June 16, 2011

Off Beat: Feel at ohm on the water? Try SUP yoga

By Shannon Bryan sbryan@mainetoday.com
Staff Writer

People can't just go around falling off of things. They can't continually tip over mid-stride or careen backwards from the top of an "up" escalator.

click image to enlarge

Jill Newel and Brenda Cyr practice SUP "stand-up paddelboard" yoga.

Shannon Bryan photo


WHEN: 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. Tuesday (rain date June 23)

WHERE: Kettle Cove, Cape Elizabeth


INFO: soposup.com; or stop into SOPO SUP, 382 Cottage Road, South Portland


Registration for July sessions is open and classes will be weekly, 9:30 to 10:45 a.m. Tuesday or Thursday. Sessions will consist of three classes, and will cost $120 with board and paddle rental or $60 if you have your own equipment. Private evening classes are also available.


TUNE IN to Good Day Maine (WPFO FOX 23) at 7:40 a.m. today to watch Shannon Bryan talk up the weekend's events and other digressions with Doug Ray and Diana Ichton.

Hence all those self-help books about balance.

Of course, balance can also refer to the more abstract translation -- that intangible pursuit-of-happiness thing. (Be hardworking but don't work all the time; be optimistic but not delusional; be kind but not the kind of person who gets conned into driving an unemployed boyfriend to his other girlfriend's house.)

Life balance isn't always easy to achieve.

Some people seek it out in O, The Oprah Magazine, some in group therapy. South Portlander Brenda Cyr finds balance through the meditative practice of yoga. And also by catching waves.

Cyr's been doing yoga for 15 years and surfing for just as long -- though not at the same time, of course. That would just be silly.

Or would it?

It's a question Cyr asked herself recently as she and a surfing cohort sat on their boards, bobbing in the water off Maine's coast like a pair of gulls enjoying some well-deserved downtime. "We were goofing around because there were no waves," she said.

So Cyr did what most of us do to kill time: yoga postures. Her surfboard apparently didn't approve of the endeavor, so it tipped and tilted and tossed her off, like a person unable or unwilling to give an adult friend a piggy-back ride. It just wasn't working.

"And then we saw this paddleboarder," she said. And yoga lights went off.

A stand-up paddleboard (SUP) -- which looks much like a surfboard but is generally longer (anywhere from 9 to 12 feet) and wider -- just might have the stability Cyr needed to strike a yoga pose. After all, they're steady enough to support a standing paddler.

The large boards are typically used to traverse flat water, much like a kayak you stand on, but they can catch waves too. They're wonderfully multi-talented like that.

Logistically, Cyr thought, doing yoga on a stand-up paddleboard could work.

But could these two seemingly opposed worlds ever coalesce? Could the peaceful people of yogatown ever embrace the paddle-happy lifestyle of stand-up paddleboarding? Could the upstanding citizens of SUP learn to throw their paddles down?

Turns out, they already do. SUP yoga is already practiced in areas of the world where flat water and yoga-minded people coexist.

So Cyr didn't originate the idea, but she's still happy to help spread the SUP yoga gospel.

To help folks in southern Maine get acquainted with the combined activity, Cyr plans to teach a SUP yoga class beginning in July. The lessons are slated to run 9:30 to 10:45 a.m. Tuesdays or Thursdays in the scenic waters of Cape Elizabeth's Kettle Cove.

But seeing as the idea is still fresh in these parts, Cyr is offering a free demo at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday. Experienced paddlers can see what it's like to get off their feet for a while, and yoga-minded people can try out a downward dog using the ocean as a mat.

The combination, Cyr said, is an awesome one.

"It's a more peaceful experience," she said. "Being in nature connects you, more to nature and more to yourself I think it's just so fun."

And out on the water, no sound machines are necessary. Instead, there are actual waves actually lapping at the nearby shore. It's inherently meditative.

To help make the class accessible to a range of abilities, Cyr said the content of the lesson will be adapted to the participants: low-key postures for the newbies and more challenging poses for advanced yogis.

Some experience doing yoga or paddleboarding is helpful, but even folks who have never done either are welcome to come to the demo.

However, Cyr acknowledges that SUP yoga might not be for everyone: non-swimmers, folks who are fearful of open water and anyone with a saltwater allergy, for example.

Bring your own paddleboard if you've got one -- otherwise, boards will be provided to those who need them.

And if, in the pursuit of balance, you tumble sideways into the ocean, so be it. You can't "become one with nature" much better than that.

Besides, while balance is grand, so are trust falls with the Atlantic.

Staff Writer Shannon Bryan can be contacted at 791-6333 or at:


Follow her on Twitter at:



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