If you’ve ever been on a sailboat for even just one day, you may know that there are a lot of movements that can really misalign the body of even the strongest, most flexible yoga practitioner. Most likely, you’ll be craving a good yoga class after a day of grinding winches, pulling sheets, hoisting sails, or even if you’re just sitting on your butt for hours at a time.
So for those sailors who choose to spend days, or even months at a time on sailboats, the limited space leaves very little room for practice on these narrow vessels. Finding a way to keep the body feeling good, balanced and strong is important, especially during a long stay on the water.
Baltimore-based yoga teacher, Gabrielle Sulc (A.K.A. the Floating Yogi), who lived aboard her sailboat throughout the Bahamas and the Caribbean in 2012, managed to successfully combine both her love of yoga and sailing to stay in shape during her long journey in a confined space.
Sulc realized that the sailboat was actually on big prop: a backbend holding the forestay from while standing on the bow pulpit; dancer pose at the mast; warrior 3 between a stay sail and a jib; or even eagle pose while wrapping her legs and arms around the rigging. She also realized that any space on the boat could be used to do yoga, stating, “the different parts of the boat are good for balance and to enable you to get the full benefits of the pose without leaving the boat.”
“A lot of sailors have tight hamstrings and hips from being sedentary or standing behind the wheel hours at a time, which also puts a lot of pressure on the lower back causing pain,” says Sulc.
Before leaving on her own sailing journey in 2012, Sulc says that she maintained a very aggressive yoga practice, and wasn’t sure if she was going to be able to maintain it during the too-often sedentary days on a boat. However, she says that the simple practice that she built on the sailboat by using some of the poses listed below, for at least 20 minutes a day, helped her maintain her strength and flexibility for her vigorous practice when she returned.
A quick yoga routine for sailors:
The following are a few simple poses recommended for sailors to alleviate some of the common aches and pains associated with the sport that are easy to do just lying on your back, and easily done in the cockpit or on deck.
• eye of the Needle pose (or reclining pigeon) – great for hips and spine;
• bridge Pose – great for shoulders, chest and spine;
• spinal twist (lying down or seated) – great for the spine;
• supine head-to-knee pose (use a sail tie) – great for lower back and hamstrings; and
Sulc says that yoga is like preventative maintenance for the body while on board a boat, stating, “[You should] do something to stretch every day, even if it’s for only 5 to 10 minutes. And, once you’re in a routine, it’s easier to maintain.”
On the Caribbean island of Grenada, Sulc also taught 3 land classes per week to other cruisers, with an average of about 30 to 40 other sailors who realized how valuable the practice could be for their bodies.
“People focus on limitations of space on a sailboat. I say you can do yoga anywhere on a sailboat, no matter how difficult the space,” says Sulc, “You don’t even need a yoga mat.”