JK Guest Post: Stand-up Paddleboarding with SUPGirlz


When I was in California a couple years ago we stopped at a beach to go swimming, and as we were bobbing about, a young woman paddled by me on a stand-up board. She had that classic California Girl look, all lean muscle and tan and long, wavy hair. And up on this board, casually paddling as the afternoon light started to wane, she was the very picture of cool. I had to try it.

It’s taken me awhile to accomplish that goal — finding a place to do it, a companion, a good price — but when I discovered by coworker Erin was interested too, we found a groupon for a company that operates a five minute walk away from our workplace in the Beach.

SUPGirlz (which isn’t just for girls, BTW) has a full schedule, with several classes a day, every day of the week. It was no problem to find a convenient time slot, and registering for a class via their website (even with a groupon) was a breeze.

Our beginners class (which is a prerequisite for all other SUPGirlz classes) had 6 people in it (4 newbies, and 2 more experienced ladies) — a very manageable number. (Classes can accomodate up to 7 new students.)

It started with some fundamentals on land: how to hold the paddle, how to use it, and some general advice. Janna was very matter-of-fact (do this, don’t do this, any questions?), and while some newbies might need a bit more rah-rahing, I was just fine with it. And also she had good reason: it’s ISN’T that complicated. In less than 10 minutes had covered off the bare essentials so we could head down to the water. There, she demoed how we’d paddle out (on our knees) and stand up and it was up to us to follow.



We got to take our first wobbling strokes in a sheltered cove, which made things a bit easier, and I’m pretty proud to say, I didn’t fall. Not even once. (Though, to be fair, it was a pretty calm day.) But if you do? No big deal. The water’s pretty warm, and you can get right back on. The paddling takes a little practice, especially since you’re supposed to keep your arms straight, like dragon boaters do, and use your core to move, rather than bending your elbows. (It feels unnatural, but you start to get the hang of it.)

After everyone showed Janna they could do the basics (paddle straight-ahead, front turn, back turn), we left the cove on, paddling for 10 or 15 minutes. This is when I really started to feel relaxed. It was easy! Or perhaps I had just been training for this my whole life. I realized that my years of swimming (upper body strength), lifeguarding (paddleboarding — on a kneeling board with your hands rather than a paddle, but still), and my regular yoga practice (balance and core strength are essential), actually made me feel like a natural at something athletic for the first time in my life. Guys, it feels amazing. Someone should have told me.

We took a break after this paddle and if you wanted, you could try some yoga poses on the boards. Naturally, I wanted to. I discovered a basic flow is pretty easy, but things start to get a bit harder when you enter lunge and warrior territory. SUPGirlz has a paddle flow class that I’m dying to try: you paddle out, do 20 minutes of board yoga, then paddle back.

Janna also took the time to take pictures of us on our boards: a really nice gesture, because, let’s face it, you look pretty cool doing this and you want to show it off. (She also emailed them to us the same night! Very impressive.)

We did another longer paddle in the other direction, then eventually worked our way back to the cove for a last bit of free time. At this point I was sweating. My long-sleeve rashguard may have offered good sun protection, but I’d recommend something cooler. (A bathing suit and a t-shirt or tank top would be plenty.)

I hoped I’d be sore the next day, and while my muscles were definitely tired after I got home, I only had some wrist and shoulder soreness on one side, probably more from me trying to figure out my technique than anything. But I definitely broke a sweat and felt a burn, and once you got better, I bet you’d get a solid workout. (Plus SUPGirlz has bootcamp classes that combine dry-land exercises.)

Erin, my work paddling pal, had to work a little harder to get the hang of things (not having been training her whole life), but Janna gave her some key one on one feedback, and by the end of the 90 minutes she was feeling comfortable and totally gung ho. We’re ready and raring to go back, and when I can see the lake from our office window, it’s a constant temptation. Classes aren’t cheap ($35 a piece, or 10 for $300), but I can feel my inner cheapskate softening already and my inner California Girl dying to get back on the water.


JK Guest Post: The 30 Day Challenge is complete

Jen, aka JK, is often my partner in crime in book-related and fitness-related things . I’m really excited she’s decided to tackle this 30-day challenge with me and even more excited she wants to share this journey with all of you! Jen will be sharing updates about the challenge throughout the 30 days, so follow along! You can read her first post here, her 10-day recap here, and her 20-day recap here. — Erin

She did it! We did it! -- Erin.

It’s all over. And am I bigger, faster, stronger? Zen-like and unflappable? Hardly. But I think I am a little bit fuller. On the mat, my core is a bit stronger, I’m paying more attention to my back body, staying a bit lighter. Off the mat, I feel a bit more in touch with my practice and with my fellow yogis (notably Erin, our kula of two, with special guest appearances by Jill). But that fullness is also a sort of quiet confidence, a satisfaction. I did it, and I could, and would, do it again.

Though looking back it feels very ordinary, with no glamorous breakthroughs or sudden enlightenments, I realize I have learned some things. I’ve learned that exercise CAN be a part of your life every day and, usually, a good part. But I’ve also learned the value of rest, and of resting when you need it. I discovered the necessity of pacing, of balancing heated and unheated classes, challenging and restorative ones. I picked up a few tips that may change my practice too (maybe even get me up into my fantasy handstand). And off the mat, I’ve made a few changes. Thanks to reading The Happiness Project, I think about attitude more, and about how things that make you happy take effort (this whole yoga project is just a perfect example). Also thanks to THP, I’ve kept clothes off the floor of my bedroom for over 30 days now (a tougher challenge than the yoga in some respects). We know that lasting change is slow and steady, and that’s what this challenge offered, and hopefully my practice will continue to offer.

Highlight: Our final hour flow class with Jen Slade. It was open house day at Kula, and the room was packed with new people: people who weren’t so serious, who chattered, who were excited. (Yogis, for all our good qualities, are sometimes a little too serious.) Jen was even more energetic than usual (which is saying something), and brought out some partner poses and got us off our mats. And though normally my BF provides the music, today Jen had a guy playing pots like crystal bowls. He even broke out a pan flute sometimes that made me giggle. There was a moment, during savasana, with those pots singing at just the right pitch, that I just soared, felt large, all-encompassing like something in a Walt Whitman poem. Lying there with Jill and Erin and all these strangers, I thought, “We did it.” I was aglow.

Lowlight/Challenge: Total embarrassment when I accidentally crashed the Power 8 savasana, thinking it was the beginning of the class and not the end. No doubt everyone thought I was crazy. And then, as punishment for letting my blondness take over, I had to do hot core instead. Which was the second time that week, and this class was definitely the less enjoyable of the two.

So where do we go from here? Me, probably back to my 4x a week schedule, although I’m definitely open to 5, or even six. And I’d definitely be game for another 30-day challenge in the future. It’s a nice thing to do with the change of seasons, preparing for summer, celebrating the long daylight hours and the warmth that lets you leave the studio without layers. We might just have the makings of an annual tradition.

My goal for this project was above all to be grateful. And maybe I wasn’t grateful for each chaturanga pushup (or any of them, really), or for each and every practice. But I am grateful that my body could handle it, for the opportunity to do it, for my wonderful studio, for a partner to do it with, and that I did it at all.




JK Guest Post: The 30 Day Yoga Challenge Day 20

Jen, aka JK, is often my partner in crime in book-related and fitness-related things . I’m really excited she’s decided to tackle this 30-day challenge with me and even more excited she wants to share this journey with all of you! Jen will be sharing updates about the challenge throughout the 30 days, so follow along! You can read her first post here and her 10-day recap here. — Erin

A screen cap from a book vid, but I think these faces are appropriate. -- Erin


So last week I was all easy breezy about this challenge, and this week it got harder. I was a bit more tired, and while I was trying really hard to focus on breath and length, sometimes that didn’t happen. My goal all along has been gratitude, and I think squeezing in these 10 classes I lost sight of that a bit. There was a lot of powering through. And powering through has a time and a place, but if you’re in tears of frustration, it seems you should have backed off awhile ago. This week I discovered (the hard way), the importance of not doing three super hot classes three days in a row. It completely wipes me out. How do those Moksha people do it?

Anyway, here’s the highlight/blooper reel of the last 10 days . . .

Highlight: Saturday Power 8 class with Serah. I was sweating prolifically and the room was packed, but somehow I just ended up feeling dewy and energized. Also related to Serah: waking up yesterday morning after a hard hot hour class (so many abs!) and really seeing my abs. Instant payoff! And a key confidence booster before bikini season.

Challenge: Thursday morning shambles again. I don’t know what it is with me and Thursday mornings, but I think it’s mostly that I’m just totally exhausted and get easily frustrated. Then come the tears (which in a non-heated class, are harder to pass off as sweat). This time it was over not being able to get my knee right in Warrior 1, and then failing at handstand the way I always fail at handstand. Ridiculous, I know, but what can you do? Also worth noting that Serah’s hot hour that I praised above for showing me my abs was also seriously hard. (There was sweat pouring into my eyes constantly, an experience Erin wisely calls “another kind of crying.”) But it was kind of nice thinking that a year or a year and a half ago, I wouldn’t have been able to stick it out as well as I did.

One of my favourite things a yoga teacher can do is talk about their own challenges with their practice. And right when things got harder in this second 10-day stretch, a couple teachers happened to do just that. I love when they say they think about their dinner plans during savasana, or that when given a chance to take a child’s pose, they always take it instead of the extra flows. It makes these people I idolize (let’s face it, I do), seem more human and my own struggles seem so normal. This week Christi-an (Kula’s director), admitted that she practiced for eight years before she thought she was good enough. And of course that seems crazy, especially because philosophically yoga isn’t concerned with goals, or even really progress, just doing what you can at the time. So in this middle leg my takeaway is a rather obvious but necessary reminder: that it’s hard for everyone, and even in tears, even flailing about trying to do a handstand, it’s just the doing it that matters.



JK Guest Post: The 30 Day Yoga Challenge: Day 10


Jen, aka JK, is often my partner in crime in book-related and fitness-related things . I’m really excited she’s decided to tackle this 30-day challenge with me and even more excited she wants to share this journey with all of you! Jen will be sharing updates about the challenge throughout the 30 days, so follow along! You can read her first post here. — Erin


This week was all about breath — paying more attention to it, cultivating more fullness. And that’s sort of worked, I still end up biting my lip off in some poses, my mind still wanders to dinner plans. But that’s okay. It’s still a work in progress. For the next 10 days I’m going to stay with that breath focus, but add length and fullness, in hopes that’ll give me more space in my poses.

After 10 days, I’m actually feeling pretty good. There was a low point of exhaustion from too many early mornings (I did 3 6:30 a.m. classes in 4 days) and not enough sleep, but I had a turning point in a glorious Power 8 class with Christi-an, and I think both Erin and I left feeling back on track.

I’m also pleased to have been able to keep up my other exercise, which has only been one run and one weights class, but when you’re already doing yoga every day, that’s an extra challenge, especially when it comes to finding the time. But so far this past week, doable.


The last 10 days in review:

Highlight: Going to an Aaron Slade hot hour class right after Body Pump class, and despite some quivering of muscles, leaving feeling so spacious and free (anyone who does weight training classes will realize how this seems like a total impossibility). Runner up: Holding a handstand with no wall and no help. (I still needed help getting up, but I’m working on it.)

Lowlight: Erin wrote about it: Wednesday morning Namaskar B extravaganza with Marinella. So many poses I dislike, so many times, so early. Another lowpoint came the next morning: I started comparing myself to the person next to me, and I wasn’t stacking up. So then I got a bit upset. And then of course, I got upset that I got upset, because yoga is supposed to be anti-competitive. But somehow I managed to leave it behind and finish the practice. And that’s the thing about even these low points: by the end you’re okay, even a little happy you went through it.

I’ve been trying to extend my practice off the mat for this challenge, and one of the tools I decided to use was Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project. Now I’m as skeptical of self-helpy books as the next person, but this one intrigued me: a classic overachiever decides she’s pretty happy, but wonders how she could be happier. So she makes resolutions each month targeting various areas of her life: from clutter and organization to parenting to friendship, and then analyzes the effect. The end result is interesting: she is happier, but it takes a lot of work. When you consider that the things in life that give us the most satisfaction are often the hardest, the ones that take the most dedication, it makes sense. But Rubin also posits that “it isn’t goal attainment, but the process of striving after goals — that is, growth — that brings us happiness.” It’s the Christmas morning effect: the anticipation of Christmas, the work, the preparation, is often more exciting than the morning itself. And that may be the case with this 30-day challenge. I like the sense of purpose it gives me; I like that Erin and I are in it together; I like the feeling of progress and achievement that are now a part of every day. When the project is over, I’ll have done it, and that’ll be a good feeling. But even with the hard mornings, even with the emotional on-mat mini-crises, it could be that the process of doing it will be a better feeling.


The video below has nothing to do with yoga, but JK and I made it, so obviously it’s worth watching. You can see more of our Books in 140 Seconds vids over a KIRBC. — Erin.