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Yoga or Pilates? Exploring Miami's Paddleboard Workouts

Pilates or yoga? Fitness decisions can be hard, especially when they involve stretching under the sun on a paddle board. Yes, your favorite weekend water activity can be amplified with sun salutations or spine twists, but how do you decide between either?


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Before you commit to one or the other, it's important to understand what sets the art of contrology and the practice of letting go beyond their schools of thought, so you can choose whether teasers or downward dogs are right for you. If you've never hopped on a paddleboard or even a yoga mat, don't fret! We explored both to help you decide, and found that both are more different than they seem.

Pilates H20

Taking place every Saturday at 9am through October (and hopefully indefinitely!),Pilates H20 isn't just a Pilates lesson on a paddleboard: it's a full-on half hour paddleboarding session followed by 45 minutes of basic to intermediate Pilates moves. The concept was created by Pilates in the Grove owner Christa Gurka and Melina Cherry, inventor of SUP The Workout. At her Coconut Grove studio, she brings paddleboarding indoors on special machines. "We're the only ones to have these machines in the world," she says.

Photo: Pilates H2O

The class is held out on Biscayne Bay behind the U.S Sailing Center, which puts you right in the middle of Mother Nature's glory. Once Cherry has given you a full tutorial on paddleboarding basics (proper placement of your feet, how to hold your paddle, how to use your core to pull yourself forward), you'll start to feel something happening to your body now that you're doing it the right way. After about thirty minutes of standing on your board you'll get to lay down on your back, but don't think for a minute that it's time to rest; Gurka puts your abs, legs, and arms to work for the remaining 45 minutes. That's when the the real workout kicks in.

You'll do the quintessential Pilates "hundred," where you'll pulse 100 times with your legs hovering over the board at a 45-degree angle, forcing you to use all of your core strength so you don't topple over. You'll also do more planks than you've probably ever done on a Saturday, some bridging, and a slew of simple but effective spine stretching and twisting techniques. Think of it like a classic mat class, only you're floating above water.

"The goal is to find alignment," says Gurka, who offers constant guidance and reminders throughout the class, laying down the foundation for Pilates (whether you're a newbie or a pro) and taking you through the age-old practice just the way Joseph Pilates would have intended it to be.

Pilates H2O takes place on Saturdays at 9am at 2476 South Bayshore Drive. The class is $30 if you bring your own board and $55 if you don't. To reserve a spot, call 305-446-6899.

SUP Yoga at The Standard Spa

If you're going to practice yoga on a paddleboard anywhere, let it be at The Standard. The hotel's water sports director Mike Hirooka basically spearheaded the paddleboard yoga trend in Miami around eight years ago, and as of January it's become a permanent and imperative initiative for the holistic sanctuary.

Photo: The Standard Spa, Miami Beach

Clocking in at around two hours, you'll paddleboard for about 45 minutes and stretch for another 75. It's pricey, sure, but if you ring in the fact that you'll get to hang by The Standard's pool all day and use the hammam, then splurging on a Saturday doesn't seem so bad. The Standard's resident yogi Sara Quiriconi leads the H20 flow.

You'll warm up your skin and muscles by paddling out on the bay for a bit before finding your spot to anchor. Forget the fact that the sun is shining, the weather is sweet, and your current view of Miami's skyline and mansions forces your mind into a wishful wonder. You'll still zone out completely thanks to Quiriconi's zen-like guidance that spellbinds you to connect with the elements and, subsequently, with your inner self.

"Isn't that the point of yoga?" she asks softly. Before you know it you're hands deep into downward dogs, planks, chaturanga's, back bends, seated twists, and a few warriors sprinkled throughout. Eventually you'll come to savanasa, which seems a bit too soon but you know what they say: time flies when you're in the moment. The sesh comes to a close with some more paddleboarding, this time to a nearby island so you can scope out the ridiculous real estate.

Back on land, you won't just feel more grounded; you'll feel more connected overall through your mind, your body, and your soul. The only negative? SUP yoga is only offered one Saturday a month, so be sure to check the H2OM schedule to ensure you don't miss it.

Stand Up Paddleboard Yoga takes place once a month at The Standard Spa, located at 40 Island Ave, Miami Beach, FL 33139. To reserve a spot, book online or call (305) 673-1717.

The Verdict

All yogis will tell you there is no right or wrong, no better or worse, but rather everything is exactly what it's supposed to be at the moment when it's supposed to be. But to give you a more concrete description, even though both courses take place on a paddleboard, they are like night and day.

Yoga is all about fluidity and openness; Pilates is about restraint and control. So in the end, your particular strengths and weaknesses will define which will be more challenging. If you always need to be in control and have a hard time letting go, go against your own nature and sign up for paddleboard yoga. On the flip side, if you're too "go-with-the-flow," it'll be especially interesting and beneficial to practice the restraint you learn in Pilates.  Where Pilates and yoga, however, meet in the middle is in focusing all your attention on your breath, strengthening your core, being totally present, and furthering your practice wherever it may be.