by Gabrielle L. Wheeler
Imagine you are lying on your back with your eyes closed. As you lie there, your fingers dabble in cool water. The sun is warm on your face, arms, and legs. In the background, you can hear gentle waves lapping on a shore.
When your Savasana, or Corpse Pose, is completed, you open your eyes and you are on a stand-up paddleboard (SUP) floating on Canandaigua Lake some sunny, summer day. The lake is busy with tourists and locals enjoying the water, but the cove you and your fellow SUP yoga classmates are in is fairly secluded and waves from the boats on the open water are broken by the points jetting out that protect it. Welcome to a typical SUP yoga class with Finger Lakes Yogascapes.
Yoga on the Water
SUP yoga is, of course, not just lying on a paddleboard in Savasana, it is a full yoga class while also floating on the water. “SUP yoga really mimics a regular class, the first thing being really finding your center,” explains Jennifer Hess, owner of Finger Lakes Yogascapes, affectionately known as FLYscapes.
SUP yoga classes with FLYscapes are open to all levels of experience, though at the start of the season a few beginner’s classes are held. Hess explains that these classes soon integrate because yoga on a paddleboard is so different from yoga in a studio that everyone is working with a beginner’s mind. “SUP yoga is different from regular yoga in that you are on a board that’s moving. You’re outside with a lot of sensory experiences around you and it makes you very aware of your core and center – which is what you want in yoga all the time. But in a studio, it’s sometimes easy to miss that; you’re going through motions. Or even, you’re going through the motions that you always go through because you’re used to practicing in a certain way and then you take that on a board, and you have to slow down. You have to have a beginner’s mind and be open to what that experience is going to be.”
Stand up paddleboards are long and wide for extra stability, and the ones used for SUP yoga have an anchor to hold the board in place during class. Each class has 3-4 instructors because Hess is aware that every yogi is different and different teaching styles resonate with different learners. She contracts with various instructors throughout the season so that no class is ever the same.
Nearly all yoga poses can be performed on a board, from down dog to the sun salutation routine. More complex poses such as crow, in which the yogi places the knees on the triceps and balances on the arms, to headstands are also possible. Hess does admit she has never seen a handstand done on a board. SUP yoga is a reminder for all yoga practitioners, from beginner to advanced, to remember to move and hold the poses by engaging the core, which Hess believes is important in everything we do every day. She says it’s about “having a beginner’s mind and also bringing some playfulness into your practice. I know for myself, you get really serious about your practice…but this really brings some joy and some playfulness, and maybe some unexpected things into your practice.”
If being nervous about using a paddleboard keeps you from taking a SUP yoga class, please don’t let that hold you back. “We now offer a little bit of paddleboarding [instruction] beforehand, which allows people to stand up on a board, which if you haven’t done it before, is probably the most disconcerting part,” Hess says. Classes with FLYscapes are also performed in shallow areas of the lake, so accidentally falling in is funny – and refreshing – on a hot day. Again, it’s important to keep that beginner’s mind while practicing yoga on a SUP board.
Finger Lakes Yogascapes has been offering yoga experiences to the region since 2014 and works closely with Canandaigua Sailboard for the SUP yoga classes. Classes for yoga on a stand-up paddleboard are offered mid-June through mid-September and pre-registration is required due to the limited number of boards available for rental. Paddleboard rental is included with the price of the class and discounts are available for those who bring their own board. Multi-class packages can be purchased for enthusiasts.
FLYscapes is a nomadic company that travels around the region. The company doesn’t necessarily have a home-base but goes to clients to offer individualized packages for corporate events, bachelorette parties, weekend getaways, and special events. Packages are tailored to the need and can include yoga, waterfall hikes, farm-to-table meals, essential oil classes and much more. With some of the company’s other unique offerings, FLYscapes also organizes snoga during the winter months (or yoga in the snow), and women’s glamping retreats in Ithaca in July and August. For more information or to contact, visit Finger Lakes Yogascapes at fingerlakesyogascapes.com or visit on Facebook.
SUP yoga is also offered at many other locations around the region. If Canandaigua Lake is not situated conveniently near you, check out some of these other options. Remember, preregistration is necessary for most SUP yoga classes.
Bay Creek Paddling Center (Rochester)
iBay SUP Yoga (Irondequoit Bay on Lake Ontario)
North End Outdoors (Skaneateles Lake)
Paddle-N-More (Cayuga Lake)
SUP on Seneca
315 Yoga (classes at Green Lakes State Park, Fayetteville)