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Breathing Exercises to Keep you Calm On Board

Working on a superyacht can often be overwhelming: the long working hours, the fast-paced environment where peak performance is always expected, time spent away from your loved ones with limited space to yourself. Depression, anxiety, stress and other mental health problems are increasing in the life of many crew members, but what if we told you that by changing the way you breathe, you can become more resilient and even change your life?

"Breathe in deeply to bring your mind home to your body." – Thich Nhat Hanh

Breathwork is a trending topic nowadays. It is key in yoga, Pilates, mindfulness-based stress reduction techniques, conscious fitness programs, and mediation, just to mention a few fields of use. In yoga, the control of breath is called Pranayama, which is a fundamental part of lessons. 

Breathing is simple. Isn't it? 

Most people take breathing for granted. It’s something that comes naturally. Yet while you may think that it’s easy, there’s a fundamental difference between conscious breathing and the respiratory reflex (breathing on autopilot). In our modern society, most people chronically over-eat, under-sleep, and over-breathe. Inhaling is related to energising the body by stimulating the sympathetic nervous system and activating the parasympathetic nervous system, which in turn calms the mind and relaxes the body. 

Quality of Breath

Quality of breath depends on a number of factors including:

  • Posture: how much space is available for the lungs

  • Chronic stress

  • Sedentary lifestyle 

  • Dietary habits

  • Daily temperatures

  • Physical condition: regular exercise, especially cardio training

"Regulate the breathing, and thereby control the mind." – B.K.S. Iyengar


The benefits of conscious breathing:

  • reduces anxiety and negative emotions and fights depression

  • lowers stress levels 

  • lowers blood pressure 

  • enhances respiratory functions 

  • detoxes the body

  • elevates serotonin and endorphin levels

  • improves concentration and awareness

Three Types of Conscious Breathing to Practice On Board

Before we start, please keep in mind your starting position should be anything you find comfortable, as long as the spine is nicely aligned and the lungs have space to breath. You can sit on a pillow with your legs crossed, stand or lie down.

1) Balance Breathing

When: Any time of the day, because this exercise will calm you down when stressed and wake you up when tired. 

HowTake the starting position, then inhale to a count of four and exhale to a count of four. Repeat this 10x. 

Advanced option: increase the count to five or six.

Why? By breathing at half the speed you normally do, this technique will bring your nervous system to balance. It will help you calm your mind, and when feeling tired, it will optimally energise. 

2) Wake-up breathing

When: as part of your morning routine or before exercising.

How: Take the starting position, preferably a sitting position. Inhale, then exhale sharply through your nose, as by sneezing (keep your upper body motionless so that only the area of the navel moves). After you force the air out, relax and let the partial inhale happen all on its own. One cycle is 20 rounds sharp exhales and a rest-phase for a few breaths. Repeat the cycle 3x. 

Advanced option: Increase the round to 50 sharp exhales. 


3) Calm-down breathing

When: when feeling stressed or anxious or before going to sleep

How: This technique is practiced in four parts:

1: Place your left palm on your navel, inhale to a count of four, exhale to a count of 4. Bring your attention to the area of your belly and observe what is happening - the pathway of your breath entering your body by your nose, and how the belly lifts and gets flat by each breathing cycle. Repeat this for six breaths. 

2: Place your right hand on the centre of your chest, breathe slowly and deeply. Observe what is happening - the pathway of your breath entering your body by your nose, and how the chest expands and gets flat by each breathing cycle. Repeat this for six breaths. 

3: Keep the right hand on your chest, and place the left palm on your navel. Keep on breathing slowly. Observe both areas underneath and around your hands. Repeat this for six breaths. 

4: Release your hands and come back to natural breathing. 

These three breathing exercises are really very simple, and as you can see, you don't need any specific tools other than your own body, and a few spare minutes a day. You can apply them occasionally when needed, to fight stress. 

So why don't you give a try right away and see how you feel?

Wellbeing is not only about having a strong body, but also about keeping your mind sane. Share this article with your crewmates and raise awareness together for mental health. 

For more information, please contact Reni from Balance & Core at:

Tel: +33 (0) 695 404 247 

About Reni - Balance & Core

Reni is a freelance Yoga teacher, Personal trainer, Dipl. Health Improvement Manager with 11 years of teaching background. She is internationally trained, and over the past decade, she has been conducting various fitness and wellbeing programs in living in six countries on three continents.

Reni lives on the French Riviera and gives private yoga and fitness lessons at the place of choice, corporate health improvement programs, and organizes workshops, outdoor classes in the area. She teaches on yacht charters in the Med region and overseas, to make the holidays onboard to a wholesome experience. As a health professional, she emphasizes the holistic wellbeing of her clients. Besides the physical aspects of a lesson, mindfulness-based techniques help to calm the mind.

Images: Balance & Core, Unsplash

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