I have done yoga exercises for several years and find it not only builds up core strength and physical stamina, but also chills out the mind, writes Eilidh Whiteford.
Last year I took up open water swimming as part of the Big Minch Swim team and rekindled a passion for being in the sea.
So what did I say to combining both these likes – I said ‘Yes’ and signed up for a SUP Yoga course with local fun and fitness companies Hebrides Dance and Wellbeing Studio and Surf Lewis.
The SUP stands for Stand Up Paddleboard; and SUP Yoga, if you’ve not guessed, is practising yoga exercises while on an 11ft paddleboard floating atop the ocean!
Course instructor Kirstie Anderson of Hebrides Dance and Wellbeing Studio expands: “You can’t hide when you’re doing SUP Yoga – you learn really quickly if you’re leaning to one side or unevenly balanced.
“Being on the board challenges your balance and your core stability,” she continues.
“The constance moving of the sea means you have to focus entirely on what you’re doing and really be in the moment.
“The second you start thinking about what you’re going to have for dinner there is a lot more chance you’ll end up in the water!”
It’s here where I have to admit – I’ve fallen in, every lesson!
But in the yogic frame of mind there’s nothing wrong with falling in; as in life, you just climb back up and start again.
Our first introduction to SUP Yoga took place on quite a blustery day in the shelter of Holm harbour.
Although not ideal conditions for the activity, getting used to manoeuvring the large eproxy boards and finding your balance was relatively easy (after a few dookings!); and when we moved onto lesson two on a calm day in glorious sunshine at Gress Beach, confidence was all the better having started tough.
The other difference between the first two experiences was first wearing a wetsuit and then not – without the tight neoprene suit, the unrestricted feeling of freedom as we moved from pose to pose made the second time out a simply wonderful experience, both in body and mind as one of the most enjoyable aspects of SUP Yoga is the focus of mind: you must control each movement you make, and take your time making them.
“What I love most is just how relaxing it is,” agrees Kirstie. “On a warm day looking at the world upside down whilst doing something simple like downward dog is incredible, whilst the traditional yoga relaxation at the end of class is just blissful with the gentle rocking of the board.”
But it’s not all relaxation – before starting each yoga session, Kirstie takes her classes on a paddle to find a nice location; the exercise really giving a great cardio workout.
With our third class taken at Melbost Beach, the paddling aspect was really brought to the fore and it’s a terrific way to get out the sea and view the islands from a different perspective.
Simple to get the hang of after around 15 minutes, it’s also relatively stable; and if you don’t panic while paddling (ahem!), you shouldn’t fall in.
“I love teaching the classes as it’s so different from being in the studio – there are more challenges too and a lot more to keep me on my toes,” adds Kirstie. “The next sunny and calm day I’m back out on the water.”
And I, for one, will be joining her!