The sun sparkled off the water and birds whistled as I walked up to the edge of Echo Lake in Mount Desert Island. The water lapped peacefully against the shore.
Unfortunately, my nerves didn’t match the serene setting.
I was there for a paddleboard yoga class — “research” for my accompanying article about the floating yoga trend making its way to Maine.
Our instructor, Alex Taylor, told me it’s the perfect beginner sport. Poses are easier, the wide boards float well and yogis are often more focused on the water than in a studio.
I was skeptical.
I’ve dabbled in yoga, but downward dogging while balancing on a board in the middle of a lake seemed like a stretch.
Yes, pun intended.
In general, I do better in the water than on land. I lack coordination and balance. So instead I swim, avoiding sports that involve running or doing anything with a ball.
Our class started with a safety lesson. With lifejackets strapped to the front of our boards, we checked our hand positions on our paddles one last time and took off. I started on my knees and was amazed at how balanced I felt.
Standing up, I paddled my way to one of the lake’s calm coves where we held class. We threw our anchors overboard so we wouldn’t float away, and after a reminder to stay present, we started with our hands together near our heart.
Class began with a few simple cat and cow poses. I took a moment to breathe and listened as I arched and rounded my back.
Water schlop schlopped against the board, a child squealed in glee far off in the woods and the sun warmed my shoulders.
I found my groove as we moved into sun salutations. It took a few tries, but my poses became more steady with each cycle.
Taylor encouraged us to challenge ourselves — as if floating on a 10 foot board wasn’t challenging enough.
The warrior pose was difficult as I struggled to find a way to balance my weight and still get a good stretch. Back bends were even tougher, especially considering it’s been 20 years since I’ve done one.
Crow almost did me in.
During this pose, a yogi comes completely off his or her feet, balancing knees against elbows. It takes concentration, core strength and balance.
Unfortunately, my first attempt was lacking at least one of those things. Face plant, ouch.
My second try was more or less the same, but at least that time I landed on my life jacket.
By the third, fourth, fifth and sixth times though I was holding the pose for at least a few seconds. Success.
The hour and a half had passed quickly. My spirit felt fulfilled, my lungs full of fresh air, and the sun was just starting to set.
And as we rolled up out of savasana, our final pose, two loons swam by, leaving gentle v-shaped trails in the water behind them. Not bad, Mother Earth.