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Unique venture combines passion for health and fitness with nature

Doing yoga on a paddle board is 'a great way to practise your balance and it helps you get more of a workout,' says entrepreneur, noting pandemic pushed people outside

During a year of extraordinary challenges for business owners, Orillia entrepreneur Rosanna Shillolo was both pleased and grateful to realize the services she offered were in high demand this summer.

Shillolo owns and operates Sunrise Yoga Studio, a home-based business on the shore of Lake Couchiching, where she offers a variety of unique yoga and stand up paddle (SUP) lessons and excursions.

She recently wrapped up her season with a Thanksgiving “Turf and Surf” event – yoga on the dock followed by a SUP paddling tour on the lake.

“It was a fun way to celebrate the season we enjoyed this year,” said Shillolo. “This summer people were really anxious to get outdoors and be on the water. Stand up paddling, along with canoeing and kayaking, were definitely booming this summer. It was almost impossible to rent or purchase a stand up paddle board.”

Luckily, Shillolo, with her fleet of paddle boards and ideal lakeside location, was able to keep her business afloat, all while helping others keep fit, have fun and enjoy being outdoors.

Shillolo’s business combines her passion for health and fitness with nature. After graduating from university, Shillolo continued her studies to become a certified personal trainer and wellness counsellor.

She soon discovered a love for yoga and completed yoga teacher training at Georgian College. The next step for Shillolo was to become a certified Paddle Canada SUP instructor and now she combines it all.

Yes, she offers yoga instruction on the water by creating a floating studio with her students practicing on top of paddle boards.

“Combining nature and yoga by teaching classes on the water has been a career highlight for me,” said Shillolo.

Yoga on a paddle board sounds tricky, but Shillolo says her students love it.

“Not only is it a lot of fun; it’s a great way to practise your balance and it helps you get more of a workout,” said frequent participant Nancy Lem.

“We actually create a floating studio – we just paddle out, drop an anchor and begin our practice, “ explained Shillolo. “Sometimes you do fall in, but during the hot summer weather, this just makes it more fun.”

Fun seems to be a focus at Sunrise Yoga Studio. In addition to SUP yoga, Shillolo offers “SUP and Savour” tours, a SUP school, private lessons, rentals, and special events.

The tours can be as simple as a paddle around Brewery Bay and Couchiching Point or a sunset tour of Lagoon City on Lake Simcoe. The tours are often followed by a lakeside get-together or snack (the “savour” part).

“We typically partner with local restaurants to offer get-togethers after the tours, but this year we haven’t been able to do that. I’ve also had to cancel what is usually a busy season of custom-tour events throughout the area, which I really miss, especially the bachelorette parties. They are a lot of fun.”

In spite of the cancellation of some of her services, business picked up in other areas. Shillolo says she had many new customers this year, especially from areas outside of the region.

“They loved discovering our services and the area,” explained Shillolo. “They were all amazed by the quiet beauty of our area and, in fact, inspired a few to consider relocating to this area.”

For her local clients, it’s all about the opportunity to enjoy being on the water, having a fun workout, and connecting with others.

Lem says she prefers paddling with a group – “I feel safer when I’m with others and I love feeling the energy of the group.”

Newcomers to the sport, Stephanie Grieve and Sarah Shields, agreed, saying they enjoy the opportunity to visit while paddling.

“It’s easier than I thought it would be,” said Shields, “and you can go at your own pace.” “Rosanna is great at giving you tips for staying safe,” added Grieve.”

“It’s a perfect social distancing activity,” added paddler Jason Varey.

Inspired by the enthusiasm of her clients this summer, Shillolo looks forward to welcoming returning and new participants next spring and hopes to be back to a full range of fun opportunities on and by the water.

Visit or @sunrise_yoga_sup on Instagram to keep up-to-date with her plans and to learn about off-season services.