Floating Yogis Find Balance

new business teaches yoga atop paddleboards

Sammy Gibbons, photos by Andrea Paulseth

WHATEVER FLOATS YOUR PADDLEBOARD. Sandy LaValley, owner and instructor at Floating Bliss Yoga, takes her classes out to various bodies of water around the area to practice yoga on stand up paddleboards.
WHATEVER FLOATS YOUR PADDLEBOARD. Sandy LaValley, owner and instructor at Floating Bliss Yoga, takes her classes out to various bodies of water around the area to practice yoga on stand up paddleboards.

Practicing yoga involves an unbelievable amount of balance. But imagine taking that to the extreme, standing in a one-legged tree pose on a wobbly board, fighting the forces of gravity that are attempting to plunge you into lake water. That is what Sandy LaValley and her students do in her classes. Her business, Floating Bliss Yoga, specializes in this challenging, yet relaxing SUP (stand up paddle) yoga practice.

SUP yoga is exactly what it sounds like: Yogis paddle away from the shore to an area of deeper water, anchor their boards, and begin to do regular yoga sequences while using all their balance to stay on the board (and dry). LaValley teaches her classes in a modified yoga style, meaning she gives various options for each pose in the practice, making them fit for all ages and yoga/paddling experience levels. Attendees can sit, kneel, or challenge themselves and stand – whatever is most comfortable for their bodies.

“I really like empowering people. It’s so awesome to take people out whose knees are shaking a little bit, like mine were, and then they eventually get the hang of it and come back thinking ‘What was I even worried about?’” – Sandy LaValley, Floating Bliss Yoga

LaValley has been teaching yoga for nearly five years and has been practicing for 15 years. Last summer, she traveled to Maryland and became certified to teach SUP, and began Floating Bliss after returning to Eau Claire and purchasing 14 paddleboards for students. The yoga instructor also teaches Fit Yoga and pilates-yoga fusion classes at the Eau Claire YMCA during the week, but hopes to do SUP yoga full-time in the near future, which may entail moving south during the winter. No matter where that takes her, she is thrilled to share SUP yoga, a relatively new yoga practice, with many others.

“I really like empowering people,” LaValley said. “It’s so awesome to take people out whose knees are a shaking a little bit, like mine were, and then they eventually get the hang of it and come back thinking ‘What was I even worried about?’ ”

I had the opportunity to paddle on Half Moon Lake with LaValley, and broke a sweat without even getting into the yoga part of the exercises. She has held classes here in the past, but now primarily hosts them at Lake Altoona beach and off the Dells Pond boat launch at Mt. Simon Park. She occasionally voyages to Coon Fork Campground and teaches in their boat launch area, which she says is her favorite place. It was a tad windy, which made paddling tricky and nearly landed me in some neon green algae, but with LaValley’s assistance I made it back safely. She says that wind is the main factor that would cause a class to be cancelled; her limit is winds of 17 miles per hour, and once they reach that point she will call off the session.

The instructor offers various prices for adults, kids, and people who need to learn the ropes, as well as event programs. Groups can book LaValley to teach classes at their events as long as there is water nearby. LaValley hopes to continue to do this and also expand her business in the next year. She wants to hire more instructors so that they can teach more often and at various locations, and potentially host a retreat at her ideal location, Lake Wazee in Black River Falls. She plans to continue instructing yoga, in some form, to students all over and spread her positivity and messages of empowerment.

“I think you can take the empowerment you get from yoga off your board into real life,” LaValley said. “We all need empowering, with so much negativity out there. We put up this armor, but so much stays in our hearts. With things like yoga, you learn to hear and accept things, but know how to cope with it. Yoga heals.”

Learn more at floatingblissyoga.com.