Three years ago, at 51, Sara Lovick tried paddle boarding for the first time. Then last year, Sara took on a new challenge and began classes with Hang Ten Yoga – an unusual combination of yoga and stand-up paddle boarding (SUP).
Her new love for SUP yoga has sky-rocketed and throughout the summer she took classes twice a week.
“There’s nothing more magical than doing SUP yoga watching the sun set over the sea once the sea breeze has calmed down at the end of the day,” says Sara, 54, who takes classes at South Sands on the Salcombe estuary near her home on the south Devon coast, surrounded by the elements – a far cry from the gym studio.
The idea of fitness classes on the water in the open air appealed, but combining her love for paddle boarding with the art of yoga presented new challenges.
“When I started SUP yoga last year, I was nervous of falling in but I’ve actually only fallen in once so far during classes,” explains Sara.
“Standing on a paddle board is very straightforward if you follow some very simple instructions.”
Classes are tailored for novices: “To begin with, Emma, our tutor, teaches simple yoga positions, linking our breath to movement, just as with land-based yoga. Once we have mastered balancing on the board in tricky poses and feel more confident, she encourages us to try more daring and challenging positions.”
SUP yoga is a gentle but challenging sport, great for core stability and muscle tone, and there’s no physical impact so it’s ideal for 50-somethings. On top of that, being surrounded by the beautiful ocean gives an enormous sense of wellbeing to Sara.
“The peace on the water is wonderful, and of course it keeps my body flexible.” She continues, “It takes all my concentration and focus so I can’t think of anything else whilst practicing yoga on a SUP, and it’s a great way to switch off.”
But the ocean is never the same, so the same postures can feel different week to week, depending on the wind direction, tide and seascape, giving different levels of workout intensity.
Hang Ten Yoga runs classes of eight people. To prevent all the paddleboards floating off in different directions during class, everyone ties their leashes (straps) on to loops on a floating line anchored in the bay so they can be hands-free. “Some yoga positions are very challenging but any good instructor takes the class slowly to begin with, choosing poses which have a low centre of gravity making it easier to remain on the board.
Then as our confidence grows, we attempt the trickier, more asymmetric poses such as warrior or the tree position which I still haven’t managed!”
Sara has passed the SUP yoga bug onto some of her friends: “Some people just want to try something different and when my friends have tried it they come back for more. It is a really different way to stay fit and flexible. Some ladies are somewhat nervous but after a few words of encouragement, they get really energised by it and are delighted to have given it a go.”
Sara plans to carry on practising her downward dogs and cobra floating on the Salcombe estuary this winter, on crisp, sunny days when the wind is still and the sea is calm, and she’ll be raring to go again in the spring when group classes resume.