Reflections on my first SUP yoga vacation
I’ve endured yoga before sunrise, yoga in a cabin so cold I could see my breath, passing the Talking Stick to open up about our innermost fears and insecurities, deep meditation, pranayama, chakra releasing and of course, hours upon hours of yoga. So I approached this SUP yoga retreat with trepidation. I wasn’t sure I was up for this. I’m older now and quite frankly, I’m tired. I didn’t want to come home more emotionally drained and exhausted than I left. I needed an actual vacation.
But in the spirit of adventure, the spirit of honoring my commitments, and most importantly, the spirit of non-refundable payments, I packed up my car, picked up my friend and headed to the mountains.
My BFF insisted we listen to the new musical Hamilton for the entire 2 1/2 hour drive to the lake. (Yes, she was right. Hamilton is amazing. Listen on Spotify, buy the recording for everyone you know, and then go see it on Broadway.) When we arrived at the cabin and pulled into the long driveway, I took a good long look at our surroundings and sighed. In a good way. The backyard unfolded into stone steps descending onto a private sandy beach, where the lake lapped at the sand. A very pissed off squirrel chittered in the pine trees above us reminding us that we weren’t in the city anymore.
So if you’re thinking about a SUP Yoga Retreat (or a Yoga Retreat), how will you survive it if you’re new to stand up paddle boarding, new to yoga and you don’t know anybody there? A few simple guidelines will make it smooth sailing and soul filling. You’ll not only survive, you’ll thrive.
Make New Friends
We were greeted at our SUP Yoga Girls Camp with warm hellos and delicious, lovingly prepared vegan appetizers. We introduced ourselves and picked out our beds, as we were all staying together in one rustic cabin. And by rustic, I mean a giant taxidermied moose head on the wall was being used at a hat rack and eight women would be sharing two bathrooms.
Most of the women didn’t know each other beforehand but were brave enough to sign up for the retreat on their own. One of the women confided that she was nervous about not knowing anyone and her confident 5-year old told her, “Mommy, you’re going to camp and you’re going to make so many new friends!” And you know what? That clever 5-year old was right.
Be Willing To “Fail”
Make an Effort
Enjoy the Present Moment
As I lay in bed, looking out the window onto the trees and water, a fellow yogini brought me a mug of coffee in bed. We had to hit the water before the boaters and jet skiers powered up for the day or the water was too choppy for yoga. This meant that we had to hit the water early in the morning, in bathing suits on a paddle board by 8 am.
After our morning sessions of SUP and delicious breakfast, we had play time on the boards. As I paddled along the shoreline, an otter swam through the lake to the sand. Osprey and hawks circled above the water as they fished for their morning meal. Fish occasionally jumped out of the lake with small splashes that echoed across the quiet. (Why do fish jump? Are they jumping for joy?)
The afternoons were our own and filled with peace and quiet. Most of us catnapped on the beach. NOTE: remember to put sunscreen on the BACK of your legs too…
SUP yoga as a class requires quite a bit of setup for the teacher to get the boards aligned in a way that students can hear her and see her, plus she needs the added ability to navigate around the class on her board. There’s no hands on adjusting involved, just vocal cues. You’re not looking at anyone else, you can’t. You have to focus on your hand/foot placement and your balance. The occasional yelp and splash is common place.
But it’s fun. You test your limits. You reach new levels.
Take a Nap
Self-care is often at the bottom of the list (if it even makes it on to the To Do List). We need rest, connection and meaning. And naps…did I mention naps?
Things I learned at my yoga retreat:
- Paddle boarding is even more fun than it looks.
- Stand up paddle board yoga is even harder than it looks.
- You’re going to fall in anyway, so you might as well reach for it.
- Vegan food can be astonishingly delicious.
- Beach yoga is the bomb.
- A SUP Yoga Retreat is like Girls Camp, except you’re not an awkward tween anymore and there’s the possibility of adult beverages.
- American women are exhausted and need to retreat to restore their vitality. You need this in your life.
Do you hear that? I asked my friend. The squirrels? The wind? (When the wind rushes through pine and aspen, it sounds like water.)? No, it’s the sound of no one saying “Mom! Mom! Mom!” every thirty seconds. It’s the sound of respite and the sound of relief.
I continually brought my attention back to the present moment.
Gentle indian yoga music poured over us from a portable speaker as we practiced hatha yoga on the beach in the lazy warmth of the afternoon. The occasional drunken powerboater would whoop and holler at us and we laughed. The experience of the sun on my back, sand on my mat and wind through my hair was incomparable. Beach yoga takes yoga to a whole other level.