- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 28, 2015

July 28—In case a back-bending bridge pose isn’t hard enough, try doing it on water.

With a look that managed to span the gap between serenity and sheer willpower, Tara Beck popped, belly to the sky, onto her hands and the balls of her feet.

It would have been impressive enough on dry land; Beck was demonstrating the advanced asana — or yogic pose — while balancing on a stand-up paddleboard.

The latest craze to sweep the world of Zen-based fitness, paddleboard yoga is in essence a combination of surfing and yoga. It’s a common site on coastlines across the globe. But here in land-locked Pueblo? As it turns out, yes.

“It was kind of a whim,” said Lindsay Smith, an instructor at Pueblo’s Studio Share and the driving force behind the introduction of paddleboard yoga to Southeastern Colorado. “It’s been wonderful. It’s quite the experience.”

After learning about the benefits and growing popularity of paddleboard yoga, the Studio Share team took the plunge. Smith got certified to teach the classes, while studio owner Christina McCann procured seven inflatable boards and permission to take the classes to the water.

Specifically to Gateway Park on the Historic Arkansas Riverwalk of Pueblo. Thriceweekly classes started there in June.

Diving in

“It really was a huge leap of faith,” McCann said. “I didn’t know what (we would do) if it didn’t work.”

The boards, paddles, life jackets and rental fees for HARP cost about $5,500 — a significant investment for a nonprofit yoga studio that requests donations instead of charging tuition. But the students’ enthusiasm and responses, to say nothing of the waiting list of students, have made it all worthwhile.

“It’s such an investment, but at the same time it’s been so rewarding,” McCann said. “I’m glad I did it.”

Get centered

On a recent Monday afternoon, seven adventure-

some students paddled across Gateway’s lagoon to bend, stretch, flow, focus their breath and, in some cases, conquer their fears under Smith’s watchful eye. They ranged from experienced yogis — the bridge expert Beck is also a Share Studio instructor — to firsttime practitioners.

And Smith was gentle when encouraging each to find their centers despite the unstable boards and the breeze that ruffled the water.

“We’re surrendering to the water,” she quietly said, while students concentrated on holding their poses. “Let it take us where we may go.”

Melinda Luttrell wrapped up her hourlong class with a broad grin and soaked clothing. It wasn’t entirely clear if the moisture was from the river water seeping onto her paddleboard or the sweat from a good workout.

What was clear was her pride after successfully completing her first yoga class. Ever.

“I had a blast, it was fun!” a delighted Luttrell said. The weightlifter said she was looking for a different form of fitness. Safe to say she’s hooked on paddleboard yoga.

“This is something I thought wouldn’t kill me,” she said. “I would definitely do it again.”

A healthy practice

That’s exactly the sort of feedback that Smith is happy to hear.

Yoga in and of itself is healthy and healing, she said. Add in the element of water and the benefits intensify.

“It gives people the opportunity to be totally present,” she said. That’s because to properly perform the asanas, students must be completely focused on what they are doing. Distractions — be them weather, cars, animals or passersby — must be totally shut out.

For Smith, helping students to find their focus, balance and comfort in a foreign environment is a great reward.

“We, like all instructors, have our own journeys,” she said. “If I can help one person to heal and feel more sane, I have done my job.”

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(c)2015 The Pueblo Chieftain (Pueblo, Colo.)

Visit The Pueblo Chieftain (Pueblo, Colo.) at www.chieftain.com

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