Have you ever noticed how you feel when you are around water? Maybe it’s a sensation of being on vacation, or perhaps it immediately brings you back to memories from your childhood. Whatever it is, have you noticed that you feel different; perhaps it’s a feeling of calm, happiness, relaxation, connectedness with nature or an overall feeling of ease?
For me, there is something about the water that automatically calms me down whenever I’m around it, in it, hear it, see it or even smell it. It helps soothe my soul and it automatically calms down my nervous system. I especially notice this when I am on my stand-up paddleboard (SUP), gliding through the water, connecting with and listening to the sounds of nature as my paddle takes each dip. I feel a wonderful sense of freedom and oneness with nature.
As a SUP yoga teacher, I’m always looking for new ways to incorporate meditation and MINDFULNESS on the water. Mindfulness is a term that seems to be growing in popularity these days, and I found the perfect definition for it in a book that I’m currently reading called “Rising Stong” by Brene Brown. She describes Mindfulness as this:
“Mindfulness means maintaining a consistent awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment. It also involves paying attention to our thoughts and feelings without judgment or attachment. When we practice Mindfulness, our thoughts tune in to what we are sensing or feeling in the present moment, rather than rehashing the past or imagining the future.”
After doing some research online, I also found some interesting information on what’s called “Ecotherapy” and “Blue Mind”, whereby actual studies prove the positive effect of water on one’s overall health, which helps to encourage and improve Mindfulness.
Ecotherapy is best described as holistic healing practices based in nature, connecting with your surrounding natural environment, allowing you to reconnect to your senses and increase self-awareness. Which in another way, could be described as Mindfulness.
Blue Mind is the supporting science that shows how being near, in, on or even underwater can positively impact your overall happiness, mental health, productivity, self-awareness and connection to your surroundings in nature. In other words, being near water can help to encourage and improve Mindfulness.
Now that we know what Mindfulness is and how it works, here are a few tips to help practice Mindfulness:
- Take a comfortable seat. Sit with a tall spine, chin slightly tucked into your chest and eyes closed.
- Set a realistic time limit (i.e. 5-10 minutes for beginners)
- Start to breathe and deepen your breath. As you are breathing, start to notice any sensations in your body.
- As you breathe, notice if your mind starts to wander. When it does (as it will, this is totally natural), return to the attention of your breath.
- Be kind to your wandering mind. Don’t judge any thoughts. Just notice them, know what they are, labeling them helps as well (i.e. fear), and let them go. Then come back to your breath.
Being surrounded by any body of water can have a positive impact on your mind, body and soul. It helps calm and soothe your nervous system, reduces stress and anxiety, and increases your overall sensation of happiness, relaxation, connection with nature and connection within yourself.
SUP is both a great workout, a wonderfully meditative practice and an easy way to practice Mindfulness. Gliding through the water on your board, disconnecting from stressful environments and connecting to nature, it’s totally Zen. Practicing meditation and Mindfulness ON the water is a great way to calm your mind and tune into your body. If you notice a shift in how you feel while you are paddling, you are already practicing MINDFULNESS!
Words by SUP yoga instructor Adrienne Rommel