One thing about humans: we’re innovative. We seek to make life more pleasant, more exciting, and we find new ways to enjoy favorite activities, combining elements where necessary.
Take paddle board yoga, for example. Both practices were developed thousands of years ago; paddle boarding widely is thought to have originated with Peruvian fishermen 2,000 years ago out of practical necessity, according to several stand up paddle boarding websites and online journals; and yoga, according to several online yoga-centric websites, had its first mentions in the ancient sacred text, the Rig Veda, a Hindu religious text comprising a collection of Sanskrit hymns.
Merriam-Webster defines Yoga as “a Hindu theistic philosophy teaching the suppression of all activity of body, mind, and will in order that the self may realize its distinction from them and attain liberation;” and yoga as the “system of physical postures, breathing techniques, and sometimes meditation derived from Yoga but often practiced independently especially in Western cultures to promote physical and emotional well-being.”
Though very old traditions from other parts of the world, both paddle boarding and yoga are popular here in modern times. Naturally, paddle boarding and yoga go together like breathing in ... and breathing out.
Karla Horton, owner of Dragonfly Paddle and Fitness, teaches Hatha Vinyasa yoga, a form of yoga that relies on a pattern or sequence of poses that flow together, and is designed to prepare the body to meditate or become one with its environment. It’s the perfect practice to bring to the water sport of stand up paddle boarding.
“Yoga is for everyone. It’s not just for the girl that can touch her toe to the back of her head. Everyone can and should be able to do it at a pace that is comfortable to them,” Horton said. “The great thing about yoga is that it can easily be designed to accommodate different skill levels.”
Horton teaches one of the few paddle board yoga classes on the Mid-Shore — she offers private events and weekly group classes at 6 p.m. Mondays and 9:30 a.m. Saturdays and Sundays at several locations on Kent Island, including the Kent Island Yacht Club and public landings throughout Kent Island. She has taught 7- to 70-year-olds, giving special emphasis to teaching the non-yogi, or those without extensive knowledge of the practice of yoga.
“Paddle board yoga is not as difficult as most people think. Anyone can do it regardless of their fitness ability or age,” Horton said. “The boards are large and stable and the yoga poses are modified and slowed to aid with stability.”
Sisters-in-law Jordan Tucker of Queenstown and Kelsie Tucker of Centreville recently took their first paddle board yoga class, although both had been paddle boarding previously and had taken Horton’s yoga classes.
“I feel like yoga would be a lot different on a paddle board,” Kelsie said before the class began.
Jordan was excited to try something new.
“I think it’s just something different, something new to us, and we both wanted to get out there and try it,” Jordan said.
“And it’s a fun way to end our work day,” Kelsie said. “We both work over in Annapolis, so it’s fun to come over here and meet and have some relaxation at the end of the day.”
The women said they look for outdoor exercise activities during the summer to connect with their environment, especially because their work keeps them indoors.
“Especially in the summertime, because it’s hard to find time to get outside, especially when you’re working through the week,” Jordan said. “If you can, combine (getting outside and exercising) and get some sun or some outdoor air.”
Each class starts with light meditation; and Horton asks her participants to tune themselves into the natural world around them — the heron stalking its meal at the shoreline, one long leg at a time slowly brought up, dripping, out of the water, almost silently; the water lapping against the sides of the board; the songs of the birds gliding overhead; and even the gentle sounds of the man in waders nearby, searching for shrimp in the tall Chesapeake Bay grasses.
Once everyone in a class has become more conscious of their breathing, Horton draws them back into a series of gentle poses; “Baby Cobra,” “Cat,” “Cow,” “Sunbird,” “Chair” and “Twisted Chair.” The board underneath acts almost like Aladdin’s magic carpet — a little wobbly at times, but large enough to correct and balance oneself before falling into what would be the soft, enveloping water world below.
The class ends just as it begins, with Horton guiding class participants to a place of calm — slowing their breathing to match the serenity of the natural world around them.
As Jordan and Kelsie left their first class, both women proclaimed it “Awesome!”
“I would do it every day, if I could,” Jordan said.