5 Easy Yoga Poses To Keep You in Paddling Shape When the Temps Drop!


I don’t know about you, but winter is not my jam.  As a lover of (warm) water and all things beach related, living on the eastern end of Long Island, NY (East Hampton to be exact), sometimes leaves me scratching my head as to how, at the age of 45, I am still here!  (Three kids has something to do with it).

As much as I try to get out on the water in all weather, sometimes the ease and coziness of my yoga mat on my living room floor with our wood burning fireplace fully loaded just a few feet away holds much more appeal.  But to teach paddling and paddle board yoga pretty much 7 days a week through the summer months (and a girls camp in which we often tie our boards together with our leashes to make a train of 5 six year old girls with (guess who!) in the front doing most if not all of the paddling, I definitely need to stay in shape through the winter months (not to mention I love movement).  Through a combination of trail running, a little bit of strength training, and a lot of yoga, I am able to stay in good enough shape that come May, I can load 15 Yoga Yoga boards (they are BIG) onto my trailer without much effort, and keep up with the 6 year old girls all day long (and then some.

I created this simple sequence to serve as a basis from which you can add on a longer practice if you so choose, but even if you don’t, these 5 poses will keep you both strong and flexible and in good paddling shape no matter what the weather.

1- CAT/ COW:  for the ultimate in spinal flexibility, this easy movement is a foundational warmup for many other poses.  Starting on your hands and knees, with the wrists under the shoulders and the knees under the hips, begin to breathe smoothly and evenly in and out through your nose (not your mouth). Once you have established a rhythm with your breath, begin to synchronize the movement along with the breath.  As you inhale begin to arch your spine into spinal EXTENSION (think of a backbend), by drawing your sitting bones back and apart as the spine moves down into the body, the chest and collarbones spread open and you lift the chin to look up to the sky.  With the exhalation, start by scooping your tailbone under, rounding your back, drawing your navel up towards your spine, and pulling your chin into your chest in spinal FLEXION.  Do about 5-10 rounds of this.  After that, take 5 big CIRCLES with the whole body, starting in a clockwise direction.  Inhale circle the body forward, and exhale circle the body back.  This movement will warm up the spine, but also begin to address the pelvic region and the hips.

2- ELBOW PLANK WITH ROTATION:  I love planks, and I especially love elbow planks.  And I ESPECIALLY love elbow planks with a rotation to fire up the entire core, especially the oblique muscles, which I refer to in every Yoga class as your ‘paddling muscles.’  To do, set your forearms on the ground and either interlace your hands into a fist or press your palms together like ‘prayer’ hands.  Extend one leg fully back and press through the metatarsal (ball of the foot) , followed by the second leg.  Start by rounding your back up to the sky, dropping the head and looking into the navel (NOTE: by rounding your back you are NOT lifting your buttocks or hips, you are filling out your lower back and back waist area and hollowing out the belly).  Once established, look forward to your hands and soften the area right between the shoulder blades ever so slightly to integrate the arms and open the chest.  I like to time these, using the timer on your cell phone and holding for a minimum of 45 seconds if you are just starting out, and building up to 60-90 seconds or more.  THEN, begin to swivel the hips, up and over to the right, and up and over to the left, about 5 times to each side.

Repeat the held plank with the hip swivel 2-3 times in total, resting in childs pose in between.

3- CHILDS POSE:  In Between your planks, this is your break.  But not only is it a break, it can also be a great way to create more flexibility in the legs (through flexion of the knees and hips, as well as to lengthen the spine and open the sides of the body, as well as the shoulders and chest.  To do, bring your feet together and your knees about as wide apart as your yoga mat (if you don’t have a mat, think slightly wider than hips width).  Anchor your pelvis into your legs, trying to make contact of the buttocks to the heels.  Then, keeping that, walk your hands forward and place your forehead on the ground (or use a folded blanket, or block), as you FULLY extend the arms forward, keeping the hands shoulders width distance apart.  Notice that the more you walk out with the right hand, the right side seam of the body gets longer, the more you walk out with the left hand, the left side seam gets longer.  This pose uses opposition to create opening, so in as much you walk the hands forward, root the pelvis and buttocks back.  To add in a shoulder and tricep stretch, put your hands in prayer hands again and bend the elbows, bringing the elbows closer together and walking them further forward away from the legs to lengthen the back of the upper arms and rotate the shoulders.  This is a GOOD one!

4- WARRIOR 2:  An amazing pose to keep the legs strong for paddling, as well as to open the hips and pelvis.  Start standing with the legs/feet about 4-5 feet apart and the feet parallel.  The hands can start on the hips.  Now rotate your right foot out 90 degrees and turn your left foot slightly in about 10 degrees.  Line up the right heel with the arch (instep) of the left foot. On an inhalation, stretch your arms out from the center of the chest, and with an exhale, bend the right knee over the right toes, thigh parallel to the ground.  Keep the back leg strong and straight.  Turn your head to gaze past the fingers of the right hand, and stay for about 10-15 breaths or up to one minute.  To come out, inhale press down into your feet to straighten your right leg, and with an exhale, rotate the feet to go to the second side.

5- TREE POSE:  Lastly, Tree Pose is an amazing pose to develop better balance, a key to being a solid paddler.  To do, stand with your feet just slightly apart and parallel (like a basic paddling stance).  Hug your right knee into your chest, keeping your left leg straight.  Turn the right leg out and place the right foot as high up on the left inner thigh as possible, establishing a good connection by pressing the foot into the thigh and the thigh back into the foot.  The toes of the right foot should be pointing straight down to the floor.  Press the right knee open as best you can while maintaining a neutral pelvis.  Start with the hands in prayer at the center of the chest and once the balance is good, you can also reach the arms up over the head, lengthening the spine and the side body fully. Root DOWN with the left foot and reach UP through the arms, feeling once again how that opposition creates more opening in the body.  For an added challenge, try closing the eyes!  After about one minute, come down and stand on two feet in Mountain Pose, and then switch to the second side.

I said 5 poses, but no yoga practice would be complete without a final rest, and you deserve it!  Lay on your back with your legs comfortably apart and your arms down alongside your body, palms facing up.  Close your eyes and allow your mind to watch the breath as it moves gently in and gently out. Let the bones and muscles settle and soften and, if your imagination is good enough, perhaps you can envision yourself floating on your SUP board in the middle of the ocean, the lake, the bay, on a gorgeous summer day, warm sun on your skin, cool breeze, and the water we all love so much rocking you into a state of total bliss!

Until then….


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Jessica Bellofatto