By Laura Greene
If you’re looking for an exercise that will increase your flexibility, help you to a healthier body and give you more time on the water, then you need look no further than SUP Yoga.
A combination of Stand Up Paddling (SUP) and poses from Ashtanga, Hatha and Iyengar Yoga is the new exercise for your body and mind that’s being pioneered on Maui at Maria Souza’s SUP Yoga school.
Originally from Recife, Brazil and a longtime resident of Maui, Souza was the first woman ever to tow-in surf Peahi or “Jaws” and finished first, along with team-mate Andrea Moeller, on the first-ever (women’s division) SUP channel crossing in 2005 and again in 2006 and 2008.
“SUP Yoga will change your life.” She said. “After learning for just two hours it has the potential to change you. As an instructor it’s a big responsibility to teach someone this but I think I can show clients that they can feel good, they can heal pain and fix their posture, while learning a new sport. After that they’re hooked.
“The yoga aspect will show people how to breathe. They’ll use their lungs and their diaphragm as if they’re using them for the first time, the breathing and the exercise will create happy hormones and it becomes an addiction. A good addiction.”
“When I was training for tow-in surfing I couldn’t have done it without yoga. Not only for the mental training but I also took my yoga breathing and adapted it for underwater. I learned how to relax and how to breathe if I got held down, I was also shortening my muscles by training hard every day, yoga helped me to stretch them and balance my body out.”
Certified as a yoga instructor from Eddie Modestini and Nicki Doane’s Maya Yoga Studio in Honokala Valley on Maui’s north shore, Souza is also a personal trainer, nutritionist, clothes designer, massage/physical therapist and more, who developed her SUP yoga classes after combining two of her personal passions.
“I got bored with the monotony of doing the same old back and forth and started playing with the idea of doing yoga and practiced balancing on my board and trying out poses,“ she said.
“I was already teaching privately in SUP and yoga and I tried combining the two, especially if I had clients with injuries, I would throw poses in and turn it into a physical therapy session. It was hard for me at first because my board wasn’t big enough, I’d end up sinking or falling in. When Jimmy Lewis made my first board it felt great, like a giant boat, I thought let’s do this! So I started doing headstands and things like that myself, it was anti-boredom more than anything and it started to grow from there.”
Souza admits that the SUP/Yoga combination can be hard for first-timers but insists that the benefits are worth it.
“I started doing the classes at Maliko Gulch on the north shore – you need super flat water and it’s the perfect place for that. If you do it in an unstable environment it’s ten times harder but it can be a great way to focus your body and mind and to get in shape. It’ll soon become something you want to do every day.
“I’ll look at my clients’ ability levels and there’s never any more then to two people for every one instructor in my class. If people are athletic or if they have done yoga before I will always start to throw poses in. I clean up their technique, their posture and help them to function properly.
“My school is different, I don’t just ‘go for a paddle’ I look at the body, make modifications and help people to heal their pain.”
For more information about Maria Souza’s Stand Up Paddle Yoga classes, visit: http://www.standuppaddlesurfschool.com/index.htm