It's a great feeling being back in the water after a winter wrapped up in thick jackets and socks.
Everyone knows how tough it is to get your paddle fitness back up to scratch after six months out of the ocean. Just a few strokes and your arms already feel like jelly.
Never fear. We asked our former German editor (turned yoga instructor) Anna to put together a yoga sequence that will help build paddle strength, train your sense of balance and build up your overall fitness.
It's nice to practice outside if you can- these lovely shots were taken by Conny Marshaus in the Alps - but don't worry if you can't.
Ready to get started? Read on...
N.B. Make sure to learn the basics from an experienced teacher before you dive into an home practice and always check with a health care practitioner that you’re fit for the practice in case of injuries
Start in Child's Pose (Balasana) with your knees spread wide out to the sides. You can rest your arms by your sides or put your palms together above your head in Pranam (like above).
Feel your body resting on the ground, your weight being carried by the earth and your upper body releasing.
Tune into your breath. Let each inhale and exhale become full, long and even. Find balance between the two.
Downward Facing Dog
From here, straighten your arms out in front of you, press your palms into the ground, wrist creases aligned with the short end of the mat, and lift your knees to come into Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana).
Walk your legs out for a couple of breaths, bending one stretching the other, and look from side to side, releasing tense muscles in the neck.
On an inhale, roll forward in plank position, bringing your shoulders above your wrists.
Pull the navel in towards the spine, let your heart sink down a tiny bit to integrate your upper arms into the shoulder socket and push your heels out towards the back.
As you exhale, bend your knees and move your hips back and up to Downward Facing Dog. Repeat this flow until you feel your whole body warmed up.
Side Plank Pose
With an inhale, come back to plank. As you exhale, shift your weight onto the outside edge of your right foot.
Pull your right shoulder blade down your back and with an inhale, lift the left arm into a Side Plank.
Either stay here or bring your left foot on top of your right to increase challenge on your balance.
For the full variation of Vashistasana, grab your left big toe with index and middle finger of your left arm and extend the leg out towards the sky.
Come back down on an exhale and repeat on the other side.
Low Push Up
Turn back into plank position - with your shoulders aligned with the wrists.
Squeeze your whole body into one strong line (like a plank) and as you exhale start lowering your stomach down towards the ground, until you are in line with your elbows (see above).
Pause here for a moment before you come down all the way, lying on your belly.
Make sure to move your whole body as one single unit in this transition, not allowing your shoulders to fall forward. Hovering above the floor you should still see your elbow pit.
If you feel like your hips are too heavy and you’re stressing your lower back here, take your knees down first and lower down in a Half Pushup (Ardha Chaturanga).
Half Locust Pose
Lying on your belly, pull your navel towards your spine and press your hip bones as well as your pubic bone into the ground.
Inhale and lift your shoulders off the ground as well as your left leg. As you exhale, lift your right arm (palm facing down) for a Half Locust (Ardha Shalabasana).
Inhale, bring the arm out in front of you with a strong paddle stroke, exhale bring it back and lower everything back to the ground.
On the next inhale, swap sides. Lift your heart and your right leg. As you exhale, lift the left arm. Inhale paddle, exhale come back.
Repeat six times on each side, then take a little break with your forehead on the ground or on your folded hands, gently rocking your hips from side to side.
Full Locust Pose
Once the muscles in your back have relaxed a bit, you can go for the full Locust Pose.
Start with the same firm foundation on the ground through your hips and core. Lift your chest and arms up with an inhale, palms facing down.
Exhale and lift your legs up, powerfully extending them out through the toes, but keep your buttocks relaxed.
Stay here for a couple of breaths, or interlace your fingers and clasp the heels of your hands together to move even deeper into this backbend.
Stay for three breaths in either variation, then slowly release back down.
Upward Facing Dog
Place your palms next to your rib cage, wrist creases aligned with the short end of your mat and elbows at a 90 degree angle.
Press the tops of your feet, especially the pinky toe nail into the ground. Inhale and push the floor away with your hands, lifting your chest, rolling your shoulders back down and out to the sides.
Either stay here in Cobra Pose (Buhjangasana), or straighten your arms to lift your hips and legs off the floor in Upward Facing Dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana).
Extend your head away from your shoulders towards your heels and squeeze the shoulders blades onto your back to let your heart shine out even brighter.
To come out, either lower back down to your belly and come back to Downward Facing Dog through your knees, or pull the navel in towards the spine in Up Dog, lift your hips up high and roll back over your toes to Down Dog.
From Downward Facing Dog, inhale and lift your right leg high towards the sky, hips squared.
As you exhale, bring your shoulders above your wrist into plank and pull your knee towards your nose. Inhale and lift the leg back up.
Repeat three times, before you step the right foot down next to the right hand.
Try to really touch knee and nose together and pause there for a moment (or even a breath if you’d like to intensify). This is great core strengthener and will build up lots of power for your take off.
High Lunge Crescent Pose
With your right foot next to your right thumb, press both feet into the ground. Make sure they’re not in one line but still hip distance apart, like you are on two skis.
Lift your upper body up to a High Lunge. Keep your right knee bent a lot (90 degrees if possible) and precisely above your ankle, pointing in the same direction as your toes.
Straighten your left (back) leg as much as you can, pushing back through your left heel.
Pull your left groin a little forward and up, so both hip points are squared in one line, facing forward.
Lift your arms up in front of you on an inhale and circle them back down through the sides on an exhale. Repeat three times.
For an easier variation of this pose, take your back knee down to the ground (double up the mat if this feels uncomfortable).
Still in your High Lunge (knee lifted or on the ground), straighten your arms out to the sides on an inhale.
Then on an exhale, cross your elbows, left under right. Wrap your arms and hands around each other as much as they like for this Garudasana Variation or just draw them towards each other if they don’t wrap.
Swap and do the same on the opposite side.
Release your hands back down to the ground. Shift your weight to your right foot and slowly start lifting your left leg off the ground.
Take a moment to balance on one leg before you step your left foot to meet the right on the front end of the mat, folding your upper body over your thighs in Uttanasana (Forward Fold).
Bend your knees as much as you need to comfortably dangle from side to side for a couple of breaths.
Then, on an inhale, lift half away to clasp your hands behind your lower back.
Interlace your fingers the other way around than you normally do (the way that feels super weird), bend your elbows and pull your shoulder blades down your back.
Exhale and fold back forward into this yummy shoulder stretch. Stay for three breaths, then release.
Standing Half Bow
Lift your upper body half way up on an inhale and straighten your right leg out behind you.
Come on to your finger tips, bend the right leg and slowly extend your left arm out behind you to hold on to your ankle.
You can also grab your pants or use a strap if you can’t quite reach, or just keep extending the arm out to the back, the foot up to the sky.
Try to lift up a little higher without tilting your pelvis sideways on every inhale. Release on the exhale.
Pulse in Standing Bow like this for three breaths.
Now, carefully release the foot and fold your upper body back over your standing leg while the other (right) leg continues to lift up towards the sky.
Don’t worry about how high your legs goes. Focus all your concentration on keeping your balance while maintaining a steady breath.
Take your left hand away from the ground to wrap it around your left calf.
If you’d like to add even more challenge here, take the right hand away from the floor as well and watch your foot calibrate to keep you grounded in Standing Splits.
Bring the top leg back down on an exhale. Bend both knees and through a squat, come all the way down to your mat.
Sit up tall with your legs straightened out in front of you. Keep your upper body, especially your lower back, straight and aligned.
Lift your legs off the floor to balance on your sitting bones in Boat Pose (Navasana). Stay here for six breaths without letting your lower back round.
If you feel any stress or tension in this area, bend your knees to bring your shins parallel to the floor for Half Boat.
You can even hold your knees with your hands until you’ve built up enough core strength to hold yourself here without compromising alignment or compressing the lower back.
Bring your legs back down and cross them for a couple of relaxing breaths in a crossed legged seat like Easy Pose (Sukhasana) or any other way you feel benefits your right now.
Let your breath (and thoughts) calm down again before placing your hands back on the mat to move back into Downward Facing Dog.
Dolphin Downward Dog
Back in Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog), let both of your forearms sink down at the same time and rest them on your mat.
Let your heart melt backwards and your shoulder blades release with every exhale.
Bend your knees as much as you need to keep a bit of curve in your lower back.
Stay here for six breaths, then come back up to Downward Facing Dog.
On an inhale, lift your left leg to repeat the sequence of Lunge, High Lunge, Standing Bow, Standing Splits and Navasana on the second side.
Alternatively, you can also insert a Forearm Balance like Pincha Mayurasana here. For instructions on this, jump to the last two slides.
Reversed Plank Pose
After you’ve gone through the sequence on your left side and finished your second round of Navasana, take a pause sitting in Dandasana with your legs straightened out in front of you.
Once your breath has calmed down again, take your hands behind your hips, fingertips facing forward.
Draw your shoulder blades down your back, let your heart shine bright and lift your hips up with an inhale, toes pointing forward and down. Extend the back of your head down on an exhale and keep breathing evenly.
If this version of Reversed Plank (Purvottanasana) feels a bit overwhelming and too much, go for the simpler Table Top variation with your knees bent at 90 degrees, ankles under knees.
To come back out of both poses, draw your chin towards your chest on an inhale. Lower back to the ground on an exhale.
Come all the way down onto your back if you’re ready for deep relaxation in Savasana, or cross your legs to round off your practice with a seated meditation.
Of course you’re also welcome to continue with some more poses or even an additional sequence. Just make sure to take a couple of minutes to calm down, relax and integrate everything you’ve done before you continue on with your day.
There are also two options to advance this sequence for more seasoned yogis who already have a strong inversion practice....
Insert this after the High Lunge by bringing your right heel down 90 degree and turning the front foot around on the heel, so you’re facing the long side of your mat in a Wide Legged Forward Fold (Prasarita Padottanasana).
Place your hands shoulder-width apart between your legs and the crown of your head in the middle above your finger tips.
Don’t try this unless you already have a sound and secure Tripod Headstand Practice!
If you know you can come up safely, slowly start lifting your legs up through the sides and maybe even wrap the right leg around the left other for an Eagle Legs Variation.
When you practice the pose on the opposite side, reverse the legs.
Come out of the pose the same way you came in. Turn your feet back to face the front of the mat and step into your right leg to balance and lift the left one.
The second option to advance and intensify this practice is adding a Forearm Balance after the Dolphin Variation of Adho Mukha Svanasana.
With your forearms on the ground in Down Dog, walk your feet forward to bring your shoulders above your elbows and your hips above your shoulders as much as they will go.
Extend one leg out behind you keeping your hips square and start hopping off the ground with your other leg. Once your straight leg has come on top of you, try to lift the other one up as well and balance in Pincha Mayurasana on your forearms.
This pose is not only great to open and train your shoulders but strengthens your whole core.