Read Caroline’s interview with Summersalt Yoga

SUP yoga and the approach to life: have fun, fall in, laugh!

By Caroline Graham-Wood

As the indulgences of December and resolutions of January fade away, it’s a good time to reflect on how we can practically implement changes in our lives that are realistic and sustainable. 

We are often told that dramatic and quick solutions will change our bodies, change our lives and change us for the better. However, the longer I practice yoga and as I reflect on the benefits of taking up rather than giving up, I believe that perhaps one word offers more answers to the changes we may seek, than the fads that are sold to us. It is a word that is open to subjective interpretation as well as having the potential to hold a deeper meaning, depending on those we choose to influence our lives and learn from. That word is very simple, balance. Balance can be applied to so many aspects of our lives, from what we eat to how we choose to spend our time. 

A key emphasis in yoga is to progress at your own speed, to avoid competitiveness yet to find a level that pushes you and helps you grow in your practice. This is never more true than in the balance poses. 

In yoga we seek balance and allow that balance to move in a positive direction, rather than remaining static. In a tree pose we move the ball of the foot slowly up the leg as we progress our balance, from below then above the knee, then moving the heel to the groin and finally up to Arda Padmasana. Once there we can try a further challenge, moving your drishti (view point). 

The approach to asanas, especially balancing poses, can often bring out a side to yoga that we need to counter-act. Seriousness, frustration, competitiveness. One fabulous way to challenge these often natural impulses to the balance poses is SUP yoga. This ultimate challenge to balance never fails to release the tense approach that can accompany balance poses, because pretty much everyone falls in the water at least once!

Caroline  brings her energy to the mat and the SUP board and shares this incredible experience (and her balance!) with you passionately. 

Why and when did you decide to become a yoga teacher? And then started specializing in SUP yoga?

I never planned to become a yoga teacher. I was in Mexico working as a fire hoola hooper with a couple of friends who performed various circus acrobatics. I was practising yoga when given the opportunity to teach some classes, I never looked back. I found yoga a wonderful experience for myself and love guiding yogis of different abilities through their practice, helping them learn, develop and expand their practice. 

I started specialising in SUP when I was living on a cenote and a friend came with some boards and we played around on them. I saw another teacher giving a SUP yoga class one day and I thought, wow this is my dream, I want to do this.

When I extended my own practice to include SUP yoga I couldn’t believe how fantastic and different this form of yoga could be. You are in such wonderful surroundings. I remember my first class, paddling across the crystal clear lagoon in Tulum, totally peaceful, and was like hey this is my job! 

What do you enjoy most about teaching SUP yoga?

Being outside in nature brings a different perspective to the practice. Being able to reference the elements that surround you in a SUP yoga class and teach the student to truely connect to nature and their surroundings. Often water is used as a reference in yoga teaching, to be fluid and let the breath flow like the ocean, in a SUP class these phrases are tangible and even more powerful. 

I enjoy the fun and playful nature of the class, how it can be most peoples first time not only on a Sup board but also practicing. 

Savasana is also so sweet it is a joy to give people that experience of melting away on their board with the water gently lapping against the board. 

I love the sense of freedom and space. Being on the SUP board helps you challenge your balance.

Do you have any advice for SUP yoga beginners and why they should not be afraid to try it?

Have fun, fall in, laugh. Once you relax and gain awareness of being on water you will find you are totally supported by your board and will forget you are on a SUP, until you fall in again!

Name the top 3-4 benefits of yoga (regular or/and SUP) to you personally.

The space you create in your body and your mind.

Core strength and balance you build up

The connection to nature and to focus on compassion and taking a positive frame of mind to the outside world.

What changes do you notice in students after some time practicing SUP yoga?

Confidence, balance, strength, childlike re-connection, happiness, greater connection with the earth, elements, respect for the earth. 

Why do you think participating in a SUP yoga retreat is a good experience?

Outside, sunshine, water, elements, fun, playful, strength, fitness, outside, challenge, over fear. It challenges what you learnt from land yoga, makes you understand the asanas and muscles groups more obviously as you have to get the correct alignment.