Can you feel a difference in your body and mind when you are near, in, on or under the water? There is now scientific evidence on the waters positive effects on us and its ability to make us relaxed, at peace and in harmony. And the good news is that we don’t necessarily have to be by or on the water to access the positive effects, there are also other ways that allow us to receive its benefits.

This phenomenon, called Blue Mind, has inspired me a lot and also the name of my company – Yoga Blue Zense. The water has always been my main element. I more or less grow up in a sailing boat and lots of my childhood memories and first experiences were near, in or on the water. When I found SUP yoga it was the perfect match for me; the combination of yoga and being on a SUP board on the water is amazing, getting all the positive effects of the yoga enhanced by the healing and calming benefits from the water.

The amazing impact of water

I recently came back from a business trip to Helsinki. As I entered the hotel room where I was staying during these two days, I was astonished by the view that opened up. Right in front of me, as I came into the room, there were big windows facing the harbor – and since it was on the 13th floor it was also possible to see the sea further ahead and into the horizon with blue water, small islands and a couple of sailing boats. At once when my eyes and brain took in the view I could immediately feel a rush of satisfaction overwhelming me and how every cell in my body was starting to relax. Amazing feeling! So close to the water but still so far away that I could not reach it, smell it, hear it or touch it – still it impacted me, invoke all that feelings and a state of relaxation in my body and mind. It is truly magic that the water can have that effect on us!

Water is my element

The water has always been my main element. I more or less grow up in a sailing boat and lots of my childhood memories and first experiences were near, in or on the water – by the sea, swimming, sailing, sea kayaking etc. We had a summer house in the archipelago together with our grandparents and spent most of the summer weeks there by the sea when I was a child.

One of my earliest memories from my childhood is laying in the forepeak of our sailing boat. It was not a fancy boat at all, rather a small kind of motor sailing boat and as small as it was I could really feel the power and turbulence of the sea at windy rough wavy days and the peace and harmony settling in at calm days. I can still remember and yet again get a sense of those feelings back from that times, it is like I have them saved as memories in my nervous system.

I truly believe that this has really impacted me, my relationship with water and in some ways steered the choices I have made in life. I have always been attracted to the sea and the way it makes me feel. Whenever I need to calm down, reduce stress, re-load, create balance, heal in any way, even celebrate a success or just enjoy the moment – I do it best by the water. It has become the sanctuary for my body, soul and mind and the perfect place to boost both physical and mental health and well-being.

Nowadays I live in the archipelago close to the sea and are able to enjoy it on a daily basis; taking a walk or run by the sea, windsurfing, swimming, stand up paddling, doing SUP yoga, sitting by the sea watching the waves roll in or enjoying a mirrorlike smooth water surface on a calm day, or just seeing it through the bus windows to and from my work in the city.

Water enhances the SUP Yoga and Savasana experience

When I found SUP yoga it was the perfect match for me. The combination of yoga and being on a SUP board on the water is amazing. You get all the positive effects of the yoga enhanced by the healing and calming benefits from the water. And ending the SUP yoga with Savasana on the board with the sky as your ceiling and the water softly rocking the board, feeling the wind and sometimes the sun or even rain drops, completely resting on the board, relaxing every muscle and cell, fingertips in the water, landing the movements from breath work and yoga asanas in your body letting it sink in to your nervous system – when doing this I can feel almost the same sensation of peace and harmony as I did as a child in the sailing boat.

“This is the first time I managed to completely relax and rest in Savasana”, “I feel completely relaxed”, “The effect lasted until the next day” – are quite common feedback I get from students in my SUP yoga classes. Several SUP yoga participants have told me that they normally have difficulties to relax in life and also at a yoga mat in a yoga studio or at home, but that they in the Savasana on the SUP board managed to do it for the very first time. Both physically – body wise, and mentally – mind and soul wise. And the effect often lasts for hours – or even days.

Laying down resting on a SUP board in the water helps us to relax our body, mind and soul in several ways. The gentle movements of the board physically rocking our body, by the changes of the water, are really calming for our parasympathetic nervous system which helps the body to relax. The sound around us and the visual input is simplified on the water, which gives our brains, minds and senses some rest due to fewer impressions to take in. Being on the water close to all the elements of the nature feeling the water, wind, waves, sun, fresh air etc also helps us to relax mentally, being more present here and now, more focused and aware, being more in our body and more mindful (or rather “mind-empty”).

Scientific evidence on Blue Mind effect

There is also scientific evidence on the waters positive effects on us and its ability to make us relaxed, at peace and in harmony. Wallace J. Nichols brings many of them up in his book (great read!) “Blue Mind”. He is summarizing this human-water connection as a “mildly meditative state characterized by calm, peacefulness, unity and a sense of general happiness and satisfaction with life in the moment”. The short explanation for this is that near, in, on or under the water our senses are alive at the same time as our brain gets some rest due to considerably fewer stimuli than usual, which is giving other areas of the brain associated with emotions and pleasure more space providing a calming influence that is even scientifically measurable. And the good news is that we don’t necessarily have to be by or on the water to access Blue Mind, it might be easiest on the water but there are also other ways that allow us to receive its benefits. This phenomenon of Blue Mind has inspired me a lot and also the name of my company – Yoga Blue Zense.

The reaction is individual

So, next time you are near, in, on or under the water – notice how you are reacting. Can you feel a difference in your body and mind? What are you feeling? The reaction is for sure very individual and based on your previous experiences. But one thing is certain, the water usually evokes some kind of emotions.

The combination of yoga and being on the water is truly magical – if you have not tried SUP yoga yet I can really recommend you to try it. The most common barrier I hear is that it seems too difficult – and the most usual comment I hear after someone tried for the first time is that it was easier than they thought and that it enhanced the yoga experience, made them feel more relaxed, focused and at present.

“The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.” (Jacques Yves Cousteau)

Hope to see you on the water!

Helena Starkenberg