Test Your Balance With Liquid Yoga

Your legs may become more liquid than the pool when you attempt yoga on a floating mat at the Westin Bayshore's new morning class

Your legs may become more liquid than the pool when you attempt yoga on a floating mat at the Westin Bayshore’s new morning class

Photo: Moonrider Productions

I’ve had liquid lunches, and some brunches that were probably early enough to qualify as liquid breakfasts, but until now, never a liquid pre-breakfast.

Liquid Yoga is what the Westin Bayshore is calling its new 8 a.m. fitness class, in a bathtub-warm pool at the centre of the resort’s lush ocean-facing backyard. Bathing suits are not required: this activity resembles stand-up paddleboarding more than synchronized swimming, though—spoiler alert—I’d advise wearing light workout gear that can stand up to a dunk in the water (don’t forget about your watch, hat and sunglasses).

The class is performed barefoot on thick, buoyant floats the dimensions of a yoga mat, with a grippy, rubbery surface. Instructor Emma, from the expert team at Stand Up Paddle Vancouver, taxis each person out to a mat. Sitting cross-legged, they feel pleasantly stable. It’s a breezy morning, and I wonder if we’ll drift around the pool aimlessly, but either end of the mat gets tethered to lines that stretch across the pool, with half a dozen yogis arranged in tidy rows. Lesson number one is to pay extra attention to your drishti or gaze: between the almost-hypnotic crosshatched pattern on the mat’s surface to the drifting clouds and lapping water, losing concentration (and balance) is much easier than normal.

Compared to my daily terrestrial yoga practices, the poses themselves seem relatively simple. We start seated, then on all fours, and do some gentle stretches, twists and movements to loosen morning-weary bodies, including a modified knee-height sun salutation sequence. The real trick to this yoga is when we stand up: it’s your legs that become liquid. Surfers and SUPsters might pop up easily, but looking around I see most of us with shaky legs making micro-adjustments to find our centre, before standing tall. (Surface markings on the floating mat, pointing to its centre, would be a useful visual aid and confidence builder.) It’s exhilarating to feel like you’re literally standing on water, but I giggle out loud when the instructor suggests closing our eyes for a moment: that’s not happening anytime soon.

We move into some downward dogs, lunges and other low-centre-of-gravity posts, warming up along with the sunny day. The float feels stable, but its small rocking movements and your body’s corresponding micro-adjustments cause you to work many smaller stabilizing muscles, “that you might feel tomorrow,” the instructor jokes. I find that making all my stances both shorter and wider than usual helps dramatically with balance. It’s different, but not harder, than typical yoga, even the first-timers in this floating class agree.

Maybe, just maybe, I start to feel a little overconfident. As we’re guided into warrior one, a basic lunging pose, I opt to lift my hands off ground and leg and reach for sky. Before I know it, I’m headfirst into the warm, shallow pool (only 4 feet deep where I toppled). The mild embarrassment and warm water are easy to shake off: the hard part is getting yourself back on the floating mat! I settled for an awkward mermaid-flop and got right back into it, though wet clothes make for a slightly chilly savasana (resting pose) at the end of the class.

The perfect counter-pose turns out to be cups of hot coffee and a turn around the teeming brunch buffet in H2, the Westin Bayshore’s new restaurant. Though there’s an eye-popping array of eggs and pork products, fruit and cereals, charcuterie and cheese and even dim sum selections, I opt for a menu item. The pulled-chicken hash features griddles potatoes and veggies with juicy shredded chunks of the rotisserie chicken H2 is soon-to-be-famous for, topped with hollandaise-drizzled poached eggs.

It can be the start of the ultimate day-cation: the hotel now offers a day program for locals to use the glam outdoor pool area ($125), complete with “birdcage” lounges. Your dedicated VIP chaise has an aqua-blue Lacoste towel, and during the day you’ll be lavished with cooling surprises, from little edible treats to cold towels. Liquid Yoga, currently offered on Wednesdays and weekends, will soon become daily, and can be booked online ($30). Both experiences need to be reserved in advance. Take it from me: it doesn’t hurt to pack a change of dry clothes.