Spirit Level: Stand-up paddleboard yoga in Nottingham

03/05/2019 16:12

Written by Elizabeth Gowing

paddleboard-yoga-nottinghamTension? Of course I’m storing flipping tension! I’m trying to keep dry on a tiny bit of Styrofoam in the middle of a lake © Cassie Paxton

Cassie told me we would start with some relaxation.

‘So first check whether you’re storing any tension,’ she said, and instead of releasing, the muscles of my face twitched into an involuntary smile.

Tension? Of course I’m storing flipping tension! I’m trying to keep dry on a tiny bit of Styrofoam in the middle of a lake. I’m trying to face down childhood demons even though they’re sneaking up on me to tug me into the deeps with every shift of my body.

Nevertheless, I tried to scan my body, to let go (but not of that magic line drawn on the board to which I had to keep symmetrical). My board drifted under a willow tree so that light came to me dappled, and occasionally a leaf tickled my face while I lay like Ophelia, thinking about ‘muddy death’. I had looked at an information board near the lake before the class started, and the list of plants I could get tangled up in made for great Anglo-Saxon poetry. Bogbean, lesser water parsnip, water dropwort, fool’s watercress, spike-rush, common club-rush... I called myself all of these things and worse for attempting to negotiate with water when we had come to such a definite stand-off more than three decades ago. Round my ankle was a Velcro cuff attached to a long tough leash, so I wouldn’t lose the board even if I fell in. It made me feel like Princess Leia with the water as Jabba. I was aware of feeling enslaved, and not in a good way.

Cassie’s voice floated around me – she was steering her own board to keep up with the wandering course of mine – as she talked me through deep breathing. Her words got distorted off the water and the end of her sentences came from a different direction from where she’d started speaking. It was how I imagined the voice of God might sound – giving reassuring instructions from everywhere and nowhere. I could feel myself starting to settle. Perhaps I wasn’t going to drown today. Perhaps I wouldn’t even make a fool (or a bogbean) of myself.


Want to read more of Elizabeth's yoga experiences around the UK? Take a look at her book, Unlikely Positions (in Unlikely Places): 

Unlikely Positions in Unlikely Places yoga book by Elizabeth Gowing

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