When Tricia Crowe attends yoga classes, she usually struggles with boat pose. Taking the same pose to water, though, made it easier.
Crowe joined fellow yoga students and their instructor Vickie Sampson to try paddleboard yoga Saturday morning. The paddleboard’s buoyancy, Crowe said, gave her better leverage trying boat pose.
The class started on dry land. On the bank of the Kokomo Reservoir, stand up paddling yoga instructor Carmen Larson showed the class how to properly set up their paddles. Hopping on top of a picnic bench, she also demonstrated how students could put their entire body into rowing.
When some of the students seemed concerned about falling into the water, Larson reassured them.
“Nobody’s ever fallen in doing something that was part of the class,” she said. There have been a couple of falls after the yoga class, though, when students take some time to experiment on the boards.
Bringing the boards into the water, the group started paddling toward an alcove downstream.
A few students, reluctant to test their balance before the class started in earnest, sat through most of the voyage. When they finally decided to try standing, Larson instructed them in yoga terms — “start in down dog pose and walk your feet up.”
Reaching the alcove, the class took a few moments to set anchor and enjoy the calm water. Birds called out and bugs hummed as Larson reminded the group to appreciate the fresh air and sounds of nature.
Starting the class, Larson encouraged each of the students to take poses at their own pace. Holding poses on a paddleboard is different, she told the class, and they would have to focus more on their balance.
The class, Larson later explained, is a modified version of vinyasa flow with less standing poses.
“I’ll leave this thought with you,” Larson said while leading the students into shavasana, a relaxing pose toward the end of the class. “Spread kindness today. One positive word can have a ripple effect, just like the ripples on the water.”
Although there were a few jolts, marked by a yelp or giggles, nobody fell into the water during the class. Even if they had, Larson said, the water in the alcove was only 3 feet deep.
Courtlynn Crowe, Tricia’s daughter, said she had only tried paddleboarding once before Saturday’s class. A fan of kayaking, Courtlynn Crowe said the paddleboard was “relaxing, and a workout.” Getting to the alcove, she said, was the most difficult part of the class.
“This was interesting, because it was very full body engaging” she said. “It took a second to get used to. It’s definitely different, balance wise, but it was nice to have the water right next to you. If you get hot, just throw some water on you.”
“The balance is completely different than it is on the mat,” Sampson said. “You’re engaging different things so foot placement is a little bit different and all of that stuff is a little bit wider than you’re normally used to.”
Once the class was finished, though, several students attempted headstands. A couple fell in the water, but said the quick splash had been refreshing.
Returning to the shore, Larson asked one of the student’s children if they would be interested in going for a ride on the paddleboard. She later explained that she was also happy to bring an extra board out for children to sit on while their parents attend yoga classes.
Occasionally, Larson brings her Labradors retrievers Indy and Miley out on the paddleboard, too.
“I raised two kids and I just try to keep going, have a goal to reach and try to just keep enjoying life,” Larson said, adding the COVID pandemic showed her how harsh isolation can be.
Not wanting to compete with other yoga instructors in the area, Larson initially started teaching yoga for children. From there, she transitioned to trapeze yoga.
She became a certified stand up paddling instructor in the Florida Keys. She remembers paddling by nurse sharks during the certification course and, later, having to do a live person rescue in the water.
“Nobody wants to do yoga inside in the summertime,” Larson said. “I want to be out in the water because it is cooler out there than just doing it on the grass under a tree.”
Larson said she enjoys taking yoga classes led by other instructors. She appreciates seeing how different people approach yoga.
Speaking with Sampson, the two instructors agreed the natural setting had less distractions and made students more willing to take their time.
“There’s a whole different atmosphere,” Sampson said, speaking with Larson about the differences between their yoga practices. “I think the body engages completely different. It’s also really challenging to your mind to just kind of let go because balance is always an issue, because you’ve got no focal point.”