Saturday, February 24, 2018

Yoga Benefits Boaters

August 1, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 



yoga for cruisers logoIn her novel, Fallen, Lauren Kate wasn’t referring to boating when she wrote, “The only way to survive eternity is to be able to appreciate each moment.” But she could have been, as boating requires an immense awareness of the sights and sounds all around in unity with the environment.


Ask yoga instructor and passionate boater Jamie Elmer, and she would say that yoga is no different. She believes that, like boating, the essence of yoga lies in an appreciation of the here and the now, uniting two apparently dissimilar pursuits to make them intrinsically the same. Deeply immersed in an ancient world, the practice of yoga (derived from a Sanskrit word which means to add, join, or unite) is an attempt to unify the mind, body, and soul. Of course, says Elmer, the figurative application of this special unity is much deeper. “Often times, we think of yoga as a separate activity. In reality, practicing yoga is about practicing self-awareness and awareness of our environment wherever we are, as much as possible.” Boating also requires supreme awareness and control; a boater must be in the moment and physically responsive to whatever occurs.

Among many other things, boaters must be alert and physically fit. Water or weather might turn treacherous, or planning may go wrong, and an outing may take an entirely different turn. The body needs to stay prepared to react, and this is what yoga teaches. Moreover, as boating requires upper body strength as well as general strength in the front of our bodies, boaters tend to experience tightness in the shoulders, chest, hips, and thighs. Yoga helps balance this tightness and strengthens bodies by developing and nurturing the core muscles. javelin-1

Some mistakenly think of core strength as simply a fancy term for “working the abs,” but the core is the group of muscles that form the trunk of the body, including the abdominals, obliques, and the mid- and lower back (a portion of the core muscles is visible to the eye, while most of the muscles that form the core lie within). Developing the core builds the body’s foundation in movement and weight bearing. “Especially on a boat, where we need more balance,” explains Elmer, “we must think of core strength as all of the small, deep muscles that support our joints. These muscles surround each joint in the body and especially need to be strong in the abdomen and back. These core muscles are a necessity for balance and quick reflexes onboard any boat.”

Many yoga poses can be easily accommodated into a boater’s routine; they take up very little space, making them ideal to perform onboard (always obtain your doctor’s permission before starting any exercise routine, and be aware that movements on a boat can imperil even experienced yoga practitioners). Poses including lunges (for quadriceps strength, front of hip stretching, and balance), plank pose with small push-ups (for strong arms, wrists, spine, quads, abs, and a toned core), Royal Dancer (for balance, thigh, chest, and shoulder stretching), and the Standing Locust Pose (for shoulder and chest opening) are great for enhancing body strength and stretch.

Once you’re more experienced, you may get creative and use boating equipment as props; while practicing the Standing Locust Pose, for instance, you can use sail ties instead of a strap. Stand strong on both feet with your legs straight, and breathe deeply while taking your arms behind you as you hold a strap or sail tie with your hands shoulder-distance apart. Hold the strap so that your palms are facing forward (this will open your chest a little more). Breathe in, and while doing so, push the front of your chest straight up towards the sky, and then gently draw your shoulders back. Hold for five slow, deep breaths in and out, and then release. Repeat at least one more time.split-1

After studying movement and the human body, Elmer developed videos called “Yoga For Cruisers,”  available via, with no-gear-required moves designed for constrained spaces such as the cockpit, dinette, or on deck.

The beauty of yoga for its practitioners is in the balance that it strikes between the outer and the inner worlds. Understanding and appreciating its movements, and incorporating meditation, hold the key to achieving physical and mental well-being for many. Elmer believes, “A little goes a long way when it comes to physical and mental fitness for boating, and yoga is one way that we can achieve that, even while onboard.”

By Tania Bhattacharya

webPlus_web_green1 See a video demonstration of the “boat pose.”

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