After having had the unique and fulfilling experience of practicing Yoga on a SUP board you may have decided that it’s time to go out and buy a SUP Yoga board of your own.
After all, SUP Yoga is a great way to enjoy being out on the water. Being outdoors and in particular on the water adds another sensory dimension to the practice of Yoga. From a physical standpoint, being on a board adds an element of instability that challenges you and engages additional muscles.
If you have decided that SUP Yoga will be something you do regularly, you might be considering purchasing a board specifically designed for it. A SUP Yoga board will have some features designed for Yoga, but do you actually need such a specialized board?
Boards sold specifically for SUP Yoga are typically a version of an existing all around stability board, but with some modifications to the deck pad and accessory attachments that make the board more yoga specific. When you carefully compare features, you may find that you’re better off with an all around inflatable SUP that has the ideal setup for Yoga, but performs well for other paddling activities too.
While you could perform SUP Yoga on virtually any board, beginners will want to start on the most stable possible platform. Most people know that the stability of a SUP board is dictated by its width. What is less well known is how the thickness of the board affects its stability.
A board that is 36 inches wide might seem like an obvious choice for stability. But if the board is 6 inches thick, all bets are off. A board that is 34 inches wide and only 5 inch thick will actually be more stable because it will ride lower on the water than the 6 inch board. If you attempt yoga on a 6 inch board and then try the same positions on a 5 inch board, you’ll notice the difference immediately.
Keep in mind that a 5 inch board is quite a bit easier to climb back onto than a 6 inch board, in the case you do find yourself in the water and is going to be a lot more fun to casually paddle when you are not doing yoga.
Board length has only a minor effect on SUP Yoga stability, especially when looking at suitable all round alternatives, so opt for a convenient length in the 10-11 foot range.
Boards marketed for SUP Yoga will often have a deck pad that runs the full length of the board. While this may fit preconceived notions of how a sup yoga board should look, bear in mind that you will never find yourself at the extreme reaches of the board while doing yoga - You would tip over before getting that close to either end of the board! A deck pad that covers up to three fourths of the board surface will suffice. The extra space beyond the deck pad is where the bungee system should be located so that you have a place for your water bottle, dry bag, and other belongings.
You’ll want the deck pad to be plush and to have fairly flat texture that won’t leave marks on your skin. A light crocodile skin pattern will give you the grip you need but will not make an impression on your body the way a deeply grooved pattern would.
Also look for a center handle that flattens so you can lie on top of it without discomfort. A flat strap handle with a removable hand grip is ideal because it will protect your hands while carrying the board and you can take it off when you want to do yoga. Some yoga specific boards have handles at the edges of the deck pad to keep the center area of the pad completely smooth, but boards with this off-center handle arrangement can be awkward to carry, as they have a tendency to drag on the ground due to the handle position, require you to carry it over your head, or use strap systems that are a little ungainly, given the general size of an inflatable SUP.
Fins do not directly affect the performance of the board on the water while doing SUP yoga. However, there are some pros and cons to different fins systems that will affect the use of the board in general.
A permanent 3-fin setup works well for Yoga because you don’t need to stress over lost or damaged fins and it makes it easier to get into the water if you’re starting in a shallow area.
A configurable fin system in which all of the fins are removable adds some cost, but allows you to remove the fins for practicing your SUP yoga, on land. You can also use a board with a permanent 3-fin setup on land, but you’ll need to prop it up a few inches to keep the fins off the ground. A foam roller can be used for this and we’d like to think most yoga enthusiasts would have one handy.
It is also worth evaluating the fin system for all around use if you expect to use the board for purposes other than yoga, in which case a configurable fin system gives you more flexibility to adapt the board to other uses and environments. For most SUP setups there is no right answer simply choose either a permanent fin setup, or look for one that is fully configurable.
Many boards also offer a mixed fin setup that comprises a combination of permanent fins (usually on the sides) and a removable center fin. Even though we sell several models with mixed fin systems, our general thought is these system are not the best choice, and don’t really provide the advantages of a dedicated permanent fin set up, or a fully configurable setup. In real use come across as confused as to what they are trying to achieve, and once a paddler grows and get more experienced they realize how limiting such a setup will be.
Inflatables are the obvious choice over hard boards for SUP yoga. An inflatable SUP has a softer surface which is much easier on the body than a hard epoxy surface. In addition, inflatables are more stable than hard boards of comparable dimensions because the thickness of an inflatable paddle board is consistent across the width of the board, while hard boards are tapered at the edges, making them more tippy.
An added advantage to buying an inflatable paddle board for yoga is that you can take it with you when you travel to exotic locations where practicing aquatic yoga can be the experience of a lifetime!
Think about what really differentiates any SUP Yoga board you are considering from a similarly shaped all around board. Will you use the part of the deck pad that extends all the way to the nose of the board, or will you be better off having a bungee system for holding your gear? Do you want the handles positioned off center or using a complex strap system, even though it will be more difficult carrying the board to the water? That is up to each paddler to decide but our point being a dedicated yoga board isn’t a must, even for serious yoga paddlers.
If you decide to go with an all around inflatable SUP, choose one with a wide deck, moderate thickness, deck pad covering three fourths of the board, and a removable handle grip. This will give you all the advantages you need for yoga and as a bonus, you’ll also have an ideal board for any type of paddling you want to do.
See our best inflatable paddle boards for yoga here.
Want more expert advice on choosing an inflatable SUP board? Check out our 2018 Inflatable Paddle Board Buyer’s Guide.