Failure. My shaman said it at the end our session the other day. It’s a word that’s been floating around in my head for weeks…since I started to teach SUP, actually. I can feel the fear of failing in the water from some of my students. In others that same fear of falling off the board feels more like empowerment. I think the latter is better perspective to have.
Teaching SUP yoga has allowed me a vantage point that I’ve never been exposed to before. So many of my students come with limited paddle board experience. They’re not only trying yoga on the water (which isn’t easy) but they are trying their luck at paddle boarding too. The likelihood of not being good at it is high…but I’ve watched every one of them succeed, in one way or another.
For the students that see the board as an added challenge and the possibility of getting wet an added bonus, they spend their time on the water searching for their edge. That sweet spot where they are pushing themselves to the point of falling out of the pose. I’ve watched so many step right up to the edge and stay just dry of it. But the ones that step up…and over…they come up out of the water with the biggest smiles on their faces.
Some may see that as a failure. The goal of SUP yoga should be to stay on your board…to stay dry. If that was the goal, we’d do the practice on land. It’s those folks that confuse the goal…see the possibility of failure…and say they want to try it but never do. Their egos can’t handle it because their perception of it is all wrong.
The goal of SUP yoga is to empower yourself. To take your practice and belief in yourself to the next level. Yoga on land is hard. Putting all the pieces together…breath…movement…alignment…takes focus and practice. When you add in the instability of a paddle board…the unpredictability of nature…the flow of the water…and then decide to do yoga…well, now that takes your focus and practice to an entirely different level.
Any bad habits a student has developed in the classroom are completely exposed on the water…and their penance is most likely to lose their balance and fall in. But the forgiveness of the water…the warmth of her hug as you take a plunge…summons a deeper inner strength. A resolve to climb back on the board and try the pose again…this time nailing it…or maybe not. It doesn’t matter, though…because the sense of accomplishment…of being completely focused on your alignment…breath…movement is the reward.
Those students that bring that mindset to the water, never consider falling off as a failure. They know yoga…like life…is a practice. That each day our bodies are different…the weather is different…the water is different…life is different. And each day they bring an attitude to do their best. To focus on the task at hand. To be present in the moment. To find a new level of peace…calm…accomplishment. Those students may leave my class wet…soaked to the bone…but they also leave with a smile…with laughter in their hearts…with a sense of evolving their practice.
Each time someone falls in the water, I cheer and holler for them. I tell their fellow students that we need to celebrate the fact that fell in the water. That now that they are wet, their practice will be completely different than it would have been…then it will be for the rest of us that are still dry. Gone from that student’s mind is the fear of getting wet….the fear of failing…because it happened. Just like that. For the rest of their practice, they will be searching for their perfect alignment…and their edge. When they find their edge, they may willingly step over it…pushing themselves just a little harder to come deeper into a pose…and they may get wet. But it won’t matter, because they already are.
SUP has taught me that there’s no such thing as failure. There’s only the mindset that you bring to your practice…to your life. From there, everything that follows is as simple as taking a little plunge…crawling back onto your board…and trying again.
See you on the water.