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Paddleboard yoga offers physical, mental rewards

When someone is doing traditional yoga, they do not have to be concerned with falling off the mat.

It is a different story with stand up paddleboard yoga.

"Paddleboard yoga demands even more focus, or you are in the water," said Columbus yoga instructor Charlotte Gallagher.

Overcoming the fear of falling is part of the training.

She explained that trying to not fall gives a person's core muscles an even better workout than normal.

"It is more challenging," Gallagher said.

Gallagher teaches paddleboard yoga for Whitewater Express.

While kayakers battled rapids Saturday in the Chattahoochee River on one side of Waveshaper Island, Gallagher held class on the other side of the rocks in a much calmer place.

The women went through several poses. Nobody fell despite transitioning poses being more difficult on the board.

"Even for someone who regularly does yoga, this is getting a little bit out of their comfort zone," she said.

Whether on a mat or paddleboard, the results of yoga are the same -- better body awareness.

"It is a way to find strength, balance and flexibility at the same time. It is about harmony in both the mind and body. It is about mental clarity," she said.

Breathing exercises play a key role.

"Yoga is about breathing and letting your breath guide your movements. It is very calming," she said.

According to information from the American Osteopathic Association website, benefits of yoga include increased flexibility, increased muscle strength and tone, improved respiration, the maintenance of a balanced metabolism, weight reduction, cardio and circulatory health and protection from injury.

The relaxation techniques can lessen chronic pain, lower blood pressure and reduce insomnia.

With paddleboard yoga, the person is out in the sun and wind, which Gallagher said adds a lot to the experience.

At the end, everyone just lies on their back and meditates.

"We let the body recharge its battery and get refreshed," she said.

Gallagher said yoga is very good for relieving stress. She began having anxiety attacks when she was a teen and took medication for the problem until she discovered yoga. "Yoga changed my life," she said.

Gallagher and Whitewater Express offer three groups of paddleboard yoga sessions.

There is a beginner class for people who are true beginners to yoga, people with limited athletic experience, and people recovering from an injury or surgery.

Most of the class will be seated and kneeling with standing optional.

The all levels or Vinyasa flow class is designed for anyone no matter the person's yoga or paddleboard experience.

The core focus class welcomes all levels. In this class, more advanced yoga poses, arm balances and some Pilates work is done to strengthen the core muscles.

For more information, visit facebook.com/paddleboardyogacolumbusgeorgia.

You can send Gallagher a Facebook message or text her at 205-937-7081.

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