Balance on the waves
The art of paddleboard yoga
In this series of first-person articles we follow reporter Savannah Vasquez as she explores her yogi journey and discovers the most unique forms of yoga offered in the Destin area.
My third attempt at yoga was by far the most challenging as I tried my hand (and body) at paddleboard yoga. I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I headed out to the Choctawhatchee Bay at the foot of the 331 bridge for my lesson.
Yoga instructor Shanda Beste of 30A Paddleboard Yoga had sounded confident over the phone that I could handle yoga on a paddleboard, and even asked if I could do a headstand.
"A headstand?" I remember thinking. I learned to do one when I was little but who knew if I could do one now, let alone on a paddleboard. But that is not what I said. “Sure, I used to be able to do one,” is what came out of my mouth.
So pushing the thought of face-planting into the Bay to the back of my mind, I put on my bravest face and charged out to try my luck at yoga on a floating surface.
It was quite a windy day on the Bay (20 mph winds) and our anchors only kept us semi-steady as we started out the lesson kneeling on our long, foam-topped paddleboards. Beste led a few warm up poses and reminded me to stay centered on the board to avoid toppling into the water.
I felt pretty at ease during the warm-up and was ready to try something more challenging so we transitioned into warrior one pose, which is basically a lunge with your arms outstretched over your head. This pose, which seems simple on land, was actually very hard on the paddleboard. My first attempt had me flailing my arms in windmill motions and quickly plopping back down on the board.
“You’ll find that your eyes and your focus determine your balance,” Beste said, noticing my bobble. “So with warrior, you are focusing on one thing and one thing only. This time, when you go up you look straight ahead at one thing and don’t let anything distract you.”
I focused on a tree on the bank in front of me, and the second time we moved into warrior one pose I aced it. I was so excited, but I knew that headstand was coming up so I tried not to get ahead of myself.
We tried side-plank next, and I held that pose for a moment before falling onto my board once again. However, I took that as an accomplishment because I still had not fallen into the chilly water.
Finally, the moment came to test my ultimate yogi skill; my rudimentary headstand that hailed from a second-grade gymnastics class two decades ago.
“Spread your fingers nice and wide and then just practice on getting your knees onto your elbows,” Beste coached. “That’s perfect Savannah,” she encouraged, as I tried to keep my balance on the swaying board.
I stretched my legs up to the sky and, no sooner had I reached my full length, I let out a nervous cry and came back to the board – I was not going into the water today!
I was so elated that I had achieved a headstand on the board that the rest of the class was a blur. I do remember our final pose, however, as it was my favorite. We relaxed into a resting pose on our boards and just let the waves softly rock our boards. I felt like I was in a hammock and the cool April breeze and the warm sun helped to reach the perfect Zen mode.
“This is the best feeling; sun-kissed bliss,” said Beste as she rested on the board. “It’s addicting. Once I tried paddleboard yoga I got hooked. Now every time I get on my paddleboard I want to do yoga, and every time I do yoga I want to be on my paddleboard. I can’t separate the two.”
After our yoga session, I also felt the same way. Something about the rocking paddleboard had given me confidence. I guess I figured that if I fell, I would just fall into the forgiving water so what was there to lose?
Beste had a parting gift for me, a lucky sea heart, or floating tropical seed with the words "Sup Yogi" written across it.
“You earned this today,” she said.
Want to go? 30A Paddleboard Yoga offers stand up paddleboard yoga, happy hour paddles and private parties. The business is located at 78 Ricker Avenue in Santa Rosa Beach. For more information, visit www.30apaddleboardyoga.com or call 239-560-6667.