EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was originally published in the Summer 2018 edition of Tahoe Magazine. It was first published on this website in August 2018 and is presented in its original form.
The most sacred space you inhabit is within your own body, and we all know healthy lifestyles lead to healthy bodies. But when there’s always work to be done and exercise routines get a bit stale, how can you find inspiration in your workout?
Being in such a stunning location as Lake Tahoe is a great start, as nature allows you to work on the self-care aspect of your healthy lifestyle regimen, reflecting inward and cultivating gratitude for your surroundings.
Lake Tahoe yogis and watersport recreation experts encourage locals and visitors to go a step further and elevate their exercise routine to outdoor adventure this summer by participating in a stand-up paddleboard yoga lesson.
“Paddleboarding in general is great cross-training because it’s low-impact and a full body workout,” Anik Wild, co-owner of Waterman’s Landing, said in an interview with Tahoe Magazine. “Adding the component of yoga makes it even more challenging because you’re constantly moving on an uneven surface floating on the water, so the balancing aspect really helps your physical ability.”
Jenay Aiksnoras, director of Lake Tahoe Yoga studio in South Lake Tahoe, agrees, adding that apart from being a challenging physical workout, stand-up paddleboard yoga doubles as a practice in mindfulness.
For example, picture yourself lying in savasana, or “corpse pose,” feeling the good vibrations of relaxation and softness after your yoga practice. Your breath is steady, not timed; your body is heavy, palms facing the sky in a gesture of receiving.
Now, picture yourself in this grounded, relieved state, floating on water with your fingers and toes gently dancing in crystal-clear Lake Tahoe … this is just one of the many rejuvenating benefits that experts say comes when you take your asana practice to the paddleboard.
“First of all, timing is really key to this. The mornings on Lake Tahoe, pre-10 a.m., are very quiet, and anyone who is an early riser who goes out and looks at the lake will see that it’s just glass, absolutely clear and calm,” Aiksnoras said. “We experience that peacefulness and calmness, just pure ease, because we’re out there early in the morning before the boats and jet skis and the people celebrating summer — it’s such a peaceful morning.”
Why do stand-up yoga? Because anyone can do it
Whether you’ve trained under master yoga mentors in India — or you’ve never set foot in a yoga studio; paddled your way around Lake Tahoe; or even stood straight up on the water, don’t fret: anyone can do this.
Stand-up paddleboard yoga is designed for fun, and the pros teach classes to children, older adults, football players, wedding party groups, bodybuilders and pretty much anyone in all walks of life, with the key takeaway being: no one should take themselves too seriously.
“Everyone starts out a little shaky and nervous but after our asana practice and relaxation, when we’re paddling back to shore, everyone is comfortable,” Aiksnoras says. “All of the little movements, regardless of how advanced the postures are, help people feel more comfortable in their own bodies and on a paddleboard.”
Wild said she hopes visitors to the lake are brave and try the new experience because it has such a rewarding payoff.
“I think sometimes yoga on a paddleboard, people think is not accessible, because they don’t paddle or have never done yoga,” she admits. “But I want people to have courage, try it; it’s so pristine — such an amazing experience, especially on Tahoe’s waters, because you can look down and see these amazing perspectives of the depths of Tahoe, it’s beyond explanation, it is just amazing.”
Speaking to the concept of “anyone can do it,” Scott Fitzmorris, owner of Mountain Lotus Yoga in Tahoe City and Truckee, says that a learning curve applies to yoga and paddleboarding, much like any sport, and that everyone starts out as a beginner at first.
“The biggest thing I’ve noticed is people are reluctant to do their first yoga class because they’re worried it will be difficult and they won’t be very good at it; but there is a learning curve and no one starts out really great at it,” he says. “You can take it as easy on yourself as you want to, you don’t have to ‘go the distance’ at first.”
Build your muscles and motivation
Katy Rendinaro is a yoga instructor and guide with Tahoe Adventure Company who says practicing stand-up paddleboard yoga is a test in appreciating the most powerful force of nature.
“Yoga is such an amazing, moving meditation. It creates the mind-body connection where you can let go of all of the other things going on in your life and focus on you and your practice right then and there,” she says. “Paddleboard yoga takes that to a whole new level, challenging balance and concentration. In my opinion, the water always wins, right?
“Whether you’re in a river, ocean or lake, the water is the strongest force; so you’re always getting to connect with nature, you can feel the soothing energy of the water in your moving meditation.”
Yoga teaches its practitioners to find a sense of ease in challenging poses by deepening and evening the breath. Chief orchestrator at Mountain Lotus Yoga, Melissa Winn, says people may be caught off guard when trying to find their balance at first, which she says is all the more reason to laugh and take it all in.
“If you want to deepen your yoga practice, a lot of the poses require balance. If you add balance from on top of a paddleboard it challenges you even more to stay on top of the water,” Winn says. “It is at the same time a more relaxed environment and you’re having fun and laughing at yourself; people get really tense and self-conscious in the studio, but being on the lake, everyone loosens up through laughter, and when you loosen up, you can get deeper into your poses.”
Fitzmorris also mentioned that paddle yoga makes for enhanced athleticism and real-time adjustments you can make to your practice. If you are off-center, your paddleboard will notify you immediately.
“The physical benefits are also huge. I’ve had ankle problems and have done a lot of physical therapy through that, and they put you on a board designed to strengthen your ankle, well it’s the same as what a paddleboard does,” he says. “The small muscles in your body that don’t get trained through weights yoga is good for, and balancing from the paddleboard is especially good for training.”
Each of the gurus agrees that the ultimate goal is to find space for yoga every single day, and to experience different styles of yoga through specialized classes. Get out of your comfort zone, get into a yoga class and why not try it out on Tahoe?
The worst that will happen is you’ll jump in the lake — how refreshing would that be?