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SUP yoga instructor Johanna Natri talks about how practicing yoga on the water amplifies its benefits.

Johanna Natri has been practicing yoga for many years, even training to become a yoga teacher. But it was when she met the owner of Natri Bros Surf and SUP, Jaakko Natri, who is now her husband, that she began practicing yoga on the water.

“When Jaakko and I started dating, we were collaborating, seeing what we could branch out into,” Johanna explains. Jaakko, always following the latest trends in standup paddleboarding, thought they could work together to offer SUP yoga classes.

Johanna started offering SUP yoga sessions in 2019, and participation increases every summer as interest in SUP yoga grows.

For classes, Johanna uses a SUP yoga dock, which is like a giant floating flower into which up to eight standup paddleboards can be attached, so that people don’t have to worry about drifting away.

“I feel that it helps people connect with nature a lot easier because we can get the yoga dock and paddleboards away from crowds on land, and we don’t even hear those distractions,” she explains. “You just feel the wind, the sun on your face. It helps people discover or rediscover their connection to nature.”

Although she isn’t the only SUP yoga instructor in town, Johanna says designing a SUP yoga session can be challenging even for experienced yogis because there is less stability on a standup paddleboard. The last thing you want is for people to lose their balance and fall into the water. Shavasana (the corpse pose) can be very chilly if wet, but she says nobody has fallen off during her classes so far.

“I design sequences that are inclusive,” she says, adding that her classes are appropriate for all skill levels. “I do mostly floor series so that people aren’t having to standup on their board and fall off.”

SUP yoga classes start in early June, and it can be cold at times. In the fall, classes wind down in September, although some paddleboarders prolong their SUP yoga season by wearing wetsuits.

Johanna says she learned to appreciate the benefits of yoga when she used to work as a nurse and suffered from chronic aches. “It was exactly what my body needed,” she says, adding that practicing yoga outdoors and on the water amplifies those benefits.

“SUP yoga, like any kind of yoga, calms the nervous system and thereby helps people go about their daily interactions with others,” Johanna says. “I feel that having the nature aspect of it just augments that.”

The weekly classes cost $25 and take place at Boulevard lake. People can bring their own boards, or rent one for an extra $10. Classes are announced on the Facebook group SUPerior Stand Up Paddleboarding. Johanna also offers private sessions for four to 7 people.

The majority of her students are women; many middle-aged women as well as younger ones in their 20s and 30s, she says. “Next year is going to be busier,” she says, “and we’re hoping to get more men.”

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