Doing Paddle Yoga Is A Balancing Act

When Leah Vernon found out she was moving from California to Hawaii last February, she decided to look for new things to do and found a picture of a girl doing a headstand on a paddleboard. She wanted to try it, so she rented a board, did it, and decided it’s what she needs to do every day.

“Just being on the water, right there alone has a healing effect,” she says. “It’s soothing, and when it moves, it pushes you into deeper stretches and works muscles you’re not used to working.”


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Leah Vernon of Yoga Kai practices yoga on a stand-up paddleboard at Ala Moana Beach NATHALIE WALKER PHOTOS

A certified yoga instructor, Vernon moved to Oahu with her husband Clayton, a Navy pilot. When they arrived, she quickly discovered there were already countless yoga schools here, but not many paddle yoga companies. So she went back to California in May and got certified in paddle yoga through a company called Bliss in San Diego.

In October, Vernon launched her company Yoga Kai, offering SUP yoga classes at Ala Moana Beach. All levels of experience are welcome. She provides the paddles and boards, which have a boat anchor attached and are designed specifically for paddle yoga.

“It’s longer and wider,” she notes. “And the most important thing is they have a longer deck pad, so you can stretch out into yoga poses.”

The class lasts about 90 minutes and starts with a breathing exercise, followed by a sequence of poses and then some play time.

“We start low to the board, and as confidence builds so do the poses,” she explains. “It’s definitely more of a core work-out because your core is fully engaged throughout the whole class, and it helps you to learn correct alignment. You can get away from doing things improperly on a mat, but on a board you’re going to fall off.

“The other thing about paddle yoga is you’re constantly focusing. You can’t just show up late or walk off your mat. You have to commit to it.”

Cost is $39 for a single session with board rental ($29 for your first class), or $22 if you bring your own SUP board. Vernon, whose son Ambrose turns 2 on Jan. 16, also offers Mini and Me classes for parents and kids age 18 months to 12 years.

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