Behind the Scenes as a SUP and Yoga Instructor: Q&A with Adrienne Rommel

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What’s it like living as a paddleboard and yoga instructor? In this interview, we chat with Adrienne Rommel about her decision of trading a corporate lifestyle for one that’s spent in sunshine.

Hey Adrienne, thanks for chatting with us! Could you please tell us a little bit about what you do?

I’d love to! I’m a Certified Holistic Nutritionist, RYT200 Yoga Instructor and Paddle Canada certified Advanced SUP (stand-up paddleboarding) Instructor from Toronto, Canada. I am 37 years old, and decided to give up the corporate life to pursue my dreams of building a wellness and travel career. I then went back to school to become a Holistic Nutritionist. I have always had a passion for water sports and fell in love with SUP as soon as I placed my feet on the board and my hands on the paddle. I got certified as a SUP Instructor and since I already had completed my RYT-200hr yoga teacher training, I was able to combine the two, specializing in teaching SUP Yoga in Toronto. I then decided to start my own business, hosting and facilitating international yoga retreats which are water-sport themed, including SUP, SUP Yoga, surfing as well as kitesurfing! I now spend 6 months in Toronto in the summer teaching yoga, instructing SUP and working 1:1 with clients on nutrition, and spend 6 months in the winter traveling to warm destinations, hosting retreats and working with my nutrition clients online.

What inspired you to become a yoga instructor? What do you love most about teaching?

Actually, I used to not like yoga! I used to take yoga classes at the gym but found that it was never enough of a workout for me. At that time, I knew very little about yoga and all of the different styles available. 5 years ago, I took a trip to Costa Rica and did a Hatha yoga class in a “proper” yoga studio, and it shifted something in me. I had an intense emotional release and from that moment on, I decided to practice yoga every day. This inspired me to become a yoga instructor, to deepen my practice as well as share this beautiful, life-changing practice with others. For me, it is so rewarding to teach beginners who are new to yoga, and watch their practice and interest in yoga evolve over time. It’s so wonderful to see how it changes people’s lives as it did mine, and how I can help people do that!

How did you get into paddleboarding?

I spontaneously went paddleboarding with a friend in Toronto and fell in love with it immediately. That day, I asked the owner if he was looking for summer help, that I’d love to be a part of his team teaching SUP and he said yes! That evolved into teaching SUP Yoga as well as Introduction to SUP classes which I’ve been doing over the past 3 years! I love paddleboarding, it is not only great overall body workout, but an amazing meditative practice.

What would you tell women who are afraid to standup paddleboard because they fear falling?

Don’t be afraid and don’t look down! The worst that can happen is you get wet!

Do you have any advice for those of us who want to become better standup paddleboarders? Are there any common beginner mistakes you see being made?

The best advice I could give is always look towards where you are paddling, keep your knees bent and hips loose. You can always sit down on the board if you feel uncomfortable or tired. Also when paddling, taking 3-4 strokes on each side will help you to go straight. It is so important to connect with the board, not only with your body through your feet, and with the paddle through your hands, but also with the mind…taking a moment to feel it, be mindful of how it FEELS, not just about how it looks.

What I see most with beginner mistakes is improper strokes while paddling. The best advice is to keep the paddle straight up and down (vertical) while dipping the blade fully into the water. Sink the blade into the water entirely. Start the stroke from the tip of the board (taking a hinge at your hips), and once it reaches your feet, take it out of the water. It’s best to paddle with straight arms (especially the top arm), and use the strength of your core to power you through the water as opposed to using your arm strength.

You also surf and kitesurf. How did you become so connected to the ocean?

I have always been a water baby, growing up at a cottage in Northern Ontario. My dad was big into water sports as well and taught me how to waterski and windsurf on the lake at a young age. That evolved to my love for ocean sports when I learned to kitesurf 9 years ago, I was hooked! It is the ultimate feeling and sense of freedom and adrenaline, using the power of nature to power you through the water. Kitesurfing and surfing are very individual sports, which to me, has a very meditative feeling. The ocean in itself is so powerful, constantly moving, changing and flowing. I feel more connected to myself and to mother nature when I’m around the ocean!

Where in the world do you feel best suits this lifestyle of healthy living, yoga, and ocean sports?

Definitely in warm climates, by the beach, surrounded by nature and anywhere by water! I am the happiest when I am close to the water, where there are healthy and fresh food choices available as well as surrounding nature to practice yoga in. That in itself helps to promote healthy, happy, mindful living.

I’ve spent the past two winters in Nicaragua and will be traveling to Cabarate, Dominican Republic soon to get ready to host my next Kitesurf & Yoga Retreat there!

Could you please tell us about the Balanced Adventure Retreats? How can we get involved?

I started Balanced Adventure Retreats one year ago which is yoga and adventure retreats that are water-sport themed, always including either SUP, SUP yoga, surfing or kitesurfing as part of the retreat. I really like to go to off-the-beaten-path destinations, where there are more “travelers” than tourists, staying in eco-boutique accommodations that are close to the water. The yoga practices included during my retreats are focused on targeting, strengthening and conditioning the muscles used in these particular water sports. As a nutritionist, I always choose locations that have healthy meal options, as well as offer clients 1:1 nutritional consultations during the retreat, as well as post-retreat support. We also like to have a lot of fun…the “Balance” part of the retreat comes not only from being on the mat and on the water, but also we like to indulge in a few sunset cocktails and wine with dinner during the week! It’s a retreat that is not about restriction, it’s all about balance.

Thanks, Adrienne!