What's SUP yoga?

Charlotte Piho, a Stand-Up Paddle (SUP) yoga master trainer from Australia, doing a yoga pose on her paddle board. SUP combines traditional yoga poses with the movements of the water.
PHOTO: What's SUP yoga?

If you are looking for more variety to your downward dog, or want to add more of a challenge to your sun salutation, try doing them on water.

Stand-up Paddle yoga, more commonly known as SUP yoga, combines traditional yoga poses with the movements of the water.

The poses are executed while on a paddle board "set adrift" on a river, a lake or at sea.

This fusion water work-out is gaining followers, including celebrities like Jennifer Aniston, Matthew McConaughey and Kate Hudson.

One guru - and pioneer - of this aquatic practice is Australia's SUP yoga master trainer Charlotte Piho. The 32-year old travels internationally to run teacher training workshops.

It started for Ms Piho about four years ago. Wanting to keep her core muscles toned, she decided to combine yoga and stand-up paddleboard, her two favourite exercises.

"It is just so hot in the Cook Islands where I come from, and the last thing I wanted to do was to do yoga indoors," she tells The New Paper on Sunday.

"So I started practicing yoga on the beach and then I thought, why not do it on the board then. Combine the two - it makes sense," she says.

The benefits of SUP yoga are an overall workout. The added need for balance can also refine your yogic prowess.

The sound of the ocean is also meant to help improve calmness and breathing techniques.

A member of Yoga Alliance and an internationally certified yoga teacher, her other training destinations this year include the UK, Europe and Fiji.

The assignment

It didn't seem like it could possibly work out.

On the one hand, there is me, a committed landlubber for whom the sea usually conjures images of great white sharks; on the other, the prospect of folding my rather inflexible self into a pretzel while balancing on a small board on open water.

To say no or conquer my fear?

Challenge accepted!

The process

You don't need to know yoga or have paddleboard experience to do this.

But you do need to know how to swim.

I can swim so I put on a rash guard, tights but no life jacket - despite my irrational fear. I was possibly overdressed, especially next to Ms Piho's pink bikini, but I was all set to test the waters, so to speak.

As I rowed out on the paddleboard from NSRCC Sea Sports Centre in Changi, following closely behind Ms Piho, she promised to make the process "as painless and relaxing as possible", which was sort of reassuring.

A short distance from shore and the class started - sun salutations, down-facing dogs and back twists.

The water was not the crystal blue kind seen in Ms Piho's attractive Instagram shots (she has more than 3,500 followers) and the waves were not so gentle - at least I didn't think so.

My nerves made transitions between poses slow. Much of my concentration went into making sure I didn't fall in.

Perfectly poised, as though her board was secretly resting on a sandbank, Ms Piho was very encouraging as she took me through the poses.

The results?

For half an hour, I had the core workout of a lifetime. I did not realise how hard it would be to balance on the paddleboard with the chop of the waves. Two days later, my abdomen was incredibly sore.

At the same time, though, it was incredibly relaxing being out at sea with a balmy breeze and the hustle and bustle of city traffic seemingly an ocean or two away.


I enjoyed SUP yoga much more than I expected. But while the thought of getting flat abs like Ms Piho is attractive, you have to like being on the water. Sadly, that's just not me.

Where to try SUP yoga

Mana Mana East Coast Beach Club

1212 East Coast Parkway


Windsurfing, Kitesurfing & Stand Up Paddle Singapore



Stand Up Paddling School

Tanjong Beach, Sentosa


Tel: 9638-5565

This article was first published on August 3, 2014. Get The New Paper for more stories.