paddling experience. While we encourage everyone to take part, it is important to take a few beginner SUP classes first. 

With an understanding of how to paddle, what it feels like to paddle on a SUP, and the simple mechanics of a paddle stroke, you will be better prepared for when you want to take your skills into SUP yoga. 

Different Types of Yoga


The literal translation of Hatha means 'force.' In a yogic sense it can mean the classes can be of a great variety. It's more of a general term to describe yoga as a whole. As such, it is important to contact the yoga studio or instructor to find out exactly what type of class in terms of tempo and difficulty it is.


While Vinyasa too can be a more general term, in todays standards it usually means a high-intensive flow through a series of sun-salutations. In Vinyasa breath is used to string a series of movements together as you go through class. While no two vinyasa classes are the same as it depends on the instructor's preferences, they do follow a similar script. Usually each class begins in an easy pose like child's pose, and moves towards a series of flows through sun-salutations to get your heart rate up, and culminates in a balance pose or back bend pose followed by a resting pose. Due to the rigor involved in the class, it might not be great for beginners unless you are physically fit.


Yin yoga is the slowest of the classes on our list and will involve many resting phases to balance the bodies' energies. However, don't take slow as being easy. In yin yoga, practitioners are expected to hold poses for longer periods of time instead of flowing through different sequences. Poses can be held up to 45 seconds to an entire minute before you change position. This can be difficult for some. It is important to know your personality and if this style will appeal to you before you decide to engage in a class.


Hot yoga is a general term used to describe the type of environment you're practicing in. Classes can be of any style, the only requirement is that the class takes places in a heated room - ranging anywhere from 80 degrees up to 100 degrees Fahrenheit. The heat is designed to help with detoxification and increase flexibility. Expect to get sweaty when you take a hot yoga class!


This type of yoga is named after its creator - B.K.S. Iyengar. Considered one of the foremost influential yoga teachers in the world, this sequence is focused primarily on body alignment and precision with an emphasis on posture. The class itself will utilize props such as belts and blocks to assist in proper alignment through the sequence. Think quality of poses over quantity when it comes to Iyengar.


High power, high heat, and high energy. Developed in the 20th century by K. Pattabhi Jois, Ashtanga Yoga uses a prescribed set of movements instead of a free-flowing class, to induce heat, detox the body, and synchronize the breath with each movement. An Ashtanga class is all about pushing through your mental blocks, cultivating clarity, mindful breathing, flexibility and endurance.


Restorative yoga is another creation of B.K.S. Iyengar. It involves much like the name implies - restoring the body and mind to balance and peace. Each class involves a passive stretching designed to open and expand tight muscle groups within the body. In class, each pose is held for longer periods of time to fully open any tightness or blockages as well as to let go of any lingering tension.

Yoga Nidra

Created by Swami Satyananda Saraswati in the early 1960's, yoga Nidra uses guided meditation instead of a series of poses in order to induce this near-sleep state. Yoga Nidra is considered one of the most relaxing yoga classes within the community.

sup yoga

Reasons for Trying SUP Yoga

Increase Your Balance: It’s no secret, SUP yoga takes place on the water. And being on the water is a challenge for your balance. But did you know, with balance practice you can actually keep your brain healthier?

It’s true!

According to a small study published in Scientific Reports, “A 2017 study found balance training can help increase both memory and spatial cognition (a process that involves how the brain organizes and uses information about its environment).”

How is this possible?

The mechanism might be complicated but the explanation is fairly simple. When your body repeats motions on a daily basis, your brain’s cells fire in the same way. This helps create better reflexes as it speeds up the time of communication between certain sections of your brain. 

But if you introduce a new form of movement, say balance training during SUP yoga, your brain is forced to fire new areas that help create new connections between the cells. In essence, you are waking up new parts of your brain which keeps you younger and healthier. 

sup yoga

Get Outside: It’s obvious to any modern person living today - we don’t spend enough time outside. This is due to work obligations, extended Netflix sessions, and poor weather in certain areas of the world. 

But it is very important for your health (both mental and physical) to spend as much time outdoors as you can. 

According to WebMD being outside helps with increasing your Vitamin D levels (which helps your immune system), it lessens anxiety as being in your natural environment quiets your mind, it helps to regulate your sleep patterns by following the natural cycles (watching TV or scrolling on your phone at night are not good habits!), improves your focus, boosts you creativity, and more!

Increase Strength and Flexibility: SUP yoga is a full body workout. It engages numerous muscles on your arms, legs, and core. If you remain consistent in your practice you will notice the changes in your body in no time! 

Decrease Stress and Anxiety: This last reason for trying SUP yoga is also a benefit of trying land yoga as well. When you move through yoga poses you are engaging in an ancient system (or science) of the body designed to increase circulation, drain lymph systems, and increase your breath. These all combine to ease tension in the body and quiet the mind. And that will inevitably decrease your stress and anxiety - helping you to live a more peaceful, balanced life. 

Reason enough to give SUP yoga (or regular yoga) a try!

sup yoga

Equipments Essentials

SUP Board: Some boards are specifically designed for SUP yoga and they are shaped like it. Usually they’re around 10’-11’ in length, very wide, with thick rails. 

However, most of the time, any flatwater SUP board will work for your practice. The important thing is to always try it before you settle in for class. However, there are a few things you must consider…

Make sure the rails are thick enough to support your weight, the length is long enough to stretch into poses that require you to lay down, and it is wide enough to ensure you have adequate balance in every pose. 

Often the best option is an iSUP. Inflatable paddle boards are thicker and softer than hardboards and make for the perfect platform to perform every SUP yoga pose. 

However, when you arrive at your first class, your qualified SUP yoga instructor will be able to guide you towards picking the right board for your size and skill. 

Paddle: Any paddle will do when it comes to SUP yoga. These classes are less about paddling and more about arriving at your anchor spot to start your class. As long as the paddle is in good working order, you’re okay to use it. 

Leash: While you will not be wearing your leash during the class, it’s still important to have one when you are paddling to and from your anchor position. 

PFD: As in all things SUP, always wear a PFD (either belt or vest) while you are paddling on the water. Once you arrive at your anchor spot, ask the instructor if you can take off your PFD once class begins. Store it on the front of your board and out of the way for the duration of class. 

Anchor: Having the need for an anchor will depend on how the instructor would like to conduct the class. If you have a docking mat where you can attach your board you will not require an anchor. But if you are planning on practicing by yourself, it is important to have a high-quality anchor on board that will allow you to stay stationary for the duration of your time on the water. 

Dry Bag: Most of the time instructors will have a place where you can store your valuables. If you do decide to practice on your own, it’s a great idea to have a dry bag where you can store your keys and phone if need be! 

Sunscreen: Remember - you are outdoors! Always apply the appropriate amount of sunscreen to avoid any bad burns. 

Towel: If you happen to fall in (it can happen to the best of us!) then having a towel on your board can be a great way to dry off and get quickly return to the flow of the class.

What to Wear

There are plenty of options for yoga clothing these days. And while it can be tempting to put on your best LuluLemon outfit, it might not be the best choice for SUP yoga. 

You can go with regular yoga pants or shorts, but it might be best to opt for bikini bottoms or board shorts for your first time. In case you do happen to fall in, you will want to be wearing something that dries quickly. 

This, of course, is also weather dependent. If the air temperature is cool, opt for a long sleeve rash guard or even light neoprene wetsuit top. It might be hot while you practice yoga but if you fall in, it will keep your teeth from chattering! 

How to Choose the Best Board for SUP Yoga 

We’ve already alluded to the best boards for SUP yoga in our previous section - inflatable paddle boards. 

iSUP make the best boards to practice yoga on for two reasons…

1. They’re durable. 

Inflatable boards are filled with air. As opposed to hardboards which have a foam core and fiberglass outside. But this obvious fact is the main reason why when you fall on an inflatable board you don’t hurt yourself or your board. On a standard fiberglass board, if you do fall on it, you are in danger of denting, or cracking the fiberglass. 

On an inflatable you bounce right off of the surface with minimal to no damage to yourself or your board. 

2. They’re easier to balance on. 

Inflatable boards often have thicker rails (upwards to 6”) and wider decks which means you’ll be floating higher on the water. Both of these attributes contribute to balance on your board. And when it comes to SUP yoga, balance is key! 

You want the right board that will give you the best balance while on the water so you can spend your time practicing yoga and not your doggy paddle. 

Another attribute to look for is the type of deckpad on the board. If it is a diamond deckpad, it will likely be painful to stand, lay down, or be on your knees for extended periods of time. Instead, you want to look for a board that has a flat deck pad that is comfortable. 

iSUP boards are made now to easily incorporate SUP yoga poses and classes. When it comes to these, you can’t really go wrong in your purchase!

Beginner Poses to Try

Before you head to the water, we suggest you give these poses a try on land first. Get your feet underneath you, feel how your body reacts to being in these poses, and then you’ll be ready to translate it to the water! 

Child’s Pose

Start on all-fours. Inhale. And on the exhale keep your hands placed forward and bring your hips down to your heels. 

This pose is great for your shoulders and hips. 

Downward Dog

 While still in child’s pose, take a big inhale and bring your hips towards the sky while at the same time keeping your hands and feet anchored to your board. Your arms should be straight, your legs straight, and your hips high. 

This pose strengthens your arms, legs, and shoulders while stretching your hamstrings. 

Warrior I

Bring one foot forward and your back foot horizontal into an lunge-like pose. Your front knee should be bent as well. Lower into the pose. And bring your arms straight over your head with your shoulders on either side of your ears. 

This pose helps to strengthen your legs, back, and abs.

Warrior II

While still in Warrior I take a deep breath. On the exhale bring your left hand forward and your right hand back in a straight line with your knees. You should be looking right over your front fingertips. Front knee is bent and the back knee is straight. 

This pose is great as an inner thigh and hip strengthener. 

Cobra Pose

Come down into a plank position. From plank lower your body down to touch your board. Keeping your hips down, raise your chest and take a large inhale. 

This pose will stretch your shoulders and chest, plus build flexibility in your back. 

Forward Fold

After cobra, bring your feet forward until they are in between your hands. Let your head hang low and release your lower back. You should be folded from your hips with your arms and head hanging. 

This pose is great to increase circulation to your brain and relieve tension in your back. 

Mountain Pose

From forward fold take a large inhale, hinge from your hips, and bring your arms overhead. Try it with a slight arch in your back looking towards the sky for an extra stretch. 

This pose is great to relieve stress in your lower back, increase positive hormones, and make you feel powerful. 

Chair Pose

From mountain, keep your hands over your head, and sink your hips downward as if you were sitting in a chair. You should still be able to see your toes over your knees as you settle into the pose. Hold it here as long as you can while remembering to breath!

This pose is a great quad strengthener. 

Corpse Pose

Your resting pose. Come into a comfortable lying position on your board with your face towards the sun. Take a few deep inhales and exhales and settle your body down. Stay here for as long as you need!

This pose is a great stress reliever after a long practice. 

Demo Videos

In case it was difficult to understand the motions required for the above mentioned yoga poses, we’ve included a few key videos that demonstrate them and a few others!

SUP Yoga Beginner Sequence: SUPfit

Follow this quick rundown of the best yoga poses to try on your board! 

Check out these top 10 yoga poses to try on your board the next time you’re on the water!

SUP Yoga Basics

If you are brand-new to the idea of SUP yoga, check out this quick rundown from REI. 

Find a Class Near You

Ready to give SUP yoga a try? Then head over to our SUP Search section where you can type in the activity/your location and be instantly hit with many options to begin your SUP yoga practice today! Find the best and closest outfitter near you where they can guide you through an entire class. 

And become a member today to save upwards to 10% on classes (participating outfitters only). 

Related Articles

Haven't quite quenched your thirst for SUP yoga? Check out these related articles for more information on the topic:

How to Become a SUP Yoga Pro One Pose at a Time - try these poses at home!

5 Great Outfitters in Australia for SUP Yoga

6 SUP and Yoga Fitness Classes in the Washington D.C./Maryland Area

Or head to our SUP Search section, click SUP yoga on activities and search for an outfitter near you!

About the Author


Daniel is a travelling author with a passion for exploring new waterways and sharing his experiences with the world.

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