Yoga on an Inflatable Mat in a Pool? Sure, Why Not

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With pool yoga, like many things in life, the hardest part is starting. That’s what I discovered as I very inelegantly crawled onto my floating yoga pad, my knee dunking one edge of the mat into the water, creating a puddle that would remain for the rest of class.

I recently tried aqua yoga, also referred to as floating yoga, during a stay at Unico 20º87º in Riveria Maya, Mexico. I was there to attend the resort’s annual Aura Wellness event, which consists of self-care and fitness activities like this one.

I should note that I’m an absolute yoga beginner. (Is there a word to indicate a level below beginner?) While I admire those who practice yoga regularly, and can imagine its benefits, I’ve just never gotten into it. That said, I do consistently work out and take barre classes several times a week, so I felt somewhat prepared to try the unique class. Here’s how it went.

What Is Aqua Yoga?

Aqua yoga is pretty much what it sounds like: a yoga class taking place on an inflatable pad in some form of water, typically a pool or the ocean, instead of a mat on a floor — because that would be far too easy, right? Some similar variations can take place on a paddleboard or simply in the water with more of a lower-body focus. (There’s even a vintage PS fitness video for that.)

Like aerial yoga, the workout makes traditional yoga slightly more challenging because you have to carefully maintain your balance throughout the entirety of class. Each class is different, but participants can likely expect to mostly move through a variety of seated poses: cat-cow, one-leg boat, and spinal twists. Though you likely won’t find yourself fully standing at any point, especially in a beginner’s class, some more challenging moves may consist of a straight-arm plank, low crescent lunge, and a Chaturanga.

My Experience Doing Aqua Yoga

As I arrived to aqua yoga, I felt relaxed. It was a little before 8:00 a.m. The sun was just starting to cast a golden glow over the pool, and all the inflatable pads were neatly lined up. Despite observing others make it onto their mats just fine, I still found it hard to gracefully hop on without dunking the pad in the water, as I previously mentioned. But regardless, I made it on.

The class began with a kneeling backbend to gently wake up the body. After a few cat-cow poses, followed by child’s pose and cobra stretch, I started to work up more of a sweat with a few tricep pushups. Then downward dog flowed into a straight-arm plank, a cycle we’d repeat a few times throughout class.

Because my pad was located next to the jacuzzi, which was running at the time of class, I sometimes found it hard to hear the instructor, and so I would be a move behind everyone else or facing the wrong side as my neighbors.

Chaturanga was sprinkled in throughout the class, sort of like a punctuation mark added on to each series of poses. (Bad news if you’re me and haven’t quite mastered Chaturanga yet.) More kneeling backbends followed, kneeling twists we held for quite a long time, and then some single leg raises, which felt familiar from barre. We ended the class with some simple seated ab work, and got to lie down as our instructor offered a mini sound bath meditation.

All in all, I found the workout was slow moving and graciously appropriate for participants of all levels, but because it all took place on an uneven surface, my core was definitely working overtime to stabilize throughout. Movements that would normally be easy on solid ground, like a seated twist, took on new meaning in the pool. Mind you, the entire class is moving in synchronicity, meaning that small waves would ripple each time we’d collectively move to a new position, making it even harder to balance on the pad.

Now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for: did I fall in? Shockingly, no. Despite minimal coordination getting on and off the pad, I managed to make it through the class without falling in the water.

That said, the poses we were doing weren’t terribly complicated. If you take a more advanced class, swimwear might be an appropriate choice in the event you fall off your pad; I did consider wearing a swimsuit during the class, but truthfully, I’m just not there yet in my confidence journey. And perhaps, in the end, being in full-blown workout clothes motivated me that much more to stay on that damn pad.

Aqua yoga is definitely a fun way to switch up your usual yoga practice, whatever that might look like. (The challenge may be in finding a nearby class since it’s a pretty niche workout.) I would certainly try it again if the opportunity presented itself, but in the meantime, I’ll keep working on my Chaturanga on land.

Kelsey Garcia is the associate content director of POPSUGAR Balance, where she oversees lifestyle coverage, from dating to parenting and financial wellness. Kelsey is passionate about travel, skin-care trends, and changes in the social media landscape. Before joining the POPSUGAR team more than eight years ago as an editorial assistant, she interned at Elle and Harper’s Bazaar, among other publications.

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