Why SUP yoga teachers should practice being under water
Many years ago, I owned a kayak. It was long before I´d even heard of stand up paddling, and I got it as a gift from my husband. We were moving from the southern parts of Sweden to Stockholm, where my husband had gotten a new job. I didn´t know anyone in the big city, and as my husband was working I was waiting to get my displacement as a police officer, which was my profession at the time. We, my husband and I, had worked on my fear of water for some time (yes, once upon a time, I was afraid of being in water!), and we´d went from just hanging out close to water, to walking on docks, to paddling kayak. I carried a longing for the ocean, but somehow I had developed a fear of water as I grew up, most certain related to a childhood trauma of being separated from my parents by the ocean as a small child.
I had a longing for the ocean, and since our new home in Stockholm was close to a beautiful lake, my beloved husband got me a kayak. All by myself I paddled and paddled. I kept myself close to land, and build trust in myself as my love affair with water grew. What I didn´t do though, was the one thing I should have done the very first time I stepped in that kayak. I totally neglected practicing falling into the water. A neglect founded by fear.
Playing safe is unsafe
It took me two years to fall into the water. I simply played safe, in a combination with obviously having some really good balance skills. Until one day my husband convinced me that playing safe was actually very unsafe. Like as unsafe as it could possibly be. A fascinating insight.
Many SUP yoga teachers think they have to concentrate on building confidence and expertise on the board only. That is hugely important by all means. But, as a SUP yoga teacher it´s utterly necessary and meaningful training water skills, and learn some beach safety.
Hopefully that day will never come when you need to rescue one of your SUP yoga students. But as a matter of fact, there is no need for a serious accident to happen for someone to fall into the water, needing a helping hand. It can happen on flat and calm water. And yes, you can help your students from your own board and you don´t necessarily have to jump into the water to be at service. But what if that happens? You´re the teacher, and your students will probably expect you to act.
So, me and my husband practiced falling into the water, from my kayak. And you know what? It was horrible. My legs were all red from abrasions, and my body was shaking with fear. But I knew it needed to be done. I knew it was essential for my ocean and lake life to be comfortable not only in the kayak, but in and under the water. It was dreadful, but I did it. Over and over. And it was a huge shift. More confident, indeed. Fear, gone. Or not really gone, but way less.
The only reason I started swimming was for water safety. Then, once I started falling in love with sports, I got more comfortable with it.
– Michael Phelps
It was many years since I paddled kayak. Stand up paddling became a lifestyle when it was still new in Sweden, and turned into my work as well. The lessons from kayaking was something I brought with me though. Falling off my board, check. Becoming a confident open water swimmer – still working on it. Being comfortable under water – working hard on it.
Having the oceans and lakes as your working place, i.e. your office, means you need to be comfortable with water. At least that´s what I, i.e. SUP Yoga Pro strongly believes. The SUP Yoga Pro vision is all about the lessons of water, like slowing down etc., but also about teaching and sharing knowledge and experience around water safety etc. for SUP yoga teachers and students alike.
A huge part of the SUP Yoga Pro teacher training is about expanding the trainees comfort zone on water. It means some of the content in the teacher training program is about water safety such as SUP specific rescue technique, paddle technique and studying the behavior of water. During the training we are part on land, part on the board and part in the water.
Being comfortable in the uncomfortable
The last part, being in water, is something many trainees find hard. During my years and experience of train yoga teachers in SUP yoga, that´s what I´ve noticed. Being in water is related to being uncomfortable, going beyond your comfort zone and facing fear. The unknown. The deep blue. And this is exactly why we, as SUP yoga teachers, should practice being comfortable in the uncomfortable. I believe it´s our duty as SUP yoga teachers, if we want to be professional.
Practicing by yourself is one aspect of being a SUP yoga teacher. Bringing students to the water is another. And with it comes some responsibility. Being comfortable in and even under water, is a necessary skill to be a professional SUP yoga teacher and stand up paddle instructor. After all, having the oceans and lakes as our working place, i.e. our office, means we should be comfortable with water. And I believe I don´t only speak for myself when I say that I want to feel capable and confident when I teach. Knowing that is how I want to feel in my life, as well as when I teach, makes it easy to realize they why behind training to be comfortable in the uncomfortable. (Read about the power of knowing your desired emotions and the why behind it here).
One day it might save a life
I learned it the long and hard way. Today I get to share that experience with you all, as I train SUP yoga teachers, and do some attempt of inspiring ocean lovers through my website and social media. I believe I have that responsibility, as a pioneer of SUP yoga in my country. Sharing my experience, and also working on expanding my own skills. At the moment it´s all about being under water that´s my main focus, after – again – learning the hard way what it´s like being pulled down by a wave, after a surf accident last year. A lesson leading me to a whole new world – the one under water. A lesson ending up showing me the beauty beyond the surface.
Swimming, diving into the water, moving around in the water and gently getting more and more comfortable without a board under your feet – practice it. One day it might save your life, or a student.