Seems like everywhere you’re hearing about Standup paddleboarding, or even more about yoga on a Standup Paddleboard, affectionately known as S.U.P Yoga. This is no mistake – the standup paddleboard (SUP) is taking over the recreational and fitness scene – proving to be one of the hottest and fastest growing sports in the world today. So what to do about it? Get on board!

So why all this excitement about something that’s actually been around since ancient times? The history of SUP is so diverse and there seems to be no real point of origin, from ancient Polynesia to the gondolas of Venice, paddleboarding has been a common means of simple transportation for well over a thousand years.

As a sport, SUP has exploded in popularity especially this last decade, spreading from Hawaii to the mainland, thru Europe and into the rest of the world. Today, it is not uncommon to see standup paddlers surfing waves of all sizes, or floating peaceably along coasts, or cruising along on lakes and harbors, or even running whitewater class 5 & 6, yes I kid you not. But how did all this enter into the world of fitness? And when did yoga come into the picture?

For more than 5,000 years, people have been practicing yoga to find sama, the yogi term for balance, both mentally and physically. Most yoga lovers, or Yogis, will test their ability to balance on anything – from an elevated object to a slackline (YogaSlackers), and even on each other (AcroYoga). So given the recent trend in standup paddle boarding, a workout in which balance is key, it’s no surprise that someone somewhere along the line thought to combine the two disciplines – and given the world S.U.P Yoga as we know it.

SUP Yoga class
No true date could I find for the inception of S.U.P Yoga, I’ve scoured the web in vain attempts to locate such a date. For myself, the connection of SUP to Yoga was a very simple discovery. Already a practicing Yogi and Yoga teacher here in Chicago, my first time on a paddleboard was such an inspiring experience – I could just feel how seamlessly my yoga could enter into this world.

Yoga has to be explained at this point as being so much more than a collection of poses. We are sometimes more comfortable understanding yoga as that – difficult postures to master in order to bring about more flexibility and strength to the physical body. Yoga does that, yes, but on a primordial level.

Take yoga to a deeper level – what your sensations are while in a difficult pose, or opening yourself up to what the pose is teaching you, or just sitting quietly and breathing – are all examples of what yoga brings out for those who take the time to wade into the deeper water of the experience. And the deeper you delve, the more you will uncover about yourself and the world around you and understand your placement within it.

So for me, teaching and practicing S.U.P Yoga is not to master a few difficult poses on a paddleboard. It’s definitely cool to do so, no argument there. Yoga is as much about paddling the board or just remaining motionless for a few breaths on the board as doing the postures. This, in the end will be an invaluable tool your inner body and mind will not soon forget. And falling is good too. I feel falling in and letting go are the most important lessons to learn from the S.U.P Yoga experience.

Why? Because it’s ok to fall. And we should give ourselves permission to fall once in awhile. So the first time you try paddleboarding, my advice to you is to try something so you fall in. You will find the rest after that a piece of cake.

Mary Lou Cerami teaches S.U.P Yoga all summer long every Sunday with Kayak Chicago at Montrose beach at noon and with Chicago Paddle Co. at Hollywood beach at 9:30am. For more info please visit