Guest Scribe Nadia Bonenfant: Om to Freshwater & Connecting to Samana Vayu
I remember the first time I saw someone drop into a wave on a paddleboard. I had just arrived at some friend’s house in Hanalei Bay on the garden island of Kauai in Hawaii. I was tired from the flight and needed to jump into the ocean to connect and wake up. It had rained all day and the ocean felt cooler then what I had imagined. The freshness, however, was invigorating and the view around the bay was out of this world beautiful. Lush green mountain peaks, hanging mist, rainbows and beautiful rolling swell. My heart was pleased.
I was out at a break called Pine Trees with some girlfriends and a Hawaiian elder in his mid-seventies joined our little group. He had the best smile and his energy was contagious. He was out on a paddleboard. This man not only dropped gracefully into the rolling waves but he would shout us in, sharing the stoke of being out on this early evening session. The wind started blowing offshore and I remember all the water droplets landing on my face as the paddleboard man would catch the waves a few feet away from me. That day, I was sold on paddleboarding.
After living on Vancouver Island for ten years and traveling to places like New Zealand, Australia, Western Samoa, Central and South America, I moved home to Quebec to settle back into my roots. It is here, landlocked into the Canadian Shield that I truly picked up paddleboarding. It’s my way of connecting to the spirit of Aloha. Of connecting to the water and the quiet and serene beauty in this part of the world. Of connecting to the changing rhythms of the four season’s, allowing oneself to become part of a vibrant and lake filled ecosystem.
Teaching yoga on a SUP has just become a natural progression of both my yoga and my paddling practice. My teacher in Los Angeles, Shiva Rea, speaks of “Jala” – water -and our important connection to this element. What I love about Shiva’s teachings is that they allow us to discover and tap into our Pranic Energy. The Prana Flow method, developed by my Shiva, is the perfect approach to practicing out on the water. SUP Yoga is incredible to activate balance, vitality and focus as you need to consistently be aware of the energies moving in your body to be steady and aligned. I always share with my students the following concepts to help them along their personal practice on SUP’s.
1. To become stable on your board and in your heart, body and mind you have to connect your upward (Prana Vayu) and downward (Apana Vayu) moving energies and find strength at your center (Samana Vayu). Much like if your navel is a dividing line between the energy rising and lifting you in a pose and the energy being rooted, moving down and stabilizing the pose on your board.
2. Remember to flow from the navel and feel the sense of transformation in your body and breath and stay connected to your Samana Vayu. This will allow you to move from one posture to the next. Your navel becomes the vortex of energy, guiding your breath and your flow.
3. Once you are aware and can start to work in connecting your Vayus, then the practice just becomes this much better and you relax, soak in the scenery and start to connect to the power of Jala, of the water as it gently rocks you, release’s you and ultimately invigorates you.
Jala-inspired yoga sequencing is at the base of what I love to teach while out on our floating mats as well as before we get out on the water. We then place our paddle in front of us and bring our forehead and nose to the shaft of the paddle. Breathing in from the crown of the head and connecting to the “danda or staff” which is our paddle. There is something powerful when we breathe consciously and connected to the paddle – almost like a ritual before we enter the sacred space of the lake or the ocean.
It’s a way of recognizing the force of nature and the connection our breath has to the elements. The gesture becomes symbolic, very much like a hongi, a mindful nose-to-nose greeting in the Maori tradition. The hongi has a deep and spiritual meaning to the Maori people. It represents the beginning of mankind when the maker was said to have blown air into our nose to give life force. I was lucky enough to be part of greeting ceremonies and Mau rakau workshops (traditional Maori martial art using a staff know as a Taiaha) while living with my friend Matanuku’s family on the Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand. Certainly an experience that stayed with me and now shines in our SUP yoga practice as we use our own paddles as staffs to find balance and strength.
Ultimately, the entire practice connects us to the soft pulse of the lake moving under our boards and the vital forces of life, of Prana. SUP Yoga has become popular over the last few years. In my eyes, not so much as a trend but because it allows our practice and our breath to become one step closer to the greater energy, to the pulse of life, of balance and of surrendering into the moment. So, if you have doubts about your ability in trying SUP Yoga at the festival – don’t. Join our team on beautiful Lake Tremblant, and surrender to the elements, find YOUR balance inwards and out. And if balance seems to not rendez-vous right away on your SUP, well you will get refreshed and invigorated by the clearness of the water in the lake! An awakening either way.
~ Nadia Bonenfant has been teaching yoga for over a decade an is consistently inspired by the changing elements around her. A student of Shiva Rea, she now travels around North America leading Surf+SUP Yoga retreats through her business JUNA Yoga as well as leading SUP Yoga Teacher Trainings. She is a SUP, surf and snowboard instructor and finds great benefits in blending her passion for self propelled sport to yoga. An ambassador with lululemon, YogaEarth and Kahuna Paddleboards, she lives in Mont-Tremblant, Qc. and feels blessed to be walking down the path of flow and vitality. Check out her Yoga & Surf retreat in Hawaii, Oct 4th - 11th, 2013.