Savasana (also known as Corpse Pose, or as I call it, “nap time”) has always been my favorite part of yoga. It’s the time at the end of practice where one aims to relax the body and quiet the mind while laying restfully on the back. Practicing Savasana here, underneath the warm, elusive Seattle sun, softly swaying on the waters of Shilshole Bay off the coast of Ballard, is pure bliss.
I, along with five others, have just completed an hour of yoga on the two-by-10 foot surface of a stand up paddleboard, referred to as “SUPs”. Our instructor, Hasna Atry, guided us not only through an array of postures, but also through the basic ins-and-outs of stand up paddleboarding. Even the novices like me who had never even set eyes on one had to make the roughly two-thirds mile round trip paddle to our yoga spot.
Surf Ballard has quickly become the buzz of Seattle as the only spot offering this new adaption of the widely practiced workout. Hasna, who has quite the perfect yoga name, has been teaching small classes on the water just since this May and on dry land for two years. While more “temperature friendly” spots such as Hawaii and California already have SUP yoga classes in place, it was Hasna’s friendship with Surf Ballard’s co-owner Andrew Drake that brought SUP yoga, now called WASUP, to the Pacific Northwest.
“Because of my connection with Andrew, I could just take out boards whenever I wanted and was practicing yoga on them, and I was like maybe the rest of the world wants to have fun with me too! So the creation of it was really organic,” said Hasna. “But I’m still playing with [the practice], just figuring out what is accessible and doable on the paddleboard. I’m exploring.”
The sessions she began conducting mostly with friends and family were noticed by the blog My Ballard, and quickly picked up by King 5 and The Seattle Times. Shortly after WASUP experienced a surge of success with a Living Social offer of three classes for $30 (thanks to a thoughtful boyfriend I am part of that surge).
As only a recreational yoga practitioner, meaning I do it whenever it strikes my lazy fancy, I was concerned about my ability to combine it with an unstable surface on top of very chilly waters. But Hasna makes it quite clear that poses can be taken only as far as is comfortable to each individual student, making it appealing to both newbies and yogis alike.
For example, Hasna, not surprisingly after seeing her grace and agility on the SUP, executed a headstand on the board, where as I was more than happy to stay in the prep position. “The people that are doing it sometimes have an established practice in yoga, sometimes not and are just willing to feel it out and meet themselves exactly where they are. So I find people not getting too frustrated with themselves, sort of being able to laugh it off and say, ‘I can’t do that yet, but that’s ok.’”
However Hasna says there are a few connective threads she sees in her students: “They are people that are adventurous, have good amount of confidence in their body awareness, and are hardy. So like, on rainier days people are still showing up, like, ‘give me a hat, I’ll still go out,’ or ‘give me a wetsuit and let’s go do this.’”
“Did you fall in?” everyone asks. No, I didn’t (though I surely would have had I attempted that headstand!), and neither did anyone in the two sessions I’ve been to so far, but Hasna says you have to leave yourself open to the possibility it may happen. “People always ask me how often someone falls in and I never have an answer,” she said, “I would say it happens less often than it does happen. But it does happen.”
While I managed to stay dry, I did not escape the next-day soreness. The strength required by your core just to stay balanced and the energy exerted by your shoulders to paddle is a workout in itself, and when coupled with Hasna’s fully encompassing yoga practice I was left reaching for some Advil (in a good way, of course!)
Individual two-hour classes are $23, which is excellent considering that just a two-hour SUP rental at Surf Ballard is $30. “I tried really hard to make it affordable for people so they can gain a practice out of it, instead of coming once and saying ‘yeah, that was cool, but I can’t afford it,’” said Hasna. “To me the value of more people being able to access this practice is important.” For more information and to register for a class (Hurry! They book up FAST), visit wasupyoga.com. Namaste.