One reason to never graduate to the real world is that being in school allows you access to lots of free things, including gym classes. And while my university's gym doesn't offer hanging yoga, it happens to be demoing paddle board yoga this summer. I had to try this out.
Now paddle board yoga takes place in a pool. This might seem like "duh" to most of you; however, when I was first told of this class, I imagined paddle boards in a yoga studio and people using paddles, sort of like Russian twists. Not exactly what it is . . . .
Thankfully, a friend clued me in, so I did show up to class in a bathing suit. My friend bailed, though, so I came to class alone and knew no one. It was either time to make friends or keep myself anonymous so I couldn't embarrass myself in front of anyone I know. (I chose the latter.)
Based on my previous ignorance, you also shouldn't be surprised that I didn't know what a paddle board was. I thought I did, but I think I was picturing a kayak. The boards are big, like miniature islands shaped like sharks, and there are no paddles, at least for this class. Who knows in real life? (I'm sure some readers out there knows the answer.)
The instructor told us to hop onto a board and paddle out so that there's distance between each other and we aren't near the pool's walls. Overall, ten paddle boards made it into the otherwise empty Olympic-sized pool. Everyone else seemed like the lifeguard type. One dude was like, "I haven't been on a paddle board in six years," but if we're competing, I didn't know what the board looked like. I also haven't swum in a pool in almost two years, so when the instructor said paddle out, I am sitting there wondering how to make this island move with any amount of speed and in a direction that wasn't torpedoing my nearest neighbor.
Instructor: "Begin in a seated position."
I don't know how else she would expect us to start; I wasn't about to stand up on this board.
We sit there, doing the typical yoga start stance: Eyes closed, hands on knees, mindful breathing, yadda yadda. It was hard for me to be too mindful when I'm trying to memorize mental commentary for this blog, but c'est la vie. At some point I peeked through my mindfulness when my board bumped into another person's board. The instructor had warned us at the class's start she or her assistant may move our boards away from one another since we don't want people getting concussions when they flop into the water. Thus, the instructor eased my board backward, which I appreciated because I still hadn't gotten the paddling part down. I return to "meditating" aka listening to the pool's filter system and wondering if my abs show if I sit tall and suck in when she tells us to open our eyes (at least I think she says that; it's hard to hear over the filter system), and hello, I have floated the length of the pool away from the group. No wonder I can't hear the instructor!
I try paddling back toward the group when we start raising our arms above our head. I worry my splashing will rouse the group, so I decide to mimic the crowd, even though I can't hear them. By this point I am feeling pretty comfortable on the board. It's so big, I'm not too afraid of falling off. I even follow along as we do some planks and child's pose.
The first challenge was when the instructor led us in "sun bird" - I think that's what she said; I'm still in the back of the class - where you lift a leg up and then bring your knee toward your nose. Okay, board, steady now.
"Now, forward fold . . . "
Uh, that requires standing.
But, ladies and gentlemen, it is not as hard as you'd think it is. You just have to remember to keep toward the center of your board.
We leave forward fold and enter mountain pose. This is when I realize my back is to the instructor. My board has floated 180-degrees around. Meanwhile, everyone else is facing the instructor. (Some others have floated to the back of the class with me. Camaraderie, you know.) I guess I should turn around. I can do this. And I do (clap, please), except now the instructor is narrating warrior one, which is a lunge pose. And in case you didn't know, to get into a lunge, you have to take a step forward, which necessitates balancing on one foot, and if this is an island, then it is an island undergoing post-volcanic tremors. So no, I don't make this pose. I fall into the pool. It hurts much less than when you fall in ice skating.
I get back on my board easily (but not gracefully). Eventually I learn to do some sort of lunge where I slip and slide my foot to the front of the board, teeter, slip and slide my other foot to the back of the board, totter, and then the instructor says, "Warrior two," and I crash into the water.
Next, we do some back bends. I fall here because, this time, when I reach up, my hands touch those triangular flags hanging over pools meant for laps. Startled, I slip.
Garland pose - aka deep squats - are easier than expected. I'm quite proud I can get deeper than some of the more flexible yogis. I'm also confident our instructor won't dare suggest crow pose - where you stand on your two arms with your knees on your elbows - but that would be the same ignorance that thought paddle board yoga takes place on dry land. Doesn't she know we've fallen in the pool, we are wet, how the heck will my knees adhere to my elbows?
In the midst of doing the impossible, my board floats ever further into the shallow end and decides to dock on the stairs leading into the pool. However, I don't know this. Man down again when I try to stand up.
The class, thankfully, ends with corpse pose / shavasana / bliss. You can't fall while you're lying on your back. And there is no better way to nap than with your fingertips in a heated pool and a filter system purring in your ear. Afterward, we do more meditation.
The instructor: "Ground yourself into the earth."
Me: Does she know we're on a board in a pool?
Don't go to paddle board yoga if you're expecting a thorough stretch session. In fact, you might be more tense afterward from trying not to flail into the pool. But it's a good way to get those abs you want to show off in the next class.
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