Your grandmother is probably into stand-up paddleboarding these days. The trendy water workout is no longer reserved for boho surfer types and fitness fanatics. SUP (as it’s called) has become the hottest exercise since aerobics—and I can see why. An intense paddleboarding sesh can can be just as intense as a bike ride and engage everything from your arms to your bum.
But fitness junkies always want more. Regular old SUPing is not enough, and you can now take classes that offer resistance training on the board, paddleboard yoga, and—of course—mediation.
I had to try it. I love paddleboarding, dig Downward Dog, and am trying to give this whole meditation thing a go, so I signed up for a class with Sera at Serenity Eco Guides in the Florida Keys. Sera is a lovely long-haired woman with a six-pack and Heidi braids that goes by one only name—a la Cher or Beyoncé. She refers to herself as a healer and holds a BS in psychology with a minor in environmental chemistry. She is a manager at Ocean Edge Hotel & Marina where she uses her skills as a paddleboard healer to bring restorative exercise to her guests.
Sera says that ecotherapy is a broad term for a variety of nature-based healing practices that facilitate the experiential connection of the client with the environment. The essential function is to reconnect to the senses and increase self-awareness. This style of therapy is an application of the relatively new field of ecopsychology and usually incorporates some counseling and coaching components.
“I have found that it is easier for me to guide my students into a subconscious state when the only ambient noise is natural and there is no one else around,” Sera tells me.
Honestly, it all sounded a little hokey. Could I really get my Zen on and relax my body while trying to balance on a board? Also, the whole subconscious state thing seems like a load of BS. I was skeptical, but figured if an exercise can simultaneously work my abs and bliss me out, then it’s worth a shot.
I hopped on my board and confidently paddled along the bay, realizing as I went that the nature of SUP is meditative in itself. Once upright, I gently pulled the paddle through the clear waters, moving my arms from one side to the other. I had no text messages to attend to and zero emails staring me in the face. It was awesome.
Our group anchored in a lush mangrove and we began the practice with a few yoga poses. We Pigeoned, Downward Dogged, and planked, all of which are incredibly challenging on a paddleboard. Finally, we moved into meditation.
Sera says that SUP yoga is the practice of stretching and applying yoga on board, which requires a lot of balance and is physically demanding. SUP meditation doesn’t look as cool, she says, but the benefits are enormous.
To successfully meditate on a paddleboard, one must be completely still with her eyes closed. She says you can practice in any yogic posture, but the simplicity of Corpse pose seems to be most effective. Lying still on my back? Twist my arm, why don’t you?
Sera had us lie down and gently graze our hands along the water, which not only felt cooling on a warm afternoon, but helped me to relax. She also assured me that a gator would not bite off my pinky toe so I could comfortably chill the F out.
Sera says that people are often unaware of the constant stream of thoughts that flow though their heads. “Sometimes it is very difficult for people to quiet their mind, and nature makes this easier,» she told us. «Meditating on a paddleboard is a powerful way to increase your awareness of how, what, and where you feel about life.”
At that point I was feeling pretty good about life, considering that I was floating in a beautiful bay that was definitely not full of alligators.
From a lying down position, Sera led us in a guided meditation and the last thing I remember is her chanting, “I am serenity. Serenity is me.” TBH, I had no idea what that meant, but I feel asleep under the hot Florida sun. Or so I thought…
Sera tells me that I didn’t actually doze, but under her guidance of yoga nidra—the yoga of sleep—she facilitated the state of consciousness between waking and sleeping. She tells me, “You were not asleep—you were in your subconscious mind where the answers to all of our questions truly are.”
Okay, I do question that, but I’ll never complain about napping on the ocean.
Anne Roderique-Jones is a freelance writer and editor whose work has appeared in Vogue, Marie Claire, Southern Living, Town & Country, and Condé Nast Traveler. Twitter: @AnnieMarie_ Instagram: @AnnieMarie_
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