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The Pregnancy Challenge: SUP Yoga

Gillian Gibree, a pro stand-up paddle board (SUP) athlete and former lifeguard, is no stranger to going fast, having competed in numerous SUP races around the globe. But as a pioneer of SUP yoga (yoga poses done on a stand-up paddle board), she also knows how to slow things down and draw from the energy and power of the water on which she floats. Hosting workshops through her training company, Paddle Into Fitness, she produces outdoor workouts that highlight elements of SUP (balance, endurance, strength building) and yoga (relaxation, meditation, core work). The San Diego resident has trained pregnant and postpartum SUP-ers and considers the activity an excellent way to keep moving during pregnancy—whether you are familiar with a stand-up paddle board or want to try it during your next beach getaway. We asked Gibree a few questions.

Q: Some would argue that yoga and SUP are hard enough on their own let alone paired! How do they work together?

A: SUP and yoga complement each other perfectly. SUP is a total body workout, which targets the core muscles especially. Just by standing on the board you work on balance. Yoga is great for stretching out the muscles after a paddle workout and a floating savasana [corpse pose, or a final relaxation] with a guided meditation provides the perfect ending to a day on the water.

Q: How do you think SUP yoga is most commonly misunderstood?

A: People are intimidated by it because they think they are taking their regular studio yoga routine and putting it on the water. In our Paddle Into Fitness classes, we modify all the poses, we do a lot from seated and keep it very beginner friendly. We also do an entire water-safety and paddle-technique demonstration on the beach before heading out.

Q: Give us an example or two of simple seated poses.

A: After a brief meditation, try these three:

  • Seated Side Stretch: Draw the left arm down to the left edge of the board. Stretch the right finger tips up and over to open up the right side body. Release. Repeat on the opposite side.
  • Seated Chest Expansion: Bring the hands behind the back and interlace the fingers. Roll the shoulders back, broaden across the chest and lift the gaze to the sky.
  • Seated Eagle Arms: Draw the right arm under the left, crossing at the elbows with wrists and palms touching. Take any movements here to open up the shoulders. Release. Repeat on the opposite side.

Q: Why are workouts done on or around water often so enjoyable?

A: Workouts on the water are amazing for wellbeing and health. Instead of going to the gym I get to be outside in nature and see dolphins and seals while I’m training. Making your workout enjoyable, instead of a chore, is key to being able to maintain it long term.

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