Spa Junkie at... Cotton House, Mustique

The battle between downward-facing dog and doggy paddle is a close one for our sea-bound yogi

Having warmed up on the beach, Spa Junkie is atop her surfboard and revved up for some yoga…

We gently paddle for 10 minutes, out into deep enough water and away from sharp rocks, before stopping in an area where the sea is still. Charity ties the cords of our boards to a buoy to prevent us from drifting off.  

We sit on our boards, ready to begin the sequence. I am instructed to lie flat on my back, tuck the paddle behind my calves and stretch out my hamstrings. My board sways a little and as I lean in to watch what Charity is doing, I find myself having to quickly realign my balance to keep in the centre of the board – and stay afloat.

I sit up, stretch out my legs and hold the paddle up, to stretch the upper half of my body, and twist from side to side. I then kneel and, keeping the paddle raised above my head for balance, again twist from side to side. Now for the hard part: I place the paddle on the board and push against it for support as I stand up. Just as I am fully upright, ripples from a fishing boat that’s cruising by reach us. I wobble, but don’t fall. We repeat the stretch-and-twist exercise standing up. Its really tricky to stay balanced ­– I have to think about where and how to position myself and use my core and legs to stay stable.

I am instructed to lie my paddle down and tie it to the board’s leg strap so that it won’t float away. I then get into a seated position and take up a hero’s pose – right hand on my left knee, left hand behind me, then twisted to the right, gazing over my right shoulder. Inhaling deeply, I return to the centre, exhale, and repeat the move on the other side. I remain on the board: it’s a relatively simple pose to start off with.

Now we move on to all fours and assume the downward-facing dog position. I spread my fingers wide apart, curl my toes under me, and lift my derrière up in the air, particularly focusing on pulling in my navel to the spine to engage my core. Charity instructs me to hold the pose for 30 seconds. I’m a little wobbly as I bend my head forwards, but still, no capsizing yet!


“Not only does this pose activate the core muscles, it also helps to elongate the calves and hamstrings, as well as strengthening the upper back and shoulders,” says Charity. “Now, try and walk your feet forward through your hands and sit down on your bottom. I try to make sense of this but my confidence falters. As I creep forwards, I begin to wobble uncontrollably, the board slips out from underneath me ad – splash – in the water I go.

I laugh. Charity has a twinkle in her eye: “The quicker you become used to the idea of falling into the water, the better you'll feel and the easier it will become,” she says. She waits for me to clamber back up and into a kneeling position, and then it’s straight into a downward-facing dog. I take it a little slower and successfully manage to transition into a cross-legged seated position.

“Good. Now, on your belly,” she calls. “Inhale and lift your upper body up, stretching your legs out straight behind you.” We slowly move into a cobra position. I am reassured by the contact with the board. From here we rise up into upward-facing dog. I press the tops of my feet into the board, and lift my thighs. Gently exhaling, I manoeuvre myself back into the downward-facing dog.

Now for the dreaded crescent lunge, a notoriously tricky move, even on dry land – if I overshoot the balance of the lunge by a fraction, it’ll be game over. Frantically grabbing the sides of my board in a last-ditch effort for balance, I lunge. Success. We then move into a bow pose followed by forearm plank. My arms quiver uncontrollably.

To finish, I sit on my heels, head resting on the board, arms stretched out before me in a child’s pose. I then move into a bridge, where Charity encourages me to hoist one leg up. Fearful of toppling off, my attempt is rather pitiful.

“Time for relaxation,” says Charity. She instructs me to lie flat on my back, knees drawn up, my hands with the palms face up. “Let your hands float on the water,” she says. I close my eyes and simply drift for a few minutes. It’s a huge relief after the preoccupations of staying afloat.

We paddle back to the shore. I feel excited and raring to go again – impulsively, I book another swim and paddle-board yoga class for the following day.

My muscles, quads in particular, ache for most of the afternoon.


Next up: Spa Junkie’s bête noire – the dreaded headstands. Check back on Saturday February 16.