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Selden 2020 - LEADERBOARD

Of breathing, pretzels, and other funky things…

by John Curnow, Global Editor, 3 Nov 2021 23:00 UTC
Yoga with Leanne in the Coral Sea 'Beyond the Barrier Rally` Diamond Island © Leanne Hembrow

I could have gone on, too. If it were not for the lack of space, we would have also seen, origami, wellness, Zen, mindfulness, circumspection, balance and contemplation. OK. We should probably stop right there, for we would not want to be accused of labouring the point, now would we?

So get ready for it. We're going to use a four-letter word, right here, all over the Interweb. Yoga. Now apart from those actually doing it, there are two sort of camps left over. One is the 'must do something about that' group, who have heard from so many other souls about the serious benefits to not only body and mind, and not yet made a start on their own journey for one reason or another. They could even be like me, and do yoga at every opportunity, but have not yet made it part of their daily life for an as yet undefined reason.

The other think it is all about entirely too much incense burning in confined spaces, Japanese fishing pants or kaftans, folding oneself up like a piece of paper in origami, or your legs twisted over your head like some human pretzel. And it is not almond milk decaf lattes, ultra-wafty chai teas on soy, designer mats, mung bean paste on spelt bread, or messages of inspiration on your water bottle, either. This group will probably never, ever embrace yoga, or the reasoning behind it. They will simply tell themselves, 'I will go off and service the Diesel.' So be it.

Now if I have not managed to offend absolutely everybody yet, we'll keep going, for it is important stuff. You see, I had read a blurb. It was but a couple of paragraphs from a trusted and friendly source, and it was enough to get me motivated. So I reached out. I made a connection. Interestingly that is a word we could have used in the opening stanza, as it so happens.

The person I had reached out to is one Leanne Hembrow most well known for her Yoga 4 Yachties classes, and who together with her husband, John, has been cruising for over a decade. So that makes her qualified as a yachtie, which goes along handily with her qualifications as a Yoga Instructor. She's also taken it a step further with Sail Wellness, which combines the physical movement with gut health and nutrition, so by now you can imagine I was very excited to learn more.

Indeed the subheads we developed for laying out material to present here and in the future really took us on a magical journey. So much so, we elected to run them here, so you can see what is coming along, as we move forward with this trek, for this is not a show up at one class and become a Master kind of deal.

  • For men, not just women
  • Mindfulness
  • Holistic approach
  • Gut size and health
  • Sailing and Cruising Community
  • Act local, think global - impact on the very locations we go to


"We are all searching for something without even knowing it. Remember we left behind a place to feel freedom on the sea, and experience other lands and cultures, not change them to become the same as what we sailed away from. How can we achieve or maintain wellness with our lifestyle choice both for self and the globe we travel upon?" Leanne's answer is Yoga, Health & Sail Wellness.

"Yoga has been a part of my sailing life since the first day I attended a class prior to sailing from Australia in 2009. I instantly believed this was such an important tool to bring on board to maintain a calm mind in difficult times, and a strong body to support my husband sailing our vessel."


Let's get rid of your bag of 'No's right off the bat!

If you're male, this is not girls' stuff only. Take the example of John himself, who Leanne describes as "...a reluctant yogi at first. He began coming to classes to support my teachings, but the result was his surfing improved noticeably. 'I moved so much better on those waves today, yoga is really helping my twist and turns', he shared with friends. So in turn he started to encourage his mates. Some took up the challenge, some didn't, but one thing for sure a lot more men were attending classes with me in Fiji and where ever else I taught as we sailed around the globe."

"Space is a huge thing with convincing yachties to practice on board. Sundowners are always the discussion times, or after class on the beach or cays. I'm drawn into conversations about the day's Yoga Class, and asked questions or told, 'I could never do yoga on my boat; there is not enough room; you've got more space on a catamaran."

Leanne continued, "I do remind them I began Yoga on board monohulls, lying across the companionway each morning diagonally. John knew I was there, and we worked out that this was my time and space at this hour. If he had to step over me, he did it without trying to disturb my practice."

"After class one day this question arose again, and I said what if I come onboard your vessel and show you how to use the boat as a yoga platform. We found at least three spaces to roll out the mat, and I offered advice for both partners to practice together, which they now do onboard during their travels to some of my video classes."

Then there's disease. Leanne even created a special class for one sailor, Thomas, who was suffering from cancer. "After a break in my upper back, caused by a cancerous tumour, I was looking for a gentle exercise routine that would build back the strength in my upper body so I could return to active sailing. My wife had joined a 21-day challenge with Leanne (video below), and she told me about her expertise and gentle, yet effective routines", said Thomas.

"I needed a personalised approach, due to my injury, and was restricted with space because of living on a boat. Being a fellow sailor, I knew that Leanne would be able to consider my parameters. I requested two different routines from Leanne; they were gentle, and my wife and I could do them side-by-side in our berth. Along with a healthy diet and regular routine of exercise, including swimming, the yoga and paddle boarding, my strength grew, and I am currently pain and drug free and able to enjoy my travelling lifestyle again."

"The yoga was the way I could gain my strength back, and was a wonderful tool on my road to recovery. My wife and I are very grateful for Leanne's methods and skill." Yes, it was at the behest of his wife, but once he got going, he never looked back, and you can watch that class right below.

So remember. There is no 'no' worth attaching yourself to, only know...

The point of it all?

A healthier and happier life off the grid is what we all chase, but how do you achieve it?

"You would think that living on the ocean we are all super fit, breathing in clean air, expanding all the quadrants of our lungs, eating fresh fish and organic greens to support the energy we expel to cross oceans, and maintaining our boats to keep us safe. However, do you know how important it is to stretch your body and maintain a healthy breath flow to quieten down the mind?"

"Stretching keeps the muscles flexible, strong, and healthy, and we need that flexibility to maintain a range of motion in the joints. Without it, the muscles shorten and become tight. Then, when you call on the muscles for activity, they are weak and unable to extend all the way. This then inhibits our ability to squeeze into those small spaces or twist and contort in the smallest cupboard to reach a wire."

"I have witnessed the enormous benefits first hand over the 12 years of ocean living, understanding the benefits Yoga brings to ocean passages. Not just the physical practice, but also the meditative. We were caught in a massive storm off the coast of NSW whilst heading to Fiji. Murphy decided to throw a few things at us all at once."

"A first time ocean passage maker who was crew onboard with us, stepped from his bunk into ankle deep water. His first thoughts were 'Are we sinking?' This lead to a deep shock to his system, causing hyperventilating, sweats and FEAR. I used my yoga knowledge of breath and calmness to lull him into a more peaceful place and eventually sleep."

"Stress plays a huge role with this lifestyle, we all express it differently, but one thing we all can do is recognise as a crew member or Captain the breath needs to be fluid with a calm rhythmic flow for us to maintain a level head, make decisions for enjoyable passages, and be ready for all Murphy throws at us."

Indeed a study in 2019 study determined that six weeks of practicing pranayama - breath work - for one hour a day could have a significant effect on lung function.

"I have been responsible for introducing yoga into the lives of many sailors since 2009. Sundowners were my biggest competition, until I stopped competing with this hour, and chose a suitable morning time to practice before we all began surfing, kite-surfing, fishing, diving, swimming and maintaining our boats. Dinghies came to my classes one by one, and learned how keeping their muscles flexible, strong and healthy allowed all the other fun stuff, and not so fun jobs, of the day to be a little less strenuous."

Food and hydration

Food is a staple in our lives, so how do we create healthy dishes to allow us to enjoy this lifestyle as long as possible, whilst maintaining healthy bodies and hearts?

"Our usual choice of food is not always available to us, we buy what is on offer at local markets, and learn new recipes to cook with local produce, like coconuts, pineapples, eggplant, string beans and more."

"Drinking enough water each day is crucial for many reasons: to regulate body temperature, keep joints lubricated, prevent infections, deliver nutrients to cells, and keep organs functioning properly. Being well hydrated Body Water Content also improves sleep quality, cognition, and mood. All super important to help us live this lifestyle on the ocean."

But wait. There's more!

"Over time I started to research allergies, as I seemed to be suffering more and more whilst cruising. I was tired of taking antihistamines, being someone who really disliked tablets. So I thought, Could I fix it with food? This began a journey into discovering what triggered my allergies. The result was eating clean food, yoga poses to open up the front of my body, meditation and pranayama."

"A friend in the sailing community talked to me about Gut Health, so I embraced it and began mentoring others to feel as good as I had discovered. This included weight loss, no bloated belly, my skin looked clear, and I slept so much better."

"I have continued my love of yoga, deepening my knowledge over the years, travelling to Bali, Canada, and the USA. I have recently also completed a Ayurveda course."

Bigger picture

When you think sharper, you see clearer. You might even say you have a different appreciation for the structure of things.

"I was sailing in El Salvador in 2010, and plastic education was just being introduced, with new recycle bins placed near restaurants and beach areas. As part of the eco-education, a group of volunteers walked with locals along their beaches identifying rubbish and non-recyclable waste."

"The large nets on their back, which we were used to seeing with wood for fires, were now being filled with plastic bottles from the beach. As one strip of beach was being cleaned, the educator looked behind to witness blue plastic tetrahedrons (triangular pyramid) littered everywhere. These were being sold in the local stores filled with water. So the crews collecting the rubbish were drinking the water and throwing the blue plastic behind them. Immediately the educator began explaining to the locals this was no good. 'These need to be put in bins, not the beach and subsequently end up in the ocean.' This was a chore in itself, as one older lady argued, 'No it's ok' as she squashed it into the sand under her foot... 'See. All gone!"

Leanne closed by saying, "Let's help take care of the ocean animals and islands we visit, educate self and others about responsible disposal of food waste and ocean hygiene. Immerse yourself with your new Island friends' values and culture, and maintain the peace you have just arrived in."


Just enough time to quickly talk about a couple of faves... The first is The Story Behind Recluta, and a famous name in Frers. Is it about resurrection or completion, I don't know, but if you get a chance, take a peek, as it is quite the tale.

The other is the boutique yard, Amel, who employ around 140 craftspeople who deliver 19 boats per annum. The new 50 and 60 have catapulted them into the here and now (and how). They are certainly an aspiration and destination brand. 84 Amel 50s sold since September 2017, and 20 Amel 60s since September 2019 into 25 countries, no less. I note that one Amel 50 is due into Australia before Christmas, and will be based in the stunning Pittwater of Sydney's Northern Beaches. Thing is, she's one of five sold by Flagstaff Marine in the last 12 months. Nice work. Lots of happy cruising to come for those owners...

So you see, there are stories, lessons, inspirations and history to regale yourself with. Please use the search window at the top of the home page if you are after something specific, as only the latest news appears on the site as you scroll down. We enjoy bringing you the best stories from all over the globe.

If you want to see what is happening in the other Hemisphere, go to the top of the SailWorldCruising home page and the drag down menu on the right, select the other half of the globe and, voila, it's all there for you.

Finally, stay safe and happy.

John Curnow
Global Editor,

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