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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 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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New academic study to confirm rehabilitative benefits of Scuba Diving

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A new study into Scuba Diving Rehabilitation Charity Deptherapy’s approach to supporting Armed Forces veterans with psychological injuries such as Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) through the medium of scuba diving has been carried out by Petra Walker in conjunction with Hanna Kampman of the Posttraumatic Growth Research Unit at the University of East London.

This study, which used Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis (IPA), demonstrates that scuba diving has rehabilitation benefits beyond those found in other forms of sporting rehabilitation exercise.

IPA is a qualitative methodology that examines the experiences of participants and has been used in previous studies of Posttraumatic Growth (PTG) in para-athletes.

Petra is an experienced diver herself and was exploring the wellbeing aspects of scuba diving as part of her Masters in Applied Positive Psychology and Coaching Psychology when she came across a previous study on Deptherapy. Past studies have mainly focused on the medical aspects of diving, so the opportunity to examine the mental health side of rehabilitative scuba diving was impossible to ignore.

The full study is currently embargoed until it is published at a future date in an academic journal, but it follows similar academic research into the work of Deptherapy by the University of Sheffield Medical School (2018) and the University of Nottingham (2019).

Richard Cullen, Chairman of Deptherapy commented: “This evidence-based study demonstrates yet again the value of scuba diving and, in particular, the support provided by Deptherapy to severely traumatised people within the Armed Forces community. We await the publication of the detailed findings which we anticipate will be of considerable interest to all organisations who seek to assist in the rehabilitation of veterans through sporting activity, as well as the Scuba Diving world.”

Team Deptherapy returned to the UK last week from their first training expedition since the start of the COVID-19 Pandemic. A small group of six veterans travelled with the Deptherapy Instructor Team to the charity’s international base at Roots Red Sea to undertake practical Scuba Diving training in the clear, warm waters of the Red Sea.

Joining Team Deptherapy for the first time was 20 year old paraplegic Corey Goodson who had this to say: “I have been made aware of a new academic study about the benefits of Deptherapy. Last week I learned to scuba dive properly with Deptherapy, a huge achievement for someone with paraplegia. Deptherapy doesn’t judge your injury, whether that be physical or psychological; it looks beyond, and it sees the person inside. That person is who they work with, and the Deptherapy programme encourages you to see your fellow beneficiaries in the same light. More important than the sense of achievement during the training, was the support, care, encouragement and love the team showed me. I have found a new family in Deptherapy. I am home now but the support, friendship and banter continue; it is motivating and empowering, it gives me a deep sense of wellness and worth. I look forward to continuing my rehabilitative journey with Deptherapy.”

For more information about the work of Deptherapy and Deptherapy Education visit www.deptherapy.co.uk.

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Dive Training Blogs

Deptherapy returns to its Roots – Part 6

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Join Richard Cullen from Deptherapy for part 6 of his Blog about the charity’s recent expedition to Roots Red Sea, El Quseir, Egypt.

Thursday has dawned and it is down to the House Reef with an outgoing tide that is approaching slack so we can get in the water straight away.   Lots of chat about last night’s RAID O2 Provider session with Moudi.  Oatsie is talking about sidemounts and marine biology, Swars is looking forward to his first sidemount session this afternoon.

Moudi is supported by Oatsie this morning and doing some more skill work with Keiron.

Moudi running the guys through the RAID O2 Administrator Course

Corey was asking last night about what it is like at 30 metres, so I have decided that with Michael and Swars we will take him to 30 metres.  We are going to run a narcosis exercise so out comes the slate with the numbers 1 – 25 randomly placed in squares.  Corey’s task, in the dive centre, is as quickly as possible to touch each number in sequence.  He does it pretty quickly and Michael briefs him that he will need to do the same exercise at 30 metres.

Michael briefs the dive and we set off down the beach.  Corey has improved beyond measure and he is becoming a pleasure to dive with.  So we are off to follow the South reef to 30 metres where we will complete the second part of the exercise.

At 30 metres Michael hands Corey the slate; there is a considerable difference in the time to complete the exercise at the surface and at 30 metres.  There are lots of mitigating factors in how quickly you can identify the numbers and explaining a slower time at 30 metres than at the surface does not mean an individual is suffering from narcosis.  Identifying random numbers, if you run the exercise at the surface, several times with an individual over a number of hours can result in wide variations in the time taken to complete the exercise.

We finish the dive with Corey smiling from ear to ear and we have a discussion about depth and air consumption.  The second dive of the morning is a fun dive, then it is lunch in the beach restaurant.  After the burgers I am sure we will need to look at our weighting before the afternoon’s dive.

We will need to look at weighting after this lunch!

Corey and Keiron have got into the habit of recording their dives online using the RAID online log book which is a tremendous facility and as the instructor I can access that data.

Moudi and Keiron are going for a fun dive as are Corey, Oatsie, Michael and myself. Swars is getting kitted up for the first experience of sidemount with Guy Henderson.

Swars getting to grips with his sidemount cylinders

People often look at the relationships that exist between the dive team and our beneficiaries and try to extrapolate a similar relationship to disabled students they might have.  Our relationships are built up over a period of time, in some cases over many years.  We also provide 24/7 support and have chat groups etc on social media; we also meet up socially when we can.  It is somewhat different than a individual coming in to a dive centre and saying ‘I want to dive’. Your relationship is likely to be the same as any other student, you will teach them, they might stay with the dive centre or like many that will go on holiday to do some diving, you might never see them again.

Our main aim is to create a family atmosphere for our programme members, one where they feel secure and they are able to discuss freely with the team and fellow beneficiaries their feelings and needs.

Few dive centres are charities, and owners might want to consider costs of running a course for someone with a disability that might take more than the standard four pool sessions etc.  You may find the number of sessions and the staffing levels have to increase.  Many dive centres, because of their size and turnover are exempt from providing accessibility.  How will this affect someone who is a wheelchair user?  Can they gain access to the dive centre, the classroom, the toilet?  What are the changing facilities, can they get wheelchair access to the pool?

Lots of things to think about.

Roots’ beautiful reef

The reef is beautiful, so much aquatic life and the corals look splendid, especially the pinnacles.

A good day’s diving, Swars has really enjoyed his sidemount.

Lovely way to relax in the evening with the Roots BBQ, a fitting end to a great day.

Last day tomorrow and our final blog!


Find out more about the work of Deptherapy and Deptherapy Education at www.deptherapy.co.uk

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