As their boards glided over the glassy surface inside the break wall of King Harbor, Redondo Beach the paddlers steered their SUPs into a semi-circular cluster as they waited for their instructor, Michelle Gierst of Olympus SUP Fit, to finish a short dockside paddling overview for a new student and join them on the water. “This is my favorite ocean exercise”, said Liz Kelly, a visitor from New York who joined the group for a Saturday morning class over the holidays. Indeed, the students bubbled with anticipation as another session of SUP yoga commenced underneath the warm, clear blue sky of a winter morning in Southern California.
Practicing yoga on a SUP is quite possibly one of the most pure and spiritual experiences one can achieve. The boards used by Olympus SUP Fit are each covered in a comfortable layer of rubbery foam giving them a similar feel to a yoga mat. While not necessary from a performance perspective, the touch was ascetically pleasing for converts to the waterborne version of yoga. SUP yoga is really not that different from a studio, explained Michelle. After leading her students through a series of introductory exercises designed to loosen their muscles and give them confidence on their boards, Michelle gracefully demonstrated the next exercise – a sequence of four simple poses which make everyone, including first time students, look and feel like a pro. It is not long before the gently rocking of the water drifted into the background. “You forget you are on the water and the ocean becomes another layer of balance”, said Christine MacInnis. Having expertly navigated the channel in front of the King Harbor Yacht Club while performing a series of delicate maneuvers, the students congregated once more near the break wall as bright orange garibaldi darted beneath the surface.
In the calm shallows the students began to unfold the sea anchors attached to the back of their boards and lowered them into the clear water until they settled on the sandy bottom. Resembling a weighted parachute, the sea anchors minimized drift and kept the class together as the students laid their paddles across the front of their boards in preparation for the next set of instructions. While everyone closed their eyes and focused on their balance, thin smiles crept across the student’s faces as they pointed their heads skyward in the direction of the sun just as a wave crashed against the opposite side of the protective break wall. “Being out on a SUP performing yoga gives you a whole new connection to the water”, said Liz. As the instruction winded down, Michelle offered to lead the group to the first buoy just outside the harbor’s entrance. A colony of seals basked in the mid-morning sunshine around the deck of the metal buoy as it slowly bobbed in the ocean breeze. The class posed for a group photo on the water and then headed back to the dock. What a perfect morning – totally Zen.
Olympus SUP Yoga, King Harbor - Redondo Beach, CA, Olympussup.com, 310-980-2922
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