Your First SUP Yoga Class

For the past few months I’ve been trying to simplify life. It started when I watched a Netflix documentary about minimalism and I later read the excellent book Goodbye Things by Japanese author Fumio Sasaki. I was inspired to reclaim time and space by living more simply, and while I won’t share my decluttering efforts on this blog, I wanted to make decisions quicker. Instead of weighing up pros and cons, researching for days or analysing a menu for 20 minutes, my mantra became ‘if you want it, get it’ and ‘if you’re interested, do it’. I’ve regained so much time by thinking less. It’s incredible. 

This ‘do what you’re drawn to’ mindset is how I found myself at a swimming pool at 7am on a Tuesday, about to do yoga in my bikini. I love the water and had been interested in trying stand up paddle (SUP) boarding for a while. When I saw Precious Breath were offering a three week SUP yoga course at a local aquatic centre, I knew I had to give it a go! I usually workout with my mum on a Tuesday morning so I asked if she wanted to join me. She loves a fitness challenge too so we paid our AU$120 course fee and a few weeks later, we were poolside.

Class Overview

As the name suggests, SUP yoga combines stand up paddle boarding and yoga. You’ll do a range of yoga poses while balancing on a paddle board, with the class duration typically 45 minutes to an hour. There’s no paddle! The sequence can vary but as a guide, most classes will have the standard yoga format of a gentle warm up, sun salutations, warrior poses and then perhaps some inversions or hip opening stretches followed by shavasana (meditation). If you’re confused, terminology is covered below. The challenge of SUP yoga is moving between poses while keeping your centre of gravity, or you’ll topple into the water! 

Before you leave home

As with a traditional yoga class, it’s best not to eat for at least an hour beforehand or you may get an upset stomach. If you must have something, keep it small and energy-dense such as half a banana, a handful of nuts or my favourite – a raw ball. Ladies, you’ll be in swimwear so make sure you’re happy with your hair removal situation. Put on suncream, bring a towel and a water bottle. Consider a hat but it’ll likely get wet. It’s best to leave valuables at home unless you know there are lockers available (unlikely at river or beach locations).

What to wear

I had no idea whether I should wear a swimsuit, yoga clothes or both but thankfully I got an email before our class. It said to wear swimwear underneath yoga clothes in case we got wet. As the pool was chlorinated, I wore my oldest gym shorts and tank rather than damage my latest Lululemon, with a bikini underneath. I’d regrettably tossed my old one-piece out in a recent clean-out, but thankfully my bikini top had a high neck. As for footwear, I wore sneakers for the 20 minute walk from my apartment to the pool but flip-flops are a better idea.

On arrival

Ideally you’ve been given a good description of the class location, whether it be a public pool, lake or at the beach. It shouldn’t be too hard to spot the boards and cluster of people. Find the instructor and if it’s not specifically a beginner class, let them know your experience with SUP or yoga so they can give guidance throughout. 

 SUP Yoga: the paddle board was much sturdier than I expected.
SUP Yoga: the paddle board was much sturdier than I expected.

Equipment

Your paddle board will probably be supplied, otherwise you may need to collect a hire board. Inquire beforehand! Yoga paddle boards are wider than regular boards, giving you more space and stability. Getting onto the board can be difficult but look for a handle (a deep groove) in the centre. Then you’re set! 

Terminology

Your instructor will guide you through a range of poses. If you’ve done yoga before, you’ll be familiar with them. If not, here are some basics:

  • Child’s pose: A resting pose with knees and toes on your mat, chest on your thighs and arms stretched in front. A great option to do anytime during the class. 
  • Downward dog: One of the foundation poses in yoga. Hands and feet on the mat at least one metre apart, with your bottom in the air like an upside down “V.” Over time, your heels will touch the ground. 
  • Shavasana or “corpse pose”: Meditation. Five minutes at the end where you lay down and relax your mind, letting your body absorb the work you’ve just done. 
  • Sun salutations: A flowing sequence involving downward dog, lunges, some planking, upward dog and mountain poses. Usually repeated at least four times (twice on each leg). 
  • Warrior poses: A set of strengthening poses, with Warrior 1 facing frontwards, Warrior 2 your chest and hips face the side, and Warrior 3 a bit like a one-legged aeroplane. 

During the class

I quickly realised I’d be doing the class in my bikini, as we needed to swim a short distance to reach our boards! It’d been years since I’d been to a public swimming pool and the water was mild and refreshing. I felt genuinely excited I’d made this experience happen. I got on the board without any grace, and our class began.

Your main focus will be staying on the board, but honestly, it was much sturdier than I expected. From the first minute, I felt my legs and core instantly engage as if I was balancing on a beam. But I moved through child’s pose, cat-cow pose and to downward dog without any problems. It was 20 minutes later during a Warrior 2 pose that I toppled into the water! It resulted in lots of laughter and others fell off later too. Apart from being a little cold when the sun went behind clouds, I felt peaceful and lucky to have such a unique experience in my hometown’s warm climate.

Our instructor Claudia was fantastic, guiding us through poses with a headset microphone as she stood on the edge of the pool. She had a great teaching style, moving around the pool so our class could still see her when we were facing the side and demonstrating moves where needed. Throughout the class she congratulated us on accepting a challenge, getting out of our comfort zone and choosing to start our day with yoga. As a regular yogi, I was comfortable with the poses but I did regret throwing out my one-piece when my stomach sagged while planking. I told myself it’s just a body – and any onlookers were probably more interested in our unusual activity rather than critiquing my lack of tone. 

The highlights were doing ‘wild thing’ pose and flipping into the pool – what a sense of freedom! I also enjoyed bridge pose and hope to make it to wheel pose by the end of the three week course. I’d earlier joked with my mum that I couldn’t possibly imagine doing ‘happy baby’ pose in a bikini. Well, I did it – until I realised the school group next to us probably didn’t need to see that view! 

The next day & beyond

Forget the next day, my quads were stiff when I stood up after breakfast that morning! I woke up with stiff quads the next day as well as well, and my mum text me she had the same feeling. We must’ve worked harder than we realised. If you’re not a regular yogi, you may also find your hamstrings a little tight. Go for a gentle walk or try repeat some of the poses to loosen your muscles. 

In subsequent classes, have fun exploring and developing your practice. Maybe you lunge deeper, twist further or challenge your balance by closing your eyes. While I was slightly hesitant SUP yoga may be a fad, it was actually a perfect union of two different workouts. The flow of yoga and the movement of the water was calming and they absolutely complimented each other. The feeling must be heightened in natural water! If you get the chance, take your practice outside the studio – and get on board SUP yoga! 

QUESTION: When did you last take your fitness out of your comfort zone? 

7 Post-Workout Rewards (That Aren’t Food)

What’s the first thing you do after a big workout? I usually exercise in the morning on an empty stomach so my first priority is breakfast. I love a big bowl of oatmeal and a cup of Earl Grey. After a weekend sweat session, I upgrade to avocado, wholegrain toast and beans. Better yet, I’ll go to one of my favourite cafes and have a long, leisurely brunch. A shower is second on the list. 

While I absolutely believe in refuelling after exercise, I’m trying to broaden my post-workout rewards beyond breakfast. Don’t get me wrong – I’ll run 10K for a bagel and demolish an Acai bowl after BodyAttack. But I wanted to find more ways to nourish my body, without in turn hurting my wallet.

Here’s what I’ve discovered: 

1. Treat Your Feet

 Foot soak: budget-friendly and effective! 
Foot soak: budget-friendly and effective! 

Taking your sneakers off after a workout is a great feeling. Looking at your feet may not be so great. Every few weeks, I’ll soak my feet for an hour while I work on my blog or read a magazine. It helps relieve tension, soothes dry skin and best of all, it’s relaxing! My favourite product is The Body Shop’s Peppermint Foot Fizzies*, which is made from effervescent salts and has a gorgeous cooling effect.

Here are some other ideas, depending on your budget: 

  • Save: Soak your feet in hot water. Add epsom salts, essential oils or a bath bomb.
  • Spend: Sephora’s Foot Masque ($6) comes in single-use socks you wear for 20 minutes. The Almond (Comforting & Repairing) formula is softening and has a nice, nutty smell. 
  • Splurge: My favourite treat for my feet – get a pedicure! 

*Unfortunately when researching this post, I discovered The Body Shop has discontinued its Foot Fizzies. They were $2.95 for a two-pack, so I used to buy in bulk.

2. Hit the Beach

Whether you’re covered in sweat or want a relaxing afternoon, hitting the beach is always a treat. I live 10 kilometres from the coast and conveniently, that’s my current running distance. The route has some serious hills but I’m re-energised when I get my first glimpse of the ocean. A post-workout swim is super refreshing, but you could also cool down with a barefoot stroll in the sand. If you’ve been at the gym, why not grab a towel and stretch by the beach on the way home?

Best of all, the beach doesn’t cost a thing (except maybe parking). 

 The beach: perfect for a post-workout swim, stroll or stretch.
The beach: perfect for a post-workout swim, stroll or stretch.

3. restorative/yin yoga

 Yoga: thank your body by moving slowly & stretching.
Yoga: thank your body by moving slowly & stretching.

Taking a yoga class might sound like more exercise but hear me out. I used to treat yoga like a workout, pushing my body to the limits to try build strength and burn as many calories as I could. But then, guided by various teachers, I realised yoga was a chance to listen to my body. What’s tight? Where are the aches? How can I release that tension?

Changing my approach from cardio to kindness helped me identify problem areas and most of all, learn to slow down. I do an hour class straight after my workouts a few times a week. It really helps with recovery and feels like a luxury in today’s busy world. Read my post on Your First Yoga Class if you need. 

  • Save: Do yoga at home. My favourite app is Pocket Yoga, where you can choose from three styles and 30, 45 or 60 minute sessions.
  • Spend: Head to a dedicated yoga studio. I love MindBody to search and book nearby classes.
  • Splurge: Go to a yoga workshop or a weekend retreat. 

 Coconut water: one of my favourite post-workout rewards.
Coconut water: one of my favourite post-workout rewards.

4. Coconut water

Technically this is a drink, not food, so I’m putting it on the list. Coconut water is my favourite way to hydrate after a long run and perhaps because it’s so lusciously tropical, it totally feels like a treat. Bonus: a 250ml (8.5 oz.) carton only has around 60 calories!

  • Save: Grab a one litre carton from the supermarket ($4-6) and enjoy all week.
  • Splurge: Buy a fresh coconut from the supermarket or Asian grocery store. Put in a fancy straw and savour the electrolytes. 

5. Massage

This is my ultimate post-workout reward. I recently had a massage booked for a Thursday night and all week, I trained SO hard. It felt amazing! But you don’t need a masseuse or lots of cash to enjoy a massage. A good friend or partner and essential oils will do the trick. Other ideas include: 

  • Save: Give yourself a massage. Try Lush Cosmetics Wiccy Magic Muscles ($14.95) which heats up the area you apply it to.
  • Spend: Get a remedial or sports massage. If you have private health cover, you may be able to claim a rebate. I got a 30 minute massage this week and only paid $10.
  • Splurge: Hit a day spa. If you’re in Perth, I’ve had excellent massages at Keturah Day Spa (multiple locations) and Crown Spa (Burswood).

     Lush Cosmetics massage bars: affordable, natural and they smell amazing!
    Lush Cosmetics massage bars: affordable, natural and they smell amazing!

    6. fresh flowers

     Fresh flowers: they make me smile all week!
    Fresh flowers: they make me smile all week!

    This won’t directly benefit your aching quads or hamstrings. But occasionally I go to a gym which is close to several florists. I love buying a fresh bunch of flowers on the way home! Maybe you prefer magazines, visiting a farmer’s market or heading to a craft store. Pick up something after your workout that will make you smile later in the week. 

    and finally…

    7. sleep

    It’s a sad reflection of modern life, but sleep and rest are a precious commodity. After five days of alarms going off to hit the gym at dawn, knowing I can sleep in the next day is one of the best rewards I can get.  

    QUESTION: What’s your favourite post-workout reward? 

    Your First Yoga Class

    We’ve all been the new kid at school. You don’t know anyone, the room is unfamiliar and it’s just plain awkward. I can’t rewind the clock and be your classroom buddy, but I can spare you the terror of your first day at a fitness class. This is a post I’ll do on various classes over coming months, and I’m happy to take all requests and suggestions! 

    I’m starting with yoga because it’s something everyone can benefit from and it’s widely available. I practice once or twice a week to stretch my body and relax my mind. There’s nothing holding a one-legged balance pose for 60 seconds to make you be in the moment! I used to treat yoga as a work out and push myself as far as physically I could, but I’ve changed my goals lately to identifying areas of tension and trying to release them. Yoga is also my go-to exercise on holidays, as it’s a perfect way to lengthen my body after a long-haul flight. Joining a class overseas is a unique and fun experience too! Am I selling it?

    Class Overview

    Most yoga classes are 60 minutes, with dimmed lighting and wooden floors. You’ll likely start laying down before warming up with sun salutations (see terminology below), various poses, and ending with five to 10 minutes of ‘shavasna’ (meditation). There are many styles of yoga, which may or may not be specified ahead of time. Gyms tend to have generic yoga which is then determined by the instructor. The main styles are:

     Yoga: do the 'sheer' test and you'll only expose your toes.
    Yoga: do the ‘sheer’ test and you’ll only expose your toes.

    • Ashtanga & Vinyasa: the most vigorous styles. Prepare to get hot and sweaty, with faster moving sequences. 
    • Hatha: this refers to the physical practice of yoga (rather than mental) but typically indicates a classical, more gentle approach.
    • Yin & Restorative: these styles are becoming increasingly popular as people seek deep muscular release and mindfulness. Poses are held for longer, with emphasis on stretching and relaxation. 
    • Bikram: yoga with the heat cranked. 

    In some classes, your teacher will perform ‘adjustments’ and gently guide you into place. If you’re not comfortable with that, just let them know. 

    Ready to take a class? Here are my tips!

    1. Before You Leave Home

    DO NOT MOISTURISE. You need to grip the mat, not have a personal slip and slide! I’ve used a 24 hour moisturiser in the morning and still had my feet slide down my legs in an evening class. 

    Speaking of feet, yoga is a barefoot activity. There’s no need to get a pedicure but you may be less self conscious if your toenails aren’t setting Guinness World Records for length. If you’re prone to foot odour, bring some talcum powder. Do NOT try and hide in socks. You’ll probably slide and hurt yourself, and a good yoga instructor will ask you to remove them anyway. 

    It’s best not to eat at least an hour before class, although I find I can have a raw ball 30 minutes prior without any problems if I’m starving. Bring water and a towel if you’re inclined to get sweaty.

    2. What to Wear

    Stretchy but fitted clothing is best. You can do yoga in a t-shirt and leggings, but remember you’ll be bending over and a loose shirt will slide right over your head. It’s easily solved by tucking your shirt in, unless you wear a cropped shirt like I did once on a laundry day. Never, never again. 

    I recommend doing the ‘sheer’ test before leaving home. Put on your yoga pants, stand with your bottom to a mirror and bend over. Take a look behind you – if you can’t see anything, neither will anyone else in your class. Consider bringing an extra layer for meditation when your body temperature will cool right down. 

    Half the reason I love yoga is because I can wear flip-flops to the gym! 

    3. On arrival

    Whether you do yoga at a studio, beachside or at the gym, chances are you’ll do some paperwork. Arrive 10 minutes early so you have time to put your belongings away and set up/collect your mat. Let the instructor know this is your first class and advise of any injuries or pregnancies, so they can give extra tips and modify any poses. Get a spot somewhere in the middle. Advanced yogis will probably be in the front row so you can follow them, while being close enough to see the instructor. 

     Yoga on holidays: The view when practicing on our balcony in Mexico! 
    Yoga on holidays: The view when practicing on our balcony in Mexico! 

    4. Equipment

    A yoga mat is essential but most places will let you borrow or rent one. If you want to buy a mat, they start from about $30 but I’d wait until you’ve done a few classes. That way, you’ll have a better idea of the thickness and length you prefer.   

    Some teachers will offer blocks to assist with some poses, along with straps for stretching. Grab them at the start, and then you can decide during the class whether to use them. As I’ve mentioned, bring water and a towel if you’re doing the more vigorous styles.

    5. Terminology

    Originating in India, most yoga pose names are in Sanskrit. Don’t worry, I’m not fluent either! Many pose names have been adapted for Western practice. Here are the most common terms you’re likely to hear during your class: 

    • Downward dog: One of the foundation poses in yoga. Hands and feet on the mat at least one metre apart, with your bottom in the air like an upside down “V.” Over time, your heels will touch the ground. 
    • Child’s pose: a resting pose with knees and toes on your mat, chest on your thighs and arms stretched in front. A great option to do anytime during the class. 
    • Sun salutations: a flowing sequence involving downward dog, lunges, some planking, upward dog and mountain poses. Usually repeated at least four times (twice on each leg). 
    • Warrior poses: a set of strengthening poses, with Warrior 1 facing frontwards, Warrior 2 your chest and hips face the side, and Warrior 3 a bit like a one-legged aeroplane. 
    • Shavasana or “corpse pose”: meditation. The cool five minutes at the end where you lay down and relax your mind, letting your body absorb the work you’ve just done. 

    6. The next day & beyond

    Prepare for hamstring hell. Your wrists might be a little sore too. But mostly, you should feel stretched, peaceful and inspired to return! What did you enjoy most? Or what did your body respond to? Google hamstring stretches if you need to. Otherwise, give yourself a high five yogi!

    To find a class near you, check out the Mind Body app. Or to get comfortable in your own home first, give Pocket Yoga a go. 

    QUESTION: What do you love most about yoga?