Things I Wish I Had Known Sooner: A Kayaking FAQ Part 1

Take a moment to think back to when you first got into kayaking, when you were the new kid on the block. Are there “little” things that you know now that you barely need to think about but that were a source of frustration or puzzlement in the beginning? After spending a summer teaching new kayakers and fielding all sorts of questions, I got inspired to put together a short list of things I wish I had known earlier in my kayaking experience. A FAQ for new kayakers, if you will. While this list is far from comprehensive, these are 

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Warm up with Turmeric

As we enter winter the days are getting shorter and the weather can feel cold and damp. A great way to balance the dark, cold and wet qualities of winter is to feed our bodies nourishing, warming foods and spices that heat up our digestive fire. Turmeric is one such heat-generating spice, and it’s a powerful anti-oxidant that gives curry it’s beautiful yellow color. It promotes digestion, optimal cell functioning, and supports the immune system. Curcumin is the active ingredient in turmeric, and is a powerful anti-inflammatory. Low-level inflammation is a significant part of chronic stress, as well as many 

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Yoga for Paddling: Basic Low Lunge

(Excerpted from Yoga for Paddling with Anna Levesque) Yoga for paddling emphasizes the importance of strengthening the muscles we underuse in paddling and stretching the muscles that we overuse. Our hips, low back, and legs experience a double whammy in our culture due to the time we spend sitting – at our desks, in our cars, watching TV, and so on. All that sitting can lead to chronically contracted hip flexors and hamstrings. Kayakers and canoeists also then sit in their boats. SUP paddlers are a little better off, but their lower bodies are still susceptible to imbalances. One yoga 

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Yoga for Paddling: Three-Count Belly Breathing

(Excerpted from Yoga for Paddling with Anna Levesque) Breathwork (Pranayama) is one of the eight limbs of yoga. According to yoga, the breath is our life force (prana) and can be manipulated to warm us up, cool us down, stimulate digestion, energize us or induce relaxation. Another benefit of breath control is to bring you to present moment awareness on your yoga practice, and to manage the effects of stress. Stress isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In her 2013 TED talk, health psychologist Kelly McGonigal explains how stress cannot simply be labeled as bad. She uses scientific evidence to show 

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Yoga for Paddling: Side Angle Stretch

(Excerpted from Yoga for Paddling with Anna Levesque) The muscles of the side body are mainly responsible for lateral flexion of the spine and hiking the hip. Kayakers and canoeists activate these muscles for hip snaps, performing the roll, edge control, and stability. SUP paddlers also use these muscles for balance and stability on the board, and when carrying the board by the handle. Stretching and strengthening the side body for full range of motion helps paddlers achieve better balance and control when paddling. Side angle stretch is a great pose for stretching the top side body and it is 

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Yoga for Paddling: Legs up the Wall

(Excerpted from Yoga for Paddling with Anna Levesque) Relaxation and stress management are important in maintaining our health, happiness and performance in life. This is especially important in our culture where the focus is almost exclusively on expending energy. Keep moving, keep busy, and keep striving. We fuel our bodies on the move and and sacrifice sleep in the name of ambition. There’s nothing wrong with being up to great things in life. It’s important to share our unique gifts with the world, and that requires action and energy. Having said that, it is unrealistic to think that our bodies 

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Yoga for Paddling: Simple Seated Twist

(Excerpted from Yoga for Paddling with Anna Levesque) The obliques are key muscles in the movement of torso rotation and tend to be chronically contracted in paddlers. Twists help to stretch the obliques, give our internal organs a good massage, stimulate digestion, and calm the nervous system. One of my favorite twists for paddlers is the simple seated twist. This is a gentle twist that invites the obliques to lengthen, keeps your spine supple, gives a gentle massage to the internal organs, and stimulates your digestive fire. Photo credit scottmartinimages.com Take a comfortable cross-legged seat on your mat. Sit up 

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Yoga for Paddling: Table Top Pose

(Excerpted from Yoga for Paddling with Anna Levesque) Core strength is an important element of effective paddling technique. A strong core assists us in sitting up tall and helps to protect our low backs from risk of injury. According to yoga, we are not striving for a “six pack.” In fact, yoga advocates for a soft, supple belly that allows room for our organs to function optimally and for our breath to be full and easeful. The optimal expression of a pose, according to yoga texts, includes both steadiness and ease. Core strength contributes to being able to hold a 

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The Shoshin of Kayak Instruction: The Beginner’s Mind

“In the Beginner’s Mind there are many possibilities. In the expert’s mind there are few.” – Zen Master Shunryu Suzuki In Zen Buddhism, the Beginner’s Mind is the idea of having an attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions when studying a subject, even when studying at an advanced level, just as a beginner in that subject would. I had the opportunity to experience this for myself this summer teaching beginner whitewater kayak clinics with Jill Wrenn at Mind, Body, Paddle. While I was there to teach brand new boaters how to whitewater kayak, I realize that I learned just 

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Nose Plugs and Neti Pots

I’m a nose plug addict. I admit it. I don’t like running rapids without them firmly squeezed in place. I’ve spent the moments before every rapid for the past 4 plus years worrying about where they were and getting them on my face. I thought they were my security. I figured if I had them on, then I would be calm if I flipped and I could focus more on my roll than the water shooting up my sinuses. Not necessarily true. I found out by experience but I’m stubborn and kept telling myself I needed them. Well, after having 

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Meet Anna Levesque

Anna Levesque is the leading expert on paddling instruction for women and yoga for paddling, including SUP Yoga. Named one of the most inspirational paddlers alive by Canoe and Kayak Magazine, Anna’s twenty-plus years of experience as an accomplished international competitor, instructor, coach and author has landed her in mainstream publications such as TIME, SHAPE and SELF.

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"When I went to see Anna I felt thoroughly depleted. By following Anna's suggestions, things really turned around! After several weeks of consistent use of her recommended Ayurvedic herbs, oils, and a few key dietary and exercise changes, I feel completely different. I have significantly improved sleep, mood, and overall vitality. I'm much happier!" - Libby Hinsley, Physical Therapist and Yoga Therapist at YogaRx.

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