What We Tried: Yoga practice on an Indo Yoga Board, a long wooden plank that has four curved ridges on its underside. The ridges rock the yoga practitioner from side to side, and inflatable black cushions can be placed underneath the board to create even more instability.
Where: I tried it at a private West Hollywood studio, but Yoga Loft in Manhattan Beach, Calif. offers a class that incorporates the Indo Yoga Board. To search for classes nationwide, go to indoboard.com.
What We Did: The moves included downward facing dog, plank pose, chaturanga dandasana, lunge pose, chair pose, tree pose, crescent moon pose and warrior pose.
For How Long: I only had a 30-minute introductory session, but classes can be up to 90 minutes, just like a typical yoga studio class.
A photo of Indo Yoga Board users in the U.K. via Facebook.
How'd It Feel: Shaky. Not earthquake shaky, and not even BOSU ball shaky, but enough to necessitate dozens of constant form corrections, lest I fell off my board.
I only started attending yoga classes regularly last July, so I'm still definitely a yoga novice. At a typical class, I'm lucky if I remember half the time to spread my toes and fingers wide on the mat, press into the floor with my whole hand or keep my breathing smooth and even. But with the Indo Yoga Board, if you're not constantly doing all those things and more (like flexing your core muscles), you will fall. Fast.
"It forces you to be perfect," said Indo Yoga Board inventor Hunter Joslin, who was on hand to observe the class that day.
But the need for perfection is what makes me hesitate to incorporate Indo Yoga into my normal routine. Yoga is already difficult enough for me to focus on -- why should I kick it up a notch when Level 1 at YogaWorks leaves me sore and trembling?
What It Helps With: Balance, according to teacher Michelle Gierst. While she conceded that yoga on a simple mat will improve balance, Gierst said that the extra work from Indo Yoga improves her skills as a surfer and paddle boarder.
"This makes you really think about where you put your foot or your hand, just like with a surf or paddle board," said Gierst. "Let's say you live back in New York and can't get to the beach -- this is perfect to continue practicing on."
Gierst does a headstand on the Indo board as it rocks back and forth.
What Fitness Level Is Required: Anyone with a basic understanding of yoga can start on the Indo Board. Because the board is unstable, the class might flow at a slower pace than usual to allow for people to really concentrate on their balance (or to let people who fall off the board catch up more easily).
The Indo Yoga Board was built to mimic Paddle Board or Stand Up Paddle Board (SUP) Yoga, which relocates yoga from the studio and into the ocean. For beginners especially, the stakes are a little too high with SUP Yoga -- you're likely to fall off the board and into the water, which doesn't sound like the most relaxing way to practice. But with the Indo Board, you're just inches off the ground. Losing your balance won't result in anything more than a bruised ego.
Would We Go Back: Yes -- but to help me get better at surfing, not yoga! For instance, transitioning from plank pose to lunge pose on the Indo Yoga Board felt almost like getting into standing position on a surf board -- minus the cold water, wind and salt.
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