I used a hashtag the other day that I can't believe I've never used before. #yogaforpaddleboarders
I spend all summer doing restorative and active postures to heal and prepare my body for hours on the water. Shoulders certainly reign supreme on the list of needs but one area we don't hear about as much when chatting SUP (but deserve full attention) are the hips.
So I'm sharing a little variation that I just love, on land AND on the SUP.
The hip opening of Cow Face (Gomukhasana) legs with the shoulder goodness of Eagle (Garudasana) arms.
In my practice, Eagle arms offer a more restorative variation than Cow Face arms which I love to practice for opening the chest and strengthening the space between the shoulder blades, but for this post, let's give some love to the upper back space.
Start by warming up the body. Maybe the paddle out, some Sun Salutations and a Lizard Pose will do it. If you're relatively open in the hips, consider yourself fortunate :) if you're holding some tightness, you'll want to ease in slow.
Sit with your legs stretched long in front of you. Bring your left foot up and over to the outside of your right hip. How does your left knee feel? If it's sharp, release your leg and grab a block to sit on. Revisit the set-up and add to it by bringing your right foot under and to the left hip. If it feels safe, stack your knees on top of each other. If it hurts, back out until you feel "good". Relative, I know.
Once you get your legs set up, settle into your seat and breathe.
Add the arms. With an inhale, sweep your arms up and with an exhale, cross them at the elbows, left arm under right. Maybe you're able to wrap the forearms around and bring the palms to touch. Maybe not. You could cross the elbows and reach for opposite shoulder as a great modification.
Once your arms find their variation, gently bring your elbows up, in line with your shoulders, and forward to feel the stretch shift around your shoulder blades. Breathe and breathe some more.
If you're feeling tense or overly compressed, shift the posture a bit. This is meant to be a restorative moment. Giving back to your body 💚
If you feel like going a little deeper, a forward fold will really change the sensation.
Inhale. Draw your belly up and in a bit and prepare to curl into a Cat spine. Chin towards chest, elbows towards belly, forarms toward legs. You may even find rest as you soften your forehead to your arms and completely release any holding in your upper body. Your hips will need revisiting too! Use your breath to soften and open space throughout your body.
When you're ready, ease out gently and set up for the other side. Stack your right leg this time over your left and wrap your right arm under your left arm. It is likely that you'll feel some spatial differences between sides (most of us have some imbalances within the body) so stay attentive and make adjustments as needed.
Let me know how this posture variation feels and keep practicing, all season long, to support your paddling!