Bandha boards look like stand-up paddle boards with one important difference — they're used on dry land.
One recent afternoon, 10 of those boards were lined up near the pool in a Rochester backyard, yoga mats beneath them, ready for use as balance boards in a yoga class that mimics some of the action of stand-up paddle boarding.
The class began, like many yoga classes, with instructor-led visualization. Unlike any class I have been to, we lay back on boards that rocked in response to movement while picturing ourselves on a body of water.
The class was one of several experiences that instructor Michelle Kalina hopes to continue in Rochester through her business, MichelleK Yoga Experiences.
"It was challenging. It was relaxing, listening to the birds, the sound of the water, laying in the sunshine," said participant Elizabeth Conser, who had only practiced yoga a few times before giving the class a try. "It felt like an actual surfboard. It wobbled, so you felt like you were on the waves."
McCayla Thoe, a yoga practitioner, said the board's rocking movement "makes you engage your core the whole time. You can't get lazy on the board."
"I'm not a big yogi," said Sarah Pacchetti of Studio on Third, "but this was really fun."
Kalina, who did her yoga teacher training at the Yoga Center of Minneapolis, is the first to bring this form of exercise to Rochester.
"Living in a small, growing community, we don't have all of the resources and opportunities that are available," she said. "I saw my peers going to unique classes and unique experiences. It was a three-hour round trip if I wanted to go to any of them."
Kalina reached out to others to help bring the unique experience to Rochester. Through Instagram, she connected with Bonnie Thoe-Austin, a yoga instructor who teaches classes on bandha boards that she builds herself.
Thoe-Austin's day job is as an industrial arts teacher and technology integrationist, so building the boards came as a natural solution to the problem that Minnesota's winter poses for a person who likes doing yoga out on the water on a stand-up paddle board.
Doing yoga on a bandha board was a first for Kalina the night she hosted the class.
"I loved how it challenged me," she said. "The poses that are easier on ground were harder on the board, and the poses that are harder on the ground were easier on the board. For tree pose, it was easy on the board. The board is moving with your foot. I thought that Warrior Two and Reverse Warrior were so hard to balance. I was able to do crow easily, maybe because I gripped the side of the board."
And poses that are ill-advised? "I don't suggest inversions," said Thoe-Austin, noting that, regardless, some students can't wait to do them. An inversion is a yoga pose that positions the heart higher than the head.
"They want to do headstands," she said. "If you fall on the water that's one thing. The water is much more forgiving than the ground."
The recent yoga class was a test of local interest. "It was definitely a great turnout and we had a lot of people ask us to do it again," said Kalina. She is now looking for potential locations in Rochester for the class, and she's considering what further new yoga experiences to bring; possibly a class that involves a Dharma Yoga Wheel.
"Once people try yoga and they realize how it can change their lives, they want more of it," Kalina said. "It's a positive addiction."