Book Review: Yoga for Paddling-Kayakers, Canoeists, and Stand-Up Paddlers, by Anna Levesque
If you are a kayaker, canoeist, or standup paddler, Yoga for Paddling is a great book to not only understand more about yoga and what it can do to improve your paddling, posture and overall health, but it’s also a real-life tool for paddlers to become more aware of how their body functions. The author, Anna Levesque, is not only a 20+ years practitioner of yoga, a 500hr trained instructor, Ayurveda Health Counselor, but she is also a bronze medalist at the Freestyle Kayak World Championships, and a Whitewater Kayak and SUP Instructor Trainer. Needless to say, her depth of knowledge is immense in both paddling and yoga, which shines in Yoga for Paddling.
Yoga for Paddling begins by introducing yoga and the benefits it has for our overall wellbeing. Levesque does a wonderful job in keeping this straight to the point and to put it into terms that every athlete can understand. She then breaks down the anatomy of paddling by not only diagramming the specific muscles in the body that are most overused and underused in paddling, but also takes the time to explain the use and relevance of each muscle, or muscle group, to paddlers. From there, the next chapter explains key alignment principles to help with postural alignment in everyday life, paddling, as well as in the yoga poses she presents throughout the remainder of her book. Chapter 4 is all about breathing and how it can help with stress reduction and management. Outlining a few easy breathwork exercises, or pranayama, she gives the reader techniques to be able to prepare for any competition, daily challenges at work, or even simply being stuck in traffic.
Once the reader is set up with the knowledge of how to use props and a proper warmup to prepare his or her unique body, Levesque progressively and candidly explains how to get into each yoga pose safely and comfortably. Starting with the section on low back, hips, and legs; then moving to neck, shoulders, and upper back; core strengtheners; twits, and finally ending with the relaxation pose, Yoga for Paddling intelligently moves the body through yoga postures that counteract the over-active muscles in paddlers. Reinforced by the practical explanation of why each posture is important, the concise and clear instructions for each posture makes the book easy to follow.
Before taking the practice from land to water, Levesque offers guidance to the reader on how to structure the provided postures into a flow or balanced routine. It’s there where she offers three sample sequences moving through gentle, active, and vigorous levels of movement. I love how she reminds us as the reader-athlete, that more isn’t always better, and that there is great value in taking time, to not only balance our bodies muscularly, but also energetically- allowing the mind and body to fully recover before pushing the limits once again.
Finally, Levesque finishes with inviting us to join her in her second home, on the water. Pulling from postures we learned previously, she explains and shows us the difference a stand-up paddleboard can make in our practice. The instability of the board brings a new element of control and strength, which should be respected and used as a tool to better understand our practice on land, not as an platform for an ego-boost. Levesque reminds us, especially as yogis, even though we might think we can just hop into a challenging pose on the board we do on land, that any compensatory patterns or overactive muscles we have been trying to rid our bodies of, will inevitably take over on water. It’s just the body scratching for any extra stability it can find.
Yoga for Paddling, is a very smart, comprehensive resource for kayakers, canoeists, and standup paddlers alike, to learn the holistic benefits of yoga, broken down into terms the “non-yogi” can easily understand and implement into their sport, as well as their daily life. As a yoga, SUP yoga, and Pilates instructor, and an avid paddler myself, I highly recommend reading Anna Levesque’s Yoga for Paddling, to any paddler who is interested in learning more on how yoga can be of a benefit to them in their specific sport, or to any yogi or yoga teacher who is interested in learning more on how they can formulate a session to benefit those who paddle. Published as a paperback, it is available for $24.95.