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Originally published July 19, 2011 at 9:56 AM | Page modified July 19, 2011 at 4:14 PM

In Seattle, floating yoga on a paddleboard

Adrift on a Seattle waterway, personal trainer Vicki Wilson and about a dozen women are following their yoga instructor's directions, hoisting their bodies up in a pyramid shape as they strike the downward-facing dog pose. They do this while balancing on an oversized surfboard.

Associated Press

quotes Next up: pole dancing on a paddleboard! Read more
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SEATTLE —

Adrift on a Seattle waterway, personal trainer Vicki Wilson and about a dozen women are following their yoga instructor's directions, hoisting their bodies up in a pyramid shape as they strike the downward-facing dog pose. They do this while balancing on an oversized surfboard.

Around them, boats sound their horns, a train chugs away, and seagulls fly about. But never mind the noises, the ebb and flow of the water is what Wilson likes best.

"It's very different than the in-studio feel," Wilson said. "You might hear a clock ticking, something artificial happening, and yes, there's the distraction of trains and boats, but with the water you have this flowing harmony."

Paddleboard yoga has arrived in Seattle. For about two months now, WASUP Yoga, which operates out of Surf Ballard, a local surf shop, has been offering yoga classes on the cool waters of the Puget Sound, drawing attention to the unusual sight of yoga poses on the water. Neighborhood blogs and a local TV station have featured stories about the class, and after a deal on a coupon website, classes have been filling up.

"Just like regular yoga is for everyone, so too is yoga on a paddleboard. It's nice to have a little smidgen of awareness of where your body is in space. But that's not totally necessary because you can gain that in 2.2 seconds after jumping on board," said WASUP yoga instructor Hasna Atry.

This new way of finding your inner chakra stems from the growing popularity of paddleboarding. Followers of paddleboarding point to Hawaii as the source of the activity, in which a person stands or kneels on an oversized surfboard and uses long paddles to move through the water. It's not uncommon to see people on boards paddling the Puget Sound or area lakes, even in the dead of a Seattle winter, donning full body wetsuits.

Someone, somewhere, figured out that paddleboards are big enough to hold a person doing the cobra pose. And the practice has spread. There are now paddleboard yoga classes in at least Florida, California, Hawaii and Washington.

In Atry's two-hour class, participants get a quick lesson on paddleboarding before they head to the water, where they tie to a buoy. She leads the class from her board, floating in front of them. Participants line their boards up next to each other.

She starts slow, with breathing exercises before moving on to the more difficult stretches.

Atry said she has modified some of the yoga postures to account for the added challenge of balancing on a board.

"When you're on the paddleboard and trying to do the same postures as on land, you have completely different feedback because if you don't have your footing right, you will feel the board move around and if you aren't focusing, you will fall in the water," Wilson said after her second class.

Wetsuits are optional, but recommended on the days it's not hot enough to warm the cool waters. Prices for the classes range from $23 for a single class to $325 for a month of unlimited classes. Atry said the surf shop plans to continue classes until early fall, and take a break once winter arrives.

There have been many people new to yoga and paddleboarding trying out her class, Atry said.

"Often times they'll go into the water tentatively, especially if it's their first time on a board, but it's so neat to see them jump on the board and paddle back without problem at all, having been through inversions, balancing and stretching on the board."

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