Last Updated on May 3, 2022 by John M. Thomas
Yoga for Kayakers: With eyes closed, take a deep breath and absorb the nuances of the noises and odors drifting in the air. Slowing down and establishing a feeling of place at your launch site may have a significant influence on your paddling experience. The enthusiasm that builds throughout trip planning and gear preparation might make you feel compelled to get out on the water as soon as possible. But a new synthesis of kayaking and yoga is upending this mechanical approach and has the potential to improve your paddling.
The core of all types of yoga-traditional, aerial, or paddleboard/kayaking yoga practice is pranayama, or breath control. You may quiet your mind and enter into the present moment by taking time at your launch point to sit or stand in a comfortable posture, put your attention inside, and focus on your breath. This approach will increase your awareness of your surroundings, giving you a feeling of place that will contribute to a more enjoyable and safe paddling session.
Paddlers can employ asana, or a posture or position of the body, to relax and stretch regions of the body that have been stressed by a long day sitting in a fishing / recreational kayak. Asanas direct your attention on relaxing parts of the body such as the hips, low back, and hamstrings while the mind stays focused on the breath. Practicing this technique on a regular basis and before paddling allows your mind to focus on your surroundings rather than aches and discomfort when paddling.
A sequence of asanas are listed below that may be utilized to prepare your body and mind for a day on the water.
1. Lizard pose: Utthan pristhasana
Yoga for Paddlers: Bring your right leg all the way to the back of your mat, forming a high lunge stance, starting from a standing posture. Drop your right knee to the mat and bring your hands to the floor on the inner of your left foot, releasing the toes. Shuffle your left foot toward the mat’s outside border.
Allow your hips to get heavy; a stretch should be felt on the front of your right thigh. Slowly and thoroughly inhale into your back, hips, and legs. Draw your shoulder blades together and expand your heart forward as well as lengthen your backbone.
Melt into this posture for five to ten breath cycles, then switch sides and restart by stepping the left leg back from standing.
2. Supported bridge: Salamba setu bandha sarvangasana
(1) Begin by lying on your back and bending your legs. Lift your hips off the floor with your arms for support, and slip a block, blanket, or bolster under your sacrum (triangular bone at the base on the spine). Ascertain that you are not experiencing any pinching feelings.
Relax into the posture by breathing deeply for three to five minutes with your hands on your ribs.
(2) Once you’ve relaxed into your breath, elevate both feet toward the ceiling on an inhale, bending your knees as far as necessary. Keep your legs in this posture for five breath cycles.
Lower the feet to the ground with knees bent to release the posture. Gently elevate your hips and remove the support from beneath your sacrum by pressing your feet into the ground.
Slowly relax your spine to the ground vertebrae by vertebrae, using your arms for support, until you are laying flat on your back.
3. Reclining hand-to-big-toe pose: Supta Padangusthasana
Yoga for Kayaking: Draw your right knee into your chest and wrap a strap over the arch of your right foot while lying on your back with your left leg flat on the ground. With one hand, hold either side of the strap. Extend your right leg slowly toward the sky until it is completely straight.
If necessary, lower your heel to the floor to avoid putting tension on your back, neck, or face. Hold for 10 breaths while relaxing your hamstrings before switching sides.
4. Child’s pose: Balasana
Kneel on your mat, sitting back on your feet with your big toes together and knees around hip width apart to begin. Exhaling, place your chest between your thighs and reach toward the top of the mat with both hands. Breathe deeply for 10 to 15 breath cycles while spreading your fingers and pressing your hands into the mat.
5. Boat pose: Paripurna navasana
Sit on the floor with your legs in front of you and your feet flat on the ground. Hold a block between your knees if you have one. Lean back softly, keeping your back straight, with your hands behind you, fingertips pointing toward your hips. On your sit bones, you should feel balanced.
Exhale and raise your feet off the floor to a 45-degree angle with the ground. Lift your hands, extending toward your feet, as you find your balance on your sit bones. As you extend forward, spread your shoulder blades and keep your arms parallel to the floor. Avoid any curving of the upper back by keeping your spine straight.
Breathe into the stance for 10 to 20 seconds with your tummy flat and firm. Repeat two more times, increasing the duration spent in the pose each time. Exhale to release your legs and inhale to elevate them.
6. Standing forward bend: Uttanasana
(1) Stand with your feet hip width apart and your toes pointed forward. Place your hands to your hips and hold them there. Hinge forward from the hips with a flat back, with a small bend in your knees. Fold forward, bending your knees as much as necessary, so your chest rests on your thighs. Breathe deeply into your back body and hamstrings while holding opposing elbows with your hands. Relax in this position by slowly swaying side to side and nodding your head to relieve neck stress. Hold this position for five to ten breath cycles.
(2) Find a flat back and raise your hands to your shins on an inhalation. Maintain a straight line between your neck and your spine. Return your hands to the floor and your chest to your thighs on the next exhalation. Repeat two to three times on each inhale and exhale.
7. Eye of the needle pose: Sucirandhrasana
Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet on the mat’s soles. Cross your right foot across your left leg, the ankle resting on your thigh slightly below your left knee. Allow your right knee to go away from your torso and relax. Interlock your right and left hands behind your thigh by threading your right hand through the opening made beneath your right ankle.
Pull your left thigh gently towards your chest, keeping your back and head flat on the floor. Breathe into this position, releasing the outside on your left hip for five breath cycles before switching sides.
8. Cat/cow pose: Marjaryasana/Bitilasana
Hands facing down, hands immediately below shoulders, and knees in line with hips, go down on your hands and knees. To begin, start with a neutral flat back and a sense of length running through your spine. Lift your sit bones and gaze to the sky as you inhale, letting your tummy to sink toward the earth.
Round your spine toward the sky as you exhale, keeping your shoulders and knees in place. Gently bring your chin towards your chest to stretch out your entire back body. Repeat this cycle with your breath for 10 to 12 times.