Water is my element and there are very few water sports I haven’t tried. I have even done some stand up paddle boarding – standing on a wide surfboard while using a canoe paddle to move forward – on Lake Zell. I’m also no stranger to yoga as I have already come across the cobra and the sun salutation at ‘yoga on the mountain’ on Schmitten and other yoga sessions on surfing holidays. But the combination of SUP and yoga, offered by the Windsurf- und SUP-Center in Zell am See, sounds like the perfect challenge for my balance and inner equilibrium.
SUP yoga for a bikini figure
Maria Grosslercher is a physiotherapist, mental coach and yoga instructor. The idea for this unusual combination came to her in a yoga session with Heinz Seidl, the owner of the SUP-Center. Maria explains, “Yoga on an SUP board is fitness and good for the soul. The stillness and wide expanse of the water has a calming effect and we always end the session with the corpse pose after poses that strengthen balance such as the pigeon, warrior, cobra or dog. SUP yoga exercises and tightens the body – the perfect way to get a bikini figure. And before we cast anchor at a quiet spot with the SUP, we first have to paddle. Anyone who still feels like a round of SUP afterwards can be taught the right technique by Heinz.” No sooner said than done. And one thing quickly becomes obvious when we put to sea on the bulky boards – at the beginning, most SUP novices are a long way from their inner equilibrium. They move along the first few metres with cautious paddle strokes and wobbly knees – just don’t fall into the water … But then everyone soon finds their balance and the somewhat tense muscles relax with every paddle stroke. My torso and stomach muscles are enjoying this exercise and Maria leads us to a quiet bay near the nature reserve. The water surface here is as smooth as a mirror and we can see the fish swimming in the clear water underneath us. We cast anchor and Maria explains, “Yoga is an attitude to life and benefits the mind, body and soul. We start with the first asanas and you will see that even the experienced yogis amongst you will find the unstable water components challenging.”
The warrior falls into the water
Our yoga clothing consists of bikinis and swimming trunks and instead of incense sticks, a gong and a sound bowl, nature provides the meditative input. It smells of sweet lake air and now and then a light summer breeze carries the scent of freshly cut grass across the water to us yogis. The subtle rippling of the waves and twittering of birds from the reeds nearby provide the background music for our yoga session – interrupted by a strong ‘plop’ when the “warrior” falls into the water. One of the participants unwillingly ended up in the water during this pose and he climbs back onto the board, laughing. The more challenging the postures become, the more often you hear a participant plopping into the water. With these summery temperatures, it might simply be the desire to cool off and not a lack of balance that motivates the one or other yogi to take a break in the water.
The pigeon and the carp
With my eyes looking forward, I breathe freely and keep going. The board attached to the anchor gently drifts around its axis and gives me changing perspectives during the poses. At times I can see the green slopes of Schmittenhöhe or the east bank with Thumersbach and Hundstein and then my gaze returns to the impressive Steinernes Meer in the north. My body becomes more relaxed with every breath and I can feel the stress simply falling away. The wide expanse of the lake reawakens our spirits and we now follow Maria’s quiet instructions effortlessly. As the entire group then holds the “pigeon” pose in perfect still harmony, I smile, thinking of what a picturesque view this must be for the fish under us. I blink surreptitiously at the surface of the water and what do I see but a huge carp looking at me. Surprised and laughing out loud, I instantly lose my balance and tip into the nice warm water.
Corpse poise with far-reaching views
Our SUP yoga session is coming to an end and we do the corpse pose to finish. We lie on our backs while the SUP board sways gently on the water. I’m gazing at the sky and the cotton-wool clouds moving slowly. You can really leave all your cares behind you here. On our way back to the bank we meet Heinz Seidel who is going on a small tour with his SUP. Heinz Seidl is the SUP pioneer from Pinzgau. In 2007, he was standing on his SUP surfing the waves in Mauritius. Eight years ago he opened the SUP-Center at Lake Zell. The windsurfing champion offers to show us how to use powerful paddle strokes on the SUP to move effortlessly across the water.
So after the relaxation, the pro gives us a pretty demanding SUP workout and shows us quick turns and acrobatic manoeuvres on the board. Naturally a fall or two into Lake Zell is inevitable but thanks to our new balance we are unbelievably confident on the board. After SUP yoga and some paddling the mind is free, the body stronger and so now the focus is on fun. The entire group gets onto the unique XL SUP and paddles off in unison. Thanks to our new balance, no one falls unwillingly into the refreshing water.