Since its introduction into mainstream American fitness, the benefits of yoga have become increasingly apparent. From better balance to heightened mental awareness, yoga can make you not just a better athlete, but a better sailor. Boston area sailor and yogini Nancy Bellantone has been developing onboard yoga routines for years, and she encourages her crew to practice yoga before races, even on the way out to the race course. “The benefits are great,” says Bellantone. “Yoga can help the crew get mentally engaged. It increases agility and awakens the muscles you need to sail. It can also help with seasickness.”
In her routines, Bellantone incorporates the boat’s standing and running rigging, adhering to the adage, “one hand for you, one for the boat.” Try holding each of these poses for 5-10 breaths and use the modified versions for a simpler routine.
1) Full Boat Pose (Paripurna navasana) Sit in a cockpit seat with your legs straight in front of you, knees bent. Inhale, lean back slightly, raise your feet until your thighs are 45 degrees to the seat, stretching your arms alongside the legs. Spread your shoulder blades across your back and reach through the fingers. For a modified version, keep feet on the floor and lean back on your tailbone only slightly.
This pose strengthens the abdomen, hip flexors and spine.
2) Legs up the mast (Viparita Karani) Lie on your back with your seat near the base of the mast. Extend your legs up the mast, holding onto the halyards for support. For a modified version, place soles of the feet together and allow the knees to drop toward outboard sides of boat.
This pose relieves tired or cramped legs and feet, stretches the backs of the legs, front torso and the back of the neck, calms the mind, creates core stability.
3) Dancer’s Pose with sail tie (Natarajasana) Stand on two feet facing the mast and loop a sail tie around your left ankle. Hold the halyards with your right hand. Inhale, shift your weight onto your right foot, and lift your left heel toward the sky as you bend at the knee. Slowly lift your left foot up, pulling from above your left shoulder. Extend the left thigh behind you. For a modified version, only raise your leg to your comfort level.
This pose stretches the shoulders, chest, thighs and abdomen, strengthens the legs and ankles and improves balance.
4) Seated spinal twist (Ardha Matsyendrasana) Sit on a blanket at the forestay facing aft with your right leg straight in front of you and your left leg bent. Step the left foot over the right leg and stand it on the deck outside your right hip, left knee pointed at the sky. Exhale and twist toward the inside of the left thigh, left hand on the deck behind your left buttock, and right elbow pressing against the outside of left thigh; switch sides.
This pose increases spinal rotation and builds strength and flexibility in the muscles that support the spine.
5) Side Angle Pose (Utthita Parsvakonasana) Standing at the forestay, face to starboard with your feet 4ft apart. Turn your right foot in and your left foot out 90 degrees, aligning your heels. Turn your left thigh outward and bend your left knee over the left ankle, so that the shin is perpendicular to the deck. Place your left hand on the deck cleat, extend your right arm toward the sky, then turn your palm to face toward your head. Create a stretch from your right heel through your right finger tips and lengthen the entire right side of your body. For a modified version, rest your left forearm on the bow pulpit.
This pose strengthens and stretches the legs, spine, waist, chest and shoulders; also increases stamina.