All At Sea - The Caribbean's Waterfront Magazine
Nancy Terrell -- May 2008 Issue
How to Beat Stress on a Yacht: Meditation Yoga Sailing
Science has now proven that meditation and yoga are excellent for both mental and physical health – an evidenced way to manage stress. Recently, when meditating, I have caught myself fantasizing about sailing. I see myself behind the helm of Super Chicken, my first Hobie Cat in ’68. I actually feel the wind and salty air - the exuberance of sailing into a great beam reach, extended on the outer pontoon, coupled with the exhilaration of knowing that I am one with the sea, the sky – the all.
I began meditation in ’88, twenty years later, when I was certified as a Yoga teacher at the Kripalu Center in MA. I enjoy yoga and meditation just as I do sailing. All three are natural, easy and necessary for good health, both mental and physical, and I view the practice of meditation, so necessary in today’s high speed world, as having a lot in common with sailing. There’s an intuitive connection between these activities as they all three teach love and respect for the natural world, a discipline over the physical, emotional and mental bodies, and an interrelating of energy. Nature, including the sea, has always had much to teach us - if we are still and listen.
Samsara is the Buddhist word for our outer world – the illusion of our physical reality. Anyone who has seen the “Matrix” movies knows about the illusionary nature of reality. Obtaining Nirvana (enlightenment, calmness, atonement, etc.) over Samsara – to be ‘in’ the world and not ‘of’ it - is the purpose of meditation, yoga, tai-chi, and other practices; to have breath and energies in harmony, not in competitive opposition – this is especially true as sailors approach hurricane season.
Psychologists say that we are addicted to the emotional patterns that keep our bodies in stress in an endless circle. We chase after the rush that competition and winning brings, but that rush is never quite enough so the end result is suffering. I would like to suggest another lesson about life that we can glean from sailing – that of riding with the wind of Samsara, even enjoying it, while still seeing through its illusory nature.
In order to keep our mental, physical and emotional bodies pure yoga and meditation are great exercises that enhance not only sailing, but all water sports. One of my friends, Doug Elliott, of S/V Salacia, shares with me that he has been meditating for over forty years. “I’m happy today in large part due to the centering effects of daily meditation. I had a major injury to my back and was in a troubled state. I began a sitting/meditation practice at age 17 and practiced seriously for many years but then stopped due to the pressures of running a business. When I began cruising, I was compelled to resume meditation at a time when normal life no longer satisfied me. Sitting is a precious gift, a gift of illumination. While most all Buddhists practice, it is available and helpful to anyone.”
Diane Souza-Chatman, a cruiser of many years on her 46' Brewer Pilot House Cutter Lady Diane, agrees. She not only meditates but does morning yoga on her vessel. “My day starts right when I do meditation followed by yoga on the bow of my boat as soon as I awaken. With the sparkling morning light on the quiet water and the warm air, I connect with my center in gratitude. Needing only a mat, I find that doing Yoga and Pilates keep my joints and ligaments stretched and toned. I work on strength as well as flexibility and balance. It is possible to do many poses even on a small boat.”
I join with these friends and many others in recommending meditation, yoga and any of the other practices that relieve stress. It certainly works for me.
Nancy Terrell is a freelance writer who has lived in the Caribbean for 22 years. She holds an MA Degree in Literature and is currently cruising on her trawler, Swan Song, throughout the Caribbean.