Paddling & Yoga
It might be hard to imagine right now, because of the 6 foot tall snow banks, but there is an ocean that needs to be played in. Like a lot of people from Newfoundland, and I am sure Nova Scotians as well, I have a strong connection to the ocean. Three and a half seasons of the year I have my 17 foot sea kayak out, and I’m exploring the beautiful, special place where the earth and water meet. There is no better way to see this then from the two feet high vantage point that the sea kayak offers. When I am out on the sea and there is nothing except the wind and the swell and my thoughts I feel more connected to earth then ever before.
Yoga and paddling are a perfect pair. I feel almost exactly the same on the water as I do on my mat; close to earth; a part of something greater then myself; connected to everything. When I am on my mat, the more I let go of tension the easier I can stay connected to my breath and stay focused. I keep that philosophy on the water. The sea can be hostile and when I am in my boat, I breathe and stay relaxed and I ride out the situations that are scary or challenging. Yoga is the best teacher.
The physical benefits of yoga help enormously with sea kayaking both on and off the water. The balance and flexibility I gain from my yoga practice plays such an important role on while paddling. Kayaking is all about how your body and your boat become one and you need to feel the water under you and let your hips and upper body move independently of one another. That balance is needed to stay upright when the water gets challenging. When I am off the water, my body can usually feel pretty stiff and sore from the position in the boat after a full day of kayaking. I often spend my trip breaks doing a little flow to keep my body happy.
A stiff back, tight shoulders and hamstrings are some of the places that get especially sore after a long day on the sea. Practicing yoga brings those muscles and joints back to where they should be. I try and bring the ocean to my practice as well, and visualize the ocean swelling up and then receding as I focus on breathing in and out.
The ocean is a great reminder of how to live, it’s always beautiful now matter if it’s in turmoil or calm and serene. I think that’s a great lesson to take to my mat.
~ Nick Bolger