Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Yoga for Sailors

Should dinghy sailors do yoga? What are the benefits?

A few days ago in Top Two Tips for Laser Sailors I posed a question. What were the top two tips given by a coach to a bunch of Laser sailors like me, i.e. aging, unfit, clumsy, uncoordinated, erratic, usually bottom half of the fleet, passionate Laser sailors? What things could we do that would give us the biggest bang for the buck?

The 7th comment got one of the right answers: work on improving starts.

And after a few hints from me, someone finally got the other tip in the 15th comment: yoga.



I was surprised at this suggestion. Not because I hadn't heard it before. But is it really one of the two most important things that Laser sailors like me can do to improve our performance?

Why did the coach give this answer?

I didn't really have much of a chance to ask him to explain the reasons for recommending yoga back in the airport bar at Puerto Plata because my friends and the coach were soon off on one of those discussions about boat handling at the start accompanied by much waving of hands to represent boats on the start line, what was referred to in this month's Sailing World as "bar karate."

Don't get me wrong. I do see some benefits from yoga. I have a series of yoga stretching exercises that I do sometimes after Laser sailing to ease the aches and pains of the day, and occasionally the next morning to work out the stiffness. My exercises mainly concentrate on stretching the lower back, quads and hamstrings.

And I have a couple of friends, very good Laser sailors, much better than I will ever be, who go to yoga classes. I've even seen one of them sailing a Laser standing up on one leg. Not that that's a very useful skill to have when racing but I guess it does mean he has much better balance than I do.

Could it be that the coach had been watching us sail all week and had realized that lack of balance and flexibility and agility in the boat was a major factor in holding us back from achieving our full potential? Did he think that time spent doing yoga would enable us to perform graceful, flowing roll tacks and gybes? Was he saying that, after a few yoga classes, we would be able to sail the boat downwind in waves in 30 knots balanced perfectly on the soles of our feet as we carved turns like alpine skiers?

Or are there other reasons?

What do you think?

Yoga pictures from Wandering Lotus.
Karate picture from Wado World.


Baydog said...

We usually try to stretch the yoga until Sunday, when we go food shopping again. I prefer the trendy 'Greek' yoga, while my wife is sticking to the Dannon lowfat, vanilla yoga. She loves mixing it with Granola.

We both love dipping baby karates in hummus before dinner. It tends to make us eat less.

Sam Chapin said...

I vote for core strength and flexiblity. I know one good guy that does a lot stretching before rigging the boat.

Baydog said...

Sam, do you know Skip Moorhouse?

Pandabonium said...

As important as what Yoga can do for your body is what it can do for your mind, clearing away the clutter and allowing you to focus on sailing.

Sam Chapin said...

Baydog, David M. lives over on the East coast. member of the club and MC scow sailor. Skip M. lives in New Jersy and comes down some in the winter to sail MC scow. We are the only place in Florida to sail MCs. I currently sail Laser and probably wouldn't recognize Skip on the street.

Tillerman said...

If I passed him on the street I wouldn't know Skip Moorhouse from Baydog's Uncle Marshel.

Tillerman said...

Apparently, research confirms that drinking brings the same benefits as yoga does. Thanks to Guy for wising me up to this nugget!

Iloveboatracing said...

After a couple year hiatus from racing dinghies and straightening out the reason I had been away from dinghies I ended up back in a laser. It had been at least 6-7 years since I had sailed a laser but I had been going to Yoga class twice a week. I won the event. It was local and moderately competitive but what I noticed was that my ability to smoothly execute everything I knew I should be doing was WAY up. I told everyone I knew about it. I then promptly fell off my yoga routine and got my but stomped the following year at the same event.

What Yoga stretches do you recommend before and after the event?

Ella said...

This is perfect for sailors it puts them into the right mindset and also their body, that's what it does for me.

Sandrine said...

Yoga, practiced regularly, not only provides an excellent stretching, but most importantly an amazing sense of physical balance.
Improving your balance, along with flexibility and less injuries/pains, will improve your sailing skills. Just imagine what it can provide you on the race course when you tack!

I have practiced yoga for more than 10 years now and witnessed countless athletes surprised at how yoga has contributed to their performance in their sport: football players, soccer players, tennis players, marathon runners...

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