Taking yoga on holiday

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I recently spent a week on a liveaboard halfway through an intense fitness training period, so I had to think of some ways to keep fit onboard. I packed my yoga mat, swimsuit and skipping rope with the hope to finding time to do all three. Little did I know how relentless the diving and eating timetable is!

First of all I wasn’t able to swim because each dive site had a risk of sharks patrolling the surface waters. Not wanting to come face to face with an oceanic white tip, I willingly complied. Skipping seemed a good idea at the packing stage but finding the space and time to do this outside of the hottest hours of the day was tricky.

Which left me with yoga. On all the days we dived except two (when wakeup was 4:45am!) I spent 20 – 30 minutes on the top deck waking up my body with sun salutations and a short breathing exercise. I’d come down to the diving deck raring to go while the others were still wiping sleep from their eyes!

An hour after the last dive, and before dinner, I spent some more time stretching out my shoulders, upper and lower back from the pressure of the heavy scuba gear. I also focused on core strength exercises for improved stability in the water. Although I wasn’t able to fit in any cardio training, I think that 3 hours of frog kick up, down and around reefs helped to at least maintain what i’d built-up in the weeks prior to my holiday.

So if you’re on a diving holiday this summer and want to keep body and mind in tip-top shape while you’re there, here are a few suggestions:

– yoga is best performed before eating so you may need to get up earlier, or delay the post-dive beer a while to fit in a session before food
– stick to seated exercises if the boat is moving, or rocking
– don’t use shoulderstand, headstand or other poses bearing neck weight in case the boat suddenly moves
– try to find a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed

 

Guided Yoga Exercises

For guided yoga sessions you can register for the OMdiver yoga programme to receive videos (if you have WiFi onboard or at your hotel) and audio files (which you can download onto an mp3 player). Alternatively you can follow the seven exercises suggested below.

 

7 yoga poses for a liveaboard

Breath awareness

 

Spend a few minutes with your hands on your belly breathing deeply so that you feel the hands rise and fall. Breath in: bely swells, breath out: belly contracts.

Then deepen your breath for two minutes more by breathing first into the belly and then into the chest. To breath out let the chest fall first, then the belly. A hand on the rib cage can help guide your breath upwards into the chest.

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Cat Stretch

Position yourself on all fours – hands under the shoulders, knees under the hips. Breathe IN tilt the pelvis lift the head and the back arches downwards. Breathe OUT pushing your back upwards, dropping the head and gazing towards your navel. Repeat 5 – 7 times.

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Back strengtheners

From the position of the pose above, pick a point a few feet in front of you to direct your gaze to help with your balance. Don’t try this one if the boat is moving! Breath IN lift your right arm and left leg to shoulder/hip height. Breathe OUT bring arm and leg down. Breathe IN lift left arm and right leg, breathe OUT to release. Continue for one minute.

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Downward Dog

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This pose hits the spot on so many levels. Stretches the calves and hamstrings to relieve tension after finning. It keeps the ankles flexible for fin position. It eases tension from the lower back, stretches the shoulders and the arms. The action of the pose also stimulates the relaxation response so this is a good pose to do at the end of a diving day.

Side bends

Come into a cross-legged position. Breathe IN and slowly take your left arm over head as you bend to the right side. Go as far as is comfortable for you, until you feel a stretch in the left side ribs. Take 3 – 5 breaths here, breathing IN deeply to create an extra stretch in the left side of the rib cage. To release breathe OUT and slowly take the left arm back to your side. Repeat on the right side, taking the right arm overhead.

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Arm stretches

1) Breathe IN taking both arms up slowly above your head, clasping the fingers at the top and turning the palms upwards. Stretch up. Breathe OUT to slowly release the hands down by your sides. Repeat two more times.

2) Take your left elbow in your right hand and gently draw it over to the right side, slightly behind your head (you may need to tilt the head down). This stretches the triceps. Hold for 5 breaths

3) Then take the left arm in front, pressing with the right hand at the wrist to create a stretch through the top of the shoulder (deltoid) and tricep muscle. Hold for 5 breaths. Repeat 2 and 3 on the right arm.

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Twists

To finish stay in cross-legged position for a rejuvenating twist. Breath IN lengthening the spine upwards by sitting upright. As you breathe OUT turn slowly to your right starting with the base of the spine and allowing the rotation to spiral up the spine to the middle, upper back, shoulders and lastly the neck. Use your left hand on the right knee to aid the twist. Stay for 3 – 5 breaths. Breathe OUT to slowly release back to the starting position. Repeat to the left.

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Relaxation

Spend 3 – 5 minutes lying on your back now, feet out wide to the corners of your mat, arms slightly away from the body with palms facing upwards. Close your eyes and relax to the gentle movement of the boat. When you finish take your time getting up, stretch a little at first and then slowly make your way to sitting.

Equipment

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As you see in these pictures I took my yoga mat on holiday with me, which gave cushioning against the wooden floors of the boat and has an anti-slip surface. However if you don’t have space for a full-sized rolled up mat, it’s still possible to take a yoga mat with you. Many manufacturers are now selling thin full sized mats, or mats that can be folded, such as shown here. In this case they take up the same amount of space as a towel for example. If even that is too much space, you can buy grip gloves and socks to enable you to practice on any surface.

Rebecca Coales

Rebecca Coales

Rebecca Coales runs the agency OM Diver http://www.omdiver.co.uk/ and leads the Bristol Freediver group. She started Scuba over 20 years ago, and yoga in 2009. She started competitive freediving at the start of 2013 and has found both the physical and mental elements of yoga a huge benefit. On 31 July 2013 she set a new UK female National Record for Dynamic No Fins (DNF), which is underwater breast-stroke swum in a pool. That's 120m on one breath!

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