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6 reasons every paddler should practice yoga

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MEC Paddlefest is happening on Saturday July 12th at Willows Beach. This is a great chance to find gear and tips for SUP, kayaking and canoeing, meet fellow paddlers, and demo anything that floats. Hemma teacher, Tracey Cook, will also be offering two FREE YOGA CLASSES for paddlers at 10am and 2pm. Check it out!


6 Reasons Every Paddler Should Practice Yoga
by Tracey Cook

1. Pre-hab!
Sad but true — lower back, shoulder and wrist injuries bring down
many a paddler. Injuries can stem both from poor technique, and
from instability or tightness in key paddling muscles. Yoga can help.
A physical yoga practice strengthens, stabilizes, and reduces
tension in our shoulders; increases rotational flexibility and
strength in our abdomen and back; and increases flexibility in our
hips and hamstrings so we can paddle longer distances with
greater ease and comfort.
With yoga, paddlers will also develop the ability to better sense how
our bodies move in space. When we improve our proprioception
this way, we start to notice glitches in our stoke, and more easily
learn better movement patterns for fewer injuries and maximum
power. We learn how to move with efficiency — using only those
muscles that need to be working while letting other muscles relax.
If you learn to keep your face, neck, jaw, and shoulders soft on the
yoga mat; you can bring a soft face, neck, jaw, shoulders to the
water. All of this makes for a happier, healthier paddler.

2. Focus!
Whether we are racing, in hard training, or just in hard water, like
any athlete, paddlers need our heads in the game. In yoga, we
practice paying attention. Over and over and over again we draw
our minds back to the movements of body and breath. We teach
ourselves to be attentive, to stay cool under stress, to be fully
present to the challenge at hand.

3. Posture!
One of the many lessons the novice paddler soon learns is the importance of good posture. The alternative? An aching back and along face. It’s a hard-won lesson to be sure — we too often see paddlers slumping, their shoulders rounded and tense, chests closed, heads down or held with the chin jutting forward. Sound familiar?Watch great paddlers. They sit (or stand) tall, level heads floating over a long spine, shoulders relaxed and down, centred. In yoga, the goal is the same. Diligent yoga practice teaches us to recognize what correct posture feels like. We begin to notice when we revert to slumpiness, and we make corrections. With this understanding, great posture becomes habit on the water and in day-to-day life.

4. Breath!
Yoga teaches us to coordinate our breath with precise physical
movements, and to “breath into” parts of our bodies that need
attention. Paddlers can take these lessons on the water, using better
awareness of breathing patterns to paddle with maximal efficiency,
and fuel peak performance. Yoga also calls for slow, smooth, deep
breaths — the kind that will help paddlers remember to take a
pause, look around, and give it up for the beauty of our sport and
the places it take us.

5. Power!
Through a regular physical practice of yoga we can increase the
strength and range of motion of our shoulders and abdomen. But
more subtle than that, yogis also practice to “move from their
centre”. To find power from that reservoir of energy in the core of
their bodies. Learn this and you’ll be able to power your longer,
stronger stroke (and your life!) from your own centre.

6. That Feeling!
We get out on the water and we feel like a different animal. The
rhythm of the stroke is a moving meditation that connects us in
mind, body, and spirit to nature and the water. It’s bliss, and it’s why
we paddle.
Yogis understand that unique state of mind and soul, that peace and
connectedness — that bliss. It’s the reason we practice.
Double your bliss — become a paddling yogi!

Article by Tracey Cook
Tracey teaches yoga at Hemma and Total Body Chiropractic, as well as custom classes for private groups around Victoria. Tracey has a specialty certification in Yoga for Athletes with Sage Rountree. Tracey is a BCRPA certified Group Fitness leader and mother of two active girls. She is a former varsity basketball player (University of Alberta) and has coached kids basketball for the last 8 years. Tracey gets herself outside at every opportunity to swim, cycle, paddle, hike, grow food, run the trails, and, of course, to paddle. Contact Tracey at