It's where stand up paddleboard meets downward dog – in a South Beach-style pool overlooking Vancouver's seawall and mountains.
The latest trend in West Coast wellness lifestyle, the stand up paddleboard (SUP), is well established in Vancouver. And yoga? Well that's a no-brainer.
But it took local SUP pioneer and yoga instructor Kristy Wright Schell to bring the two together and introduce them to Vancouver. And the Westin Bayshore's programming team to take notice and make Kristy's 'Liquid Yoga' part of the hotel's pool lifestyle.
The stunning hotel pool gives participants an opportunity to practice yoga in the open sea air, embracing the quintessential experience of Vancouver's West Coast lifestyle but in the security of a pool as an aquatic yoga studio, rather than the open sea like SUP yoga.
We tried it and we think it's inspired.
On a fair summer day in Vancouver, British Columbia, the locals joke it's like 'British California'. And it seems that somehow, every resident and visitor in town is outdoors or on the water.
This program gives hotel guests – and the general public – a unique way to be part of the local wellness and outdoor culture, even if you're in town, like we were, with a packed business schedule.
Liquid Yoga sessions take place in the morning, while the pool is still quiet. Kristy, who's the Owner/Founder of Just Add Water Yoga Ltd and Standup Paddle Vancouver, discovered made-in-Canada Aquamats (Kristy's on the center mat below). She and the Westin Bayshore team decided on six, so every session is intimate and there is plenty of space around each mat in the pool.
Photos: Above, Westin Bayshore; Top, BestTrip.TV
Unlike yoga on SUP's, Aquamats have squared corners and are stable left to right, but, here's the 'twist', they do tend to rotate.
Getting wet can be intentional… or accidental. Participants either mount pool-side dry, or have the option to swim to their mats, and some of the poses involve options to dip in the water, or even dismount and remount, adding that challenge and direct interaction with water. Kristy says about 1 in the 6 students every session will end up in the drink without meaning to. Luckily the pool is warm!
For Liquid Yoga, Kristy uses a lot of Vinyasa 'flow' - the water environment lends itself quite literally to a fluid practice, where participants need to bridge the gap between effort and surrender to stay balanced on the mat in the water.
As a result, you gain a new awareness of your body in the pose, and new awareness of your yoga practice. Control freaks usually intent on the perfect pose will find they need to let go a little and relax in response to the elasticity of the water. While yoga slackers will need to bring more consciousness to their practice to literally 'stay afloat'.
Even though Kristy keeps to relatively simple poses. A class that done on the floor in a studio would be quite basic takes on a new challenge in the water, requiring you constantly engage tiny core muscles for balance.
But in case you were thinking it all sounds very serious… it's not. Let's face it: we are primed for pools as places to play, and Liquid Yoga brings a playfulness to yoga practice too. We almost wanted to fall in!
It's like taking a 'mini yoga retreat' completely outside a usual yoga environment that reconnects and reinvigorates your yoga practice.
We recommend wearing your bathing suit under layers of yoga or workout wear that will wick water away from you in the open air. Didn't bring workout wear? We love that guests can take advantage of the Run Westin's gear lending program.
Classes fill up, so we recommend advanced booking through the hotel concierge or Kristy's web site. The sessions are open to both hotel guests and the general public.
There are two morning sessions of Liquid Yoga at the Westin Bayshore 6 days a week (except Mondays) from May- September whenever the pool is open. They are considering moving it to the indoor pool once the outdoor pool closes.
Liquid Yoga is a terrific way to enjoy the Westin Bayshore's gorgeous, 'make an entrance' circular pool, with its new South Beach style cabanas and indoor/outdoor terrace restaurant. But it's also an inspired addition to Westin's wellness cuisine and activity programming, with a uniquely Vancouver spirit, enhanced by the Westin Bayshore's incomparable views of Vancouver's harbor, seawall and mountains.
By: BestTrip.TV's Lynn Elmhirst with Ryan McElroy