KEY BISCAYNE (CBSMiami) — There are plenty of ways to get moving and healthy but there are some who develop strength, balance and piece of mind through yoga – on a paddleboard.
Christelle Chopard is one of those people whose gym is the waters of Biscayne Bay.
“We have all the elements we need,” said Chopard. “The quality of life and my work in life is about embracing nature and being in tune with the nature that surrounds us and is within us. I feel so privileged to be able to have this as my office,” Chopard explained to CBS4’s Rudabeh Shahbazi.
Chopard discovered paddleboard yoga in 2009 when she went to the beach to kitesurf but there was no wind. Instead, she found herself rising to a headstand on the calm waters. Already a certified yoga instructor, she started practicing yoga regularly on a paddleboard.
“I didn’t even think about it,” she said. “It just felt natural to me.”
Chopard had soon developed a program and got it accredited with the National Yoga Alliance. She has been training instructors to take their practice off the floor and onto the water since. Those instructors have spread the practice all over the world, all sharing in the same universal benefits.
“The element of water is very connected with the emotional body, so when you’re on the water and you feel this constant movement, it reminds us that it’s natural to be emotional in our lives, too,” said Chopard. “We have to navigate waves of emotion throughout the day, and I feel like practicing yoga on the water brings yoga to another stage, because it is not stable. So we have to find a certain stability, and a certain core centering, while being on this constant movement that is coming from nature and the elements. It also brings a lot of awareness with the environment, so I like to bring people on the water, so they get more sensitive to even clean the beaches, and be aware of the dolphins and the manatees, and all this beautiful environment that we have in Miami.”
Peggy Stora is one of Chopard’s students. Stora has transformed in more way than one, since trying paddleboard yoga.
“Physically, I totally changed my body,” said the 45-year-old.
“I think it is something that is a body and soul experience. Not only is the physic rebuilt, but your soul, your brain, your inner peace is reworked every time you do yoga on a paddleboard.”
Stora came to Chopard during a life transition. She was turning 40, going through a divorce and left her high-powered executive job. Stora says she was trying to figure out her place, and her next step in life.
Chopard took her out on the water, on a paddleboard for the first time in her life.
“She gave me the confidence to try,” said Stora. “There was no judgement, everything was OK, just breathe. I was trying to disconnect from the world, to reconnect with myself and the nature surrounding me and this is what the yoga on the paddleboard gave me at that moment in my life, so I really loved it.”
Now Stora says she cannot imagine going a few days without her paddleboard. She even started competing in paddleboard races, and met her boyfriend on the water. The two of them, along with their daughters make the activity a family affair now.
“I like the fact that you can go anytime you want, you’re not a slave of a schedule,” said Stora. “It’s not a closed door. There is no judgement, nobody competing with you. It’s just you, yourself and the nature around you.”
Stora has lost 20 pounds and built a lot of muscle. She has dropped the gym altogether, and she notices a huge difference in her metabolism, immune system, strength and focus. Paddleboard yoga also improves core strength and allows practitioners to use muscles they don’t normally exercise.
“It’s very relieving of stress and pressure that we feel in the body, because the water is smooth,” said Chopard. “It releases any stress that there is in the body which can also create some calcification in the body.”
The movement on the water also releases toxins. But most of all, Stora says, it brings her inner peace. Now, she says, it’s a mind-body-soul experience every time she works out, and has helped her bring her life in balance, and allowed her to focus on herself, her daughter and their happiness, a satisfaction that is addictive.
“You go back to the source, to the roots of what is life,” said Stora. “And you become much more spiritual and at peace with yourself.”
Stora and Chopard say the balance, adjustments and flexibility they find in their poses, carries over into their daily lives.
“You have one life,” said Stora. “You need to choose to be happy every single day, no matter what happens in your life. You need to challenge yourself, and you need to try to be nice with yourself, with everybody, and with Mother Earth. Try to go back to the roots. That is what we are missing these days.”
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