When Yve stood up on a paddling board for the first time three years ago her knees wouldn’t stop shaking. Never had she tried a surf sport before and the movement of water under her feet was a weird feeling to get used to. The Nalani SUP Center at Müggelsee lake in Berlin had just bought their first boards and started teaching adventurers on how to do what the people of the Polynesian islands had been doing for decades, and Yve was curious.
A few weeks later, she had become a real pro and started combining SUP with her original passion: Yoga. But let’s start at the beginning.
For anyone who hasn’t heard what the ominous acronym SUP stands for: Stand Up Paddleboarding. It originated in Tahiti and Hawaii in the 1960s and it’s a great workout for your legs, core, arms and back. In the past years it has become a popular sport along the American Westcoast, traveled over the Atlantic ocean to Europe and started a new wave of trendy sightseeing in any city with waterways. So far, so good.
The same accounts for yoga. Ashtanga, Hatha, Bikram or Vinyasa – who’s not familiar with these terms nowadays. Yet, what if we combine the two? What if we ask the seemingly impossible of our balance and perform our next yoga session on a floating board in the water?
„NOT happening!“ – That’s what I thought. My tree, warrior or revolved side angle poses are not even steady on land, nevermind trying them on choppy waters. Nevertheless, my curiosity was bigger than my doubts, so I took my fellow Travelettes Katja and Cordula on a mission: we booked a SUP Yoga session in our hometown of Berlin.
While the sport is already on its way to perfection in North America (many yoga studios from Vancouver to Key West offers SUP sessions), it is still only on a slow move to Europe. To boost this development yoga instructor Yve from Shankari Yoga and Nalani’s founder Patrick teamed up and became SUP yoga pioneers on Berlin grounds (or rather waters). After learning the ABC of paddleboarding, Yve decided to adapt the trending sport from the US and take her yoga classes off the mat and onto the water. This summer she is already in her third season of teaching at Müggelsee. The poses she uses in her classes remind of Hatha and Vinyasa Flow asanas, and even if she doesn’t make you sweat like your Vinyasa teacher, these yoga sessions come with their own challenges: adapting to the new platform, reacting to the waves and still mastering your movements.
Mission accepted, we set out from Berlin’s Ostkreuz and took S3 to Friedrichshagen along with our bikes. A short bike ride (or a 15 minute walk) later we spotted the lake Müggelsee and entered Seebad Friedrichshagen. First up: getting familiar with the lake, in other words working on our tan at the sandy beach. We had signed up for a sunset session and met Yve at the tower at 6pm sharp.
After a brief introduction to paddle techniques we and our fellow yogis were ready to get started. As soon as everybody felt comfortable with their boards we formed a circle and connected them with a rope. Accompanied by the noise of the water and the smell of the surrounding forest Yve took us through an extraordinary yoga session. Even though some of the poses were more shaky than usual, with a little bit of concentration we actually managed a lot more than we had expected. Performing yoga on a board also comes with the big advantage of risk limitation: falling into the water while working on your head stand is definitely less scary than crashing on the hard studio floor – and be sure, you will fall eventually… Additionally, poses require more concentration and core strength than on land and have therefore a bigger impact on your body.
Yoga to SUP is like ice-cream to summer. The two have so much in common and now that we’ve tried it we ask ourselves, why we haven’t done it earlier. Both are non-competitive sports. Of course there’s relay and speed SUP, but in general it is an activity open to everyone. Like in yoga, there is no right or wrong. You will figure out how to do it by practice and it doesn’t take you very long. After all, yoga and SUP are not about improving or getting better than anyone else, but about having fun and enjoying the exercise. The combination of nature, exercise and community is what makes it so special.
If you also want to try this special kind of yoga, all you have to do is to google „SUP yoga“ and your city, and you’ll likely find a match in a place nearby. If you happen to live in or visit Berlin, simply do the short trip to Müggelsee! You find Nalani SUP Center at Seebad Friedrichshagen. Just call or email Yve or Patrick and ask about their exact class schedule. If you’re unsure about the yoga part but want to try the SUP, Nalani also rents out boards, and offers guided tours in all variations. Check out all your options here.
Thank you Yve for having us over and giving us the possibility to try SUP yoga ourselves. We’re hooked!
*all photos by Katja Hentschel