Living in close quarters and meeting guests’ every demandmakes stress an inevitable part of the crew life. The cure? A little holisticrestoration. Yoga and meditation are both known to help discharge stress and easetension-related pain. In fact, both reap many health benefits, such as lowerblood pressure, a stronger immune system and an increase in energy, says BrieannBoal, a former crewmember who holds certifications in yoga, personal training,holistic fitness, massage and reiki. They also improve sleep, sharpen the mind,ease anxiety, increase serotonin production for an improved mood and secrete anoil that contains anti-aging properties.
Sounds like a dream, right? Get on board with thesepractices by following Boal’s tips and tricks.
New to meditation? That’s okay.
“There is no ‘one way’ or ‘right way’ to meditate,” saysBoal, who has a personal holistic training business called Wabi-Sabi Well.“Mindfulness is simply the capacity to be aware of the present moment, to payattention to what is going on.”
While it may seem difficult to meditate while things arebusy, Boal says it’s a matter of being creative when it comes to meditating onboard. She suggests not worrying about where you sit and creating a containerfor practice, as it helps having a regular time and space. Mornings, when themind is calmer, are preferable, but any time you can commit to on a regularbasis is best.
“Meet the whole meditative process with unconditionalfriendliness,” she advises. “Regardless of what kind of experience you have —interrupted, uncomfortable, fidgety, forced or perfectly peaceful. All arebeneficial to the whole.”
If you’re a restless individual, don’t worry — you’re notthe only one. According to Boal, conscious movement is just as legitimate asmore formal meditation practices and can still bring inner peace. Start bypracticing Bare Attention, in which you attune to the raw sensations of yourmoving body by breaking the moment into its simplest elements, says Boal.
“Notice where you feel muscles stretching, where you feel resistance,where you feel strong,” she says. “Be mindful of what areas feel supple andspacious and which feel contracted and tight, etc. Suspend all judgment andsimply pay attention to what’s there.”
When meditating, it’s helpful to cloud out distractingthoughts by fastening your mind to an anchor, which Boal calls a home base orresting place, for your brain. “To draw on the obvious nautical analogy, avessel (your mind) might drift with the tide; however, the rope goes taught andgently steers the vessel back,” she explains.
Boal suggests three internal anchors you can continuallyreturn your awareness to: the body, your breath and a mantra, or sound wave, whichshould be repetitive. “Mentally chanting a mantra as you move, or whilstsitting, interrupts your stream of thoughts, creating natural gaps throughwhich you can slip into the silence of the spaces between,” she says.
If you choose your body as an anchor, try focusing on acertain part of the body or the shifting stream of sensations, Boal adds. Anchoringyour breath involves merely staying cognizant of your breathing sensations.
Meditation doesn’t have to be difficult — breathe, relax,focus and just be.
Yoga is a dynamic form of meditation, says Boal, with theadded bonus of physical improvements such as flexibility, toning, weight loss,improved circulation and metabolic benefits.
As always, time and space pose challenges to any healthyactivity on board and yoga is no different. Boal suggests saving group sessionsfor the sun deck when you’re off charter and supplementing with cabin-friendlysequences in the interim. While learning a sequence that addresses yourspecific imbalances is ideal, Boal offers three easy asanas you can try in yourcabin:
Legs Up the Wall (Fountainof Youth) Pose — relieves lower back pain and cramped feet and legs; istherapeutic for arthritis, headaches and blood pressure; stretches thehamstrings, legs and lower back
Sit with right hip against wall, pivot legs up, shimmy untilbuttocks touch wall. Bend knees slightly if hamstrings are tight. Dorsi flexfeet. Rest hands, close eyes and hold for as long as desired. To release, tuckknees to chest, roll over and come up sitting.
Reclining Big ToeStretch — relieves lower back pain, sciatica and menstrual discomfort;stretches hips, thighs, groin, calves and hamstrings
Lie down, hug right foot to chest, loop a strap around ballof foot, holding it in both hands. Inhale and straighten knee, pressing heelup. Walk hands up strap until elbows fully extend. Broaden shoulder blades andpress them lightly into floor while keeping hands as high on strap as possible.Widen collarbones away from sternum. Hold for at least 90 seconds; repeat onopposite side.
Spinal Twist —massages internal organs and improves digestion; helps remove toxins; realignsand relaxes spine; stretches hips, chest, shoulders and upper back
Lie on back with knees bent and feet on floor. Exhale, drawknees to chest, cupping hands around them. Extend left leg along floor, keepingright knee drawn. Extend right arm along floor at shoulder-height, palm facingdown. Shift hips slightly to right. Place left hand on outside of right knee, exhale,drop knee over left side of body. Keep hand resting on knee, turn head to right.Repeat on opposite side.
Yet yoga doesn’t have to be confined to your cabin — it canactually be incorporated as you fix your guests a cocktail or even as you scrubthe toilet.
While you’re going through your workday routine, pause totake a few conscious breaths. As you inhale, invite the breath deep into thelower abdomen and let your stomach rise, says Boal. As you exhale, it shoulddescend and relax.
You can also be more mindful of your core. “While on watch, thetendency is to slouch, especially as the hours creep by,” Boal maintains.“Practice sitting up tall, sense the length of your spine and gently activateyour core by drawing the navel in.”
Be intentional with your movements, she adds, such askeeping your legs straight to give your hamstrings a stretch when bending overto pick something up.
So what are you waiting for? Try and incorporate a littlemeditation and yoga into your days. As Boal puts it, their benefits speak forthemselves and create a more conscious and cohesive collective.