x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Stand up paddle board yoga: the toughest workout you'll float through

We speak with two instructors in Abu Dhabi to find out what the sport is all about.

Danny Jones starts the class by teaching participants how to use the paddle board. Sammy Dallal / The National
Danny Jones starts the class by teaching participants how to use the paddle board. Sammy Dallal / The National

Danny Jones, a British instructor from the company Watercooled, has been teaching water sports for seven years. He has taught stand up paddle boarding in the UK and Europe, but he says Abu Dhabi, where he’s lived for just five months, is his favourite watersports location.

The yin yoga instructor Julie Lewis has been working in the fitness and health management sector since 1989. Her company Mountain High runs retreats and personal leadership programmes for women around the world.

What is stand up paddle board yoga and what kind of workout is it?

Danny: It originated recently and is based on the theory that the board provides the perfect platform. The required balance adds to the core stability workout, while the ocean provides the perfect location for peace and tranquillity. Watercooled provides this programme at both its centres in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

Paddle boarding can be a full body workout. The beauty of the sport is that the level of difficulty can be fully suited to the participant, be it first-time or experienced paddlers. The range of movements used during paddling uses a multitude of muscles, especially the abdominals to build core strength. First timers to SUP normally find that within 20 minutes of practising they are standing and paddling.

Did you find it tricky when you first tried paddle board yoga?

Julie: The first time anyone gets on a paddle board you tend to have shaky legs. This is normal. The body adjusts to balancing on the board quite quickly. The key is the correct stance with the weight evenly balanced.

What’s do first timers on the paddle board need to know?

Danny: I would always recommend paddle boarding in a location you know is safe. Things to avoid are a strong tide and areas with lots of motorised action. Always paddle board with a friend. It’s more fun and safe.

What are the main benefits of stand up paddle board yoga?

Julie: The session we run is a great all-rounder for the mind and body. The paddle section is yang – it works the muscles and the core and is great for balance. The yin session works the deep connective tissue and juices up the joints. You get pure joy out of the class. We spend far too much time inside air-conditioned boxes, so any opportunity to connect with nature is a gift.

• Paddle board yoga classes are held at Hiltonia Beach Club, Abu Dhabi, on Wednesdays from 5.30pm to 6.30pm and cost Dh100 per session, with classes limited to 10 people. For more information visit www.watercooleduae.com


Tried and tested

I’ve never tried stand up paddle boarding or yoga so combining the two was always going to be interesting.

I had imagined myself gliding through the water, easily morphing into yoga poses. The reality was rather different.

The class is divided into two sections: learning how to use the board and the yoga. After introductory talks by Jones and Lewis, we put the boards into the water. Starting on our stomachs, we used our hands to paddle ourselves away from shore. Next, we got onto our knees and used the paddles to steer the boards. That was the idea, anyway. I seemed to keep going in circles.

Standing on the board is not as easy as it looks. “Don’t worry about falling in. You will fall in,” said Jones, which was equally reassuring and worrying.

I heard a splash; someone had taken the first tumble into the sea. After overhearing another couple of falls, I forced myself to stand and immediately lost my balance. I fell in twice before realising I preferred staying on my knees.

For the yoga session, we hooked our boards to a rope in the sea so as not to float away. Lewis led us through some basic positions, sitting or kneeling on the boards.

The stretches were followed by a brief meditation and, despite being wet and shivering a little, I found it very calming to be floating in the sea at sunset. I was so relaxed, in fact, that I almost nodded off at one point, but a passing helicopter put paid to that.

It was an interesting first attempt at yoga and paddle boarding, and one I will try again. For three days after, every muscle in my body ached. I definitely felt the benefits, both physically and mentally.