A group of yoga students in Southold stretch into Downward Dog. But instead of doing the pose in an indoor studio on a mat, the yogis are perching over a stand-up paddleboard on Hashamomuck Pond as ospreys and swans fly overhead.
The latest trend in yoga is stand-up paddleboard yoga (or SUP yoga) and it's being taught on both shores -- from the waters of Manhasset Bay to ponds on the East End. Instructors and students say it brings a new concentration into the practice.
"It is the ultimate yoga studio," says Paula DiDonato, owner of The Giving Room, a yoga studio in Southold that gives classes at nearby Hashamomuck Pond and other local waters. "There is a beautiful softness on the board. It gives a little and something about that physicality makes it more enjoyable."
Mastering the basic use of the board on flat, calm water is not hard and is for all levels, she says, and it's a great start to a peaceful practice.
BALANCE AND WATER At today's lesson, students get quick instruction on the boards, and then take about a half-hour paddle ride on the surface of the pond before anchoring for the hourlong session of yoga.
Instructor Jessica Bellofatto of
KamaDeva Yoga in East Hampton assures the group that falling in the water is fine. "It's just water," she says.
Indeed, as students move into standing poses such as the one-legged Tree or deep-lunge Warrior II, balance, alignment and equal weight become paramount to avoid ending up in the water.
"Feel the foundation," Bellofatto tells the class. "You need to be mindful that you're on the board."
Alas, some students in the session do tumble into the pond. As Bellofatto reminds them to breathe and concentrate on their movements, her 11-year-old son Jack jumps on and off her board, almost tipping her in a few times. The class closes with the Savasana (or corpse) pose. Students lie still on their backs and let their fingers dip into the cool water.
A CALMING EXPERIENCE "You kind of get lost in where you are," says Claire Wittmeier, 25, of Laurel. "And paddling out warms you up. Gets the good blood moving."
Her friend, Mattituck resident Maureen Flatley, agrees that the atypical setting makes the experience.
"I think it was taking the practice out into nature," says Flatley, 31.
A number of other yoga studios are running similar classes this summer. At Peaceful Warrior Yoga studio in Rocky Point, for example, lessons are given off Shore Road in Mount Sinai Harbor. Owner Dawn Stidd says, from a yoga perspective, practicing on the boards forces the student to be more mindful of the poses, "and it engages your core a little more."
While his home base is in Port Washington, John-Michael Kostallas' three-year-old paddleboard company, Kostal Paddle, works on the waters of both shores of Nassau County, including Manhasset Bay and the waters off Island Park.
"You're one with nature," Kostallas says of yoga on paddleboards. "You're not in a studio, and are back to the roots of where it came from."
WHERE TO TAKE A CLASS
Stand-up paddleboard yoga is happening all over Long Island. Prices are for one class with board rental. Many have discounts for multiple classes or using your own board. Class times vary, and most sessions are 90 minutes. Here's a sampling of studios where you can get started.
LONG ISLAND STAND-UP PADDLE BOARDING CO.
Classes in both Nassau and Suffolk, North Shore and South Shore
Info 631-326-7926, longisland-sup.com
Manorhaven Beach Park, Port Washington
Info 516-967-9266, kostalpaddle.com
HUNTINGTON STAND UP PADDLE
300 West Shore Rd., Huntington
Info 631-897-2332, huntingtonsup.com
PEACEFUL WARRIOR YOGA CENTER
648 New York 25A, Rocky Point
Info 631-228-4319, peacefulwarrioryogacenter.com
15 Lumber Lane, East Hampton
Info 631-604-1382, kamadevayoga.com
219 Three Mile Harbor Rd., East Hampton
Info 631-329-2999, paddlediva.com
56215 Main Rd., Southold
Info 631-766-3233, givingroom.net