SUP yoga – Cuckmere Valley

 What do we do when we want to spice our practice up? We head to the river, of course; and not just any river – the beautiful River Cuckmere in the Cuckmere Valley, made up of a gentle meander and several oxbow lakes – absolutely perfect for SUP (Stand Up Paddleboard) combined with a few yoga moves for those who are feeling adventurous!

I take groups of around twenty people on the river at one time and we all have an absolute blast. Before we climb onboard, I explain how to get on and off the board, how to stand up (Downward Facing Dog or Yogic Squat are my preferred options) and how to get back down if balance deserts us! We all wear life jackets but luckily the water is fairly shallow so it is a nice, safe experience for all and it wouldn’t be a complete experience without falling in a couple of times anyway!

Paddleboarding is an amazing way to strengthen your core, which is essential to all yoga practice. There is a method to staying centred and balanced; and moving gently on the water is the ultimate mediation. The key to paddleboarding is the same as yoga – you need to stay present, focussed and soft, going with the flow of the river. If you start moving too much and lose that focus, you are sure to end up in the water!

As for yoga on the paddleboard, it is not as hard as you would think! Once you have mastered simple balance; Bridge pose, Cat/Cow stretch, Cobra, Downward Dog and even the Boat and Child poses and Seated Spinal Twist should be safe and easy enough to try without falling in. One of highlights however is just resting in Savasana on your SUP. Imagine just lying there, the river gently carrying you while you watch the soft fluffy clouds and listen to the restful sounds of nature all around you. Sheer bliss. The experience this gives you is out of this world. You will feel alive, inspired and free all at the same time!

My favourite times on the river are sunrise and sunset. I offer small, intimate sessions for one or two people to come and experience these special times of day with me. We take our SUPs out onto the river together which is quiet and peaceful at these times, no other people, just the calm water, the wildlife and the breeze and we meditate together, watching the sky changing from pink to blue with only each other for company. This is the ultimate beginning or end to your day, so peaceful and nourishing; there is nothing better!

Just a little highlight of my paddleboarding life … I was once floating on the river when I saw a sheep in distress who had fallen into the river! My first thought was to call the farmer but I knew that might be too late for the poor sheep, so I thought maybe the sheep could climb on my board! I stopped my board next to the poor thing and patted it, like you would for a dog, encouraging it to climb aboard … and it did! From there I managed to get it to the grassy bank and to safety. I think we were both a bit shocked but the sheep was safe. From then on, I have always been on the lookout for any sheep that might need rescuing.