Working in the yachting industry is heaven for the young, the fit and the adventurous. A major attraction to the industry is the places you’ll go and the fun you’ll have going there.
Over time, however, the galleys, engine rooms, tiny cabins and generally cramped living starts to take its toll on the body. This has a double whammy negative effect of not only being a hinderance when you want to be as sporty and active as ever, but it’s also extremely ageing to see someone hunched up with shoulders around their ears.
With that in mind, I thought a good place to start this column would be with 5 classic poses to keep your shoulders and chest open, so that your youthful good looks can keep on prospering.
The first pose is Easy Pose, or Sukhasana. This is surprisingly challenging for most able bodies people, because the trick is to be able to sit crossed legged without letting your lower back sag down towards the floor behind you. I find holding onto my knees and pulling myself upright the perfect tool for tackling this, or you can sit on a cushion or block for extra support.
Sit in Easy Pose for 25 breaths (an inhale & an exhale count as 1, and yes, you have to actually count them).
Youthful tip 1: drawer your shoulder blades down your back and towards one another, so that you project your chest forward between your arms.
Youthful tip 2: its all about mulla bandha. If that word is new to you, you are going to come to love it. It holds the key to eternal youth and vitality. Suffice to say, if you are a gentleman, I’m talking about lifting your equipment. Girls, I’m taking about lifting your perineum. Check out an anatomy & physiology book if you need to!
If you’re feeling confident, you can add the arms of Cow Face Pose. Ah, perfect for some of the crew you might think to yourself. Its sanskrit name is Gomukhasana.
This is a modified version of the full pose, as we are primarily focusing on the shoulders.
Take your right arm up alongside your ear, turn the palm to face behind you, and then bend the arm at the elbow, positioning the hand between your shoulder blades.
Raise your left arm along said your ear, then take that hand to rest just in front of the bent right elbow. Use the left hand to gentle coax the right elbow back, whilst keeping your shoulder blades sliding down your back. Hold for 5 - 10 long smooth breaths.
Do the stretch to both sides and watch that you don't let your raised elbow drop forwards or your head fall forwards.
Youthful tip 3: deliberately draw the tummy in against the spine for added spinal support. And don’t forget mulla bandha.
The second pose is Sphinx Pose, which is best practiced on the floor or on your bed.
This is a baby backbend, and a great place to start your practice. Lay on your tummy with your legs together, pubic bone pressing into the floor and thighs / ankles squeezing in together.
See if you can slide your toes further away from you to get real length in the legs and hips. Inhale and place your elbows underneath your shoulders and your forearms on the floor.
Raise your eyes to the sky. Hold for 5 - 10 breaths.
Youthful tip 1: Allow your chest to come forwards between your arms as you pull your shoulders back, and suck your elbows and forearms towards you.
Youthful tip 2: press the centre of your palms into the mat.
Youthful tip 3: bring the belly up to support with spine, without forcing.
If this still feels too easy, then you can start to heat it up by tucking your toes under, walking the feet in towards you, dropping your heels
towards the floor and raising your sitting bones into the air.
Allow your head to hang suspended from the floor between your arms, with your chin tucked in towards your chest.
Youthful tip 4: mulla bandha.
Pose number 3 requires balance and a little more space. It is a warrior variation, or a Virabhadrasana variation.
Start standing at the front of your mat, and step back with your left foot as far as you can, whilst keeping your hips square to the front of your mat.
Bend the front (right) knee and check that you able to see your big toe over the top of your knee. If you can’t, widen your stance until you can.
Bend the back leg a little so that you can drop your pelvis and tuck your pubic bone forwards, giving you space in your lower back.
Take your arms up either side of your ears, palms facing one another, and then drop your arms down and back behind you to interlock your fingers together. Press the arms together, and push the hands away from you.
Take your gaze up to the sky and breath deeply as you allow your shoulder blades to come together behind your back. Your chest should feel super open. Hold for 5 -10 breaths, and then repeat on the other side.
Youthful tip 1: smile and breath.
If that is feeling good, you can swivel yourself to be sideways on the mat, have both feet parallel and have your legs straight but soft, not locked rigid.
Keep your arms behind you, and gaze up at the sky, still smiling and breathing. You want to get your breast plate as high to the sky as you are able.
With your core engaged, slowly move your torso forwards and come into a wide legged forward bend for 5 - 10 breaths.
The fourth pose is still a standing pose, Parsvottanasana. If you have muscly arms you may find this a challenge, so just adapt as you see fit.
Start standing at the front of your mat, with your hips square to the front. Step your left foot back a short distance, with the back foot turned to face outwards.
Take your arms wide to the side, turn your palms to face behind you, and bring your hands together behind your back to let your finger tips touch.
Swing the finger tips in to your back and wriggle your hands up into prayer, between your should blades, if this comes easily, press the palms
together. If this doesn’t come so easily, then clasp your hands or hold on to your elbows.
Stand tall, look up to the sky and reach your breast plate high. Then keeping both legs straight, but not locked, move your heart forwards into a forward bend, fixing your gaze on your big toe. Hold for 5-10 breaths, and then repeat on the other side.
Youthful tip 1: allow the pulse of your breath to move your body constantly, allowing a gentle rise of the chest as you breath in, and allowing a deepening of the forward bend as you breath out.
The final pose, Bridge Pose, can be practiced on the floor or on your bed. The sanskrit name is Chatush Padasana. You’re going to enjoy this one.
Start lying down on your back, knees bent and arms either side of your body. Keep your heels hip width apart, feet parallel, and gently push your knees away from you to keep the back long.
Allow your hips to float up towards the sky, and watch your tummy rise and fall with your breath. Stay her for 5-10 breaths, and then enjoy the slow ride down again, feeling each vertebrae as it meets the floor. Repeat 3 times.
Youthful tip 1: as you press your upper arms into the floor, allow your chest to rise up towards your chin.
Once you’ve completed this whole sequence, you will want to finish by bending your knees into your chest and rocking from side to side, to ease the back out. You can also add dropping both knees to your left and turning your gaze to the right with both arms out away from your body. It feels amazing. Then repeat again to the other side.
Now take 10 minutes to lie there in silence, with your eyes closed and feel how good that feels.
Well done! You may choose to rush to the mirror to check out just how young and gorgeous you now look.