Yoga on the water

Aqua yoga and paddleboard yoga in Dayton

By: Stacey Ritz

 Photo: Paddle board yoga instructor Amy Anslinger demonstrating her technique; photo: Bill Franz

“There is a woman who came to me and said that she would not be able to move if she did not continue to come to my class. She stated that her range of motion and balance has improved along with her self-confidence and reduced level of stress!” shared Dayton Youth & Recreation Services aqua yoga instructor Sarah Lydia Keihl-Steward. “It is a true inspiration to hear that something I went with on a whim has had such a positive reaction and a life-changing effect on most everyone involved.”

Starting in 2012, Keihl-Steward started teaching her aqua yoga class. It is the only class like it offered in the Dayton area. “The next closest locations would be Columbus, Akron or Cleveland.”

Aqua yoga is a combination of slow, low-impact motions that create rejuvenation in the body. You can allow your mind to escape while you focus on the easy flow throughout the 45-minute class session.

Participant Annette Bangerter shared, “I feel that I am getting a stronger core. Give it a try. You might be amazed at how much you can feel it in your muscles just after one class. This is a very good workout for people who prefer not to do an impact workout. The stretching and relaxing feelings I get from each class are my favorite things about aqua yoga.”

Janet Phillips is also an aqua yoga participant and explained, “It relaxes me. I hate to workout, but like aqua yoga.”

It is not necessary to have prior “land” yoga experience before hopping into the pool to try aqua yoga, just be prepared to relax and enjoy yourself as you provide your body with a much needed stretch. Instructor Keihl-Steward added, “This is a relatively new workout, however, it is growing in popularity with every breath we take. There are so many benefits aqua yoga can provide. Yogi studies have discovered improved health and fitness, as well as an increased mind-body connection and awareness. There have also been links to yoga decreasing the heart rate, blood-pressure, fatigue and depression with a lower risk of all the diseases that accompany these risk factors.”

If being in the pool is not your cup of tea, why not stand on the water instead of in it? Paddleboard yoga is another new trend that has come to the Miami Valley. Whitewater Warehouse and Wright State’s Amy Anslinger shared her experience. “The combination of combining two passions of mine, paddling and yoga, are what interested me in this exercise. I also enjoy taking my workout outside and being able to do yoga on the water/river.” Anslinger, a Level 2 American Canoe Association certified Stand Up Paddleboard (SUP) instructor continued, “I like the way the board reacts to my movement. If my balance or alignment is off, the board will respond and cue me to adjust my posture. SUP yoga, combined with stroke and speed work on the board, can be a complete work out. Combine the physical benefits with sunshine, water, fresh air and good company and it equals an ideal workout for the body and mind.”

Yoga is a non-competitive form of exercise. It is a way to connect the mind and body in a positive manner. All forms of yoga allow participants to enjoy their practice, as all levels are welcome and encouraged to attend sessions. While no experience is required prior to attempting aqua yoga, it is recommended that you take a yoga class or two prior to jumping on a board for a paddle board yoga session. In paddle board yoga, all participants are required to wear a life-jacket. Anslinger said, “Yoga is very popular and I believe as more people try paddleboard they will get hooked. For those who practice yoga and enjoy SUP, the combining of the two seems a natural progression.”

While both aqua and paddle board yoga are growing in popularity there are still many who are unaware that such activities exist.

“Try it – twice!” urged Keihl-Steward. “You might love it! In order to know for sure, I always suggest trying it twice. I always switch up the classes so that they are never exactly the same.” The Dayton aqua yoga instructor is also a competing synchronized swimmer with the Dayton Synchronettes – a team that most recently received third place in the 2012 U.S. Synchronized Swimming competition in Sarasota, Fla. She has been a swimming duet together with her mom since 2001. Keihl-Stewart encourages everyone to attempt something new as her favorite quote remains, “Your mind is like a parachute, it doesn’t function unless open!” It’s quite possible that you haven’t heard of aqua or paddleboard yoga until now. If you are searching for an exercise that will stretch your muscles and relax your mind, take your pick or try both. After all, you never know what you will enjoy until first you give it a try.

To learn more about Dayton’s upcoming paddle board classes offered by Whitewater Warehouse and Wright State Universities Outdoor Resource Center, please call 937.222.7020 or 937.775.5019. For more information about aqua yoga classes, visit


Reach DCP freelance writer Stacey Ritz at


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