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Yoga gone wild

North Shore Stand Up Paddleboarding owner Heather Holmes (from left) performs a yoga position with students Kay Held and Nicole Whelan on stand-up paddleboards recently in Duluth. (Steve Kuchera /

Kay Held was leaving nothing to chance.

“You swear we’re not going to fall?” she asked Heather Holmes.

The simple answer was “Yes” from the co-owner of North Shore Stand Up Paddleboarding.

Holmes guided Held and her friend Nicole Whelan out onto Superior Bay and around Park Point and the Duluth-Superior Sailing Association dock.

It was a reasonable question from Held, since the plan was to anchor the boards and then practice yoga in waist-deep water.

Holmes and her partner, Garrett Russell, have been offering paddleboard lessons for the past two years. And Holmes offers yoga as well, part of what’s become a summer trend in the Twin Ports and across yoga circles nationally: Practicing the meditative art in the outdoors.

Held and Whelan did fine. They are gymnasts, after all, and are well-versed in balance. Whelan teaches Holmes’ son and grabbed Held when she heard about North Shore SUP’s open house in late June.

“It’s like a floating mat,” Holmes told the two first-time paddlers.

She tells practitioners to lie on the board and get comfortable with its stability by rocking back and forth and then to “check in with our bodies.”

Eventually, she instructed the two friends to try standard yoga poses on the board, leading to some tricky stand-up poses. The pair got so confident that they tried a tree pose, which requires standing on one leg. It was shaky, but they got through it.

Whelan described the experience as “relaxing and peaceful,” noting that fear of falling off the board went away quickly.

She said she’d readily do it again.

Holmes said the benefit of board yoga is that it serves as a variety of tai chi, meaning the body uses a lot of small muscles in keeping balance while focusing on the yoga. Getting accustomed to the board happens the first time out, she said, and anyone experienced in yoga will find the transition to water easier than they expect.

“Yoga is about connection,” said Erika Fryklepak, who offers an outdoor class through Yoga North on the shore of Lake Superior at Brighton Beach. She said a lot of the talk in her practice is about grounding, a connection to nature.

“You can really experience that outdoors,” she said.

Her classes have been popular, but the final one took place Monday. Yoga North plans to offer an outdoor class that moves around the area later this summer, Fryklepak said.

“Summers are so short,” she said. “We don’t want to be inside.”

Her classes this spring tended to be a bit chilly. That created a running joke.

“Hot yoga is so two years ago,” she said with a laugh.

“This is cold yoga.”