Mary Elizabeth Kirkpatrick’s paddleboard yoga studio combines the peace and serenity she finds during her yoga practice and when she is on the water.
Growing up in Hernando, Mississippi, Mary Elizabeth spent her youth as a competitive gymnast. While she was in love with the dedication and self-motivation gymnastics required, the physically taxing nature of the sport forced her to give it up entirely in high school. She ruptured a disc in her back at age 17, giving her a stress fracture that necessitated her first back surgery.
After years of recurring complications and pain following her first surgery, Mary Elizabeth underwent a second back surgery at age 28. After this surgery, her doctor recommended yoga to aid her recovery.
Though she did start yoga classes per her doctor’s recommendation, she found it slow and boring, especially compared to the high-stakes nature of gymnastics. Soon enough, however, Mary Elizabeth recounts a shift, saying, “When I did my first arm balance in yoga, something changed. I realized I can be upside down again, like in gymnastics, without risking another back injury.”
Eventually, doing yoga as recovery made her appreciate the connection to herself she felt on her mat. As a busy mother of two, yoga became her time when she could be quiet and receive energy while helping heal her body. She recalls, “ I started noticing pain relief. I didn’t realize I could live a life without pain again.”
Mary Elizabeth soon began her journey to become a yoga instructor, completing her 200-hour yoga teacher training in 2018. Since beginning her yoga journey, Mary Elizabeth has continued her education to complete her 500-hour yoga teacher training and 140-hour trauma-sensitive yoga certification, making her an incredibly educated yoga instructor.
During her years of yoga teacher training and instructing, Mary Elizabeth became interested in stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) yoga and trained to teach SUP Yoga at SUP901, where she later worked as an instructor before buying the business in 2020. Growing up spending summers at the lake and beach with her family always gave Mary Elizabeth a sense of peace and tranquility, and she has found that being on the water and in nature deepens her yoga practice and provides a stronger sense of contentment that she wants to share with the Memphis yoga community.
While balancing on a paddleboard can make balance and yoga more challenging, the SUP901 instructors offer a variety of modifications so all yogis can be comfortable and confident. Classes are offered Saturdays at 9:00 a.m. or Sundays at 5:30 p.m. at Shelby Farms, with options to rent a board or bring your own. SUP901 also offers private sessions at Shelby Farms or downtown on the harbor.
Interested in learning more about SUP901? Check out their Instagram @sup_901, their website Sup901.com, or reach out to Mary Elizabeth at firstname.lastname@example.org for more details and booking!
By Zoe Harrison
Photo by Tindall Stephens