Sunny Salutations

Sunny Salutations

By Jackie Leavitt

I wake up in bed and feel all of my muscles tight. I’m stiff all over. I stretch my arms up and crack my wrists — not something I can usually do. Yoga time, I think as I drag myself up and through the boat galley and out into the cockpit. I look around me — my first morning in Union Island, part of the Grenadines in the Caribbean chain. We had arrived yesterday afternoon after a 21-hour sail from Rodney Bay in St. Lucia. Bueller, the 38-foot Beneteau that carried us along the way, swings slightly from side to side as the easterly wind blows over its nose toward the flat island covered in green brush and palm trees. Other sailboats, catamarans and fishing vessels bob in the clear, blue water, their white hulls shining in the golden morning sun.

I step up on the cockpit’s slightly shaded right bench, facing east, and I begin my sun salutations — seven of them — slowly easing my body in each position. I wobble through some of the steps, but it forces me to pay more attention to engaging my muscles for balance much more than I ever did in yoga classes in San Francisco.

Since joining the sailboat in March, I’ve sailed more than 1,000 miles, including six night sails, when each person needs to take a shift in the dark to make sure we don’t run into anything. And along the journey, I’ve struggled to find the right exercise routine to stay in shape. While I’m no longer sitting in front of a computer all day at work, I’m also not doing all the intense physical activities I use to do in San Francisco, including running, yoga, rock climbing and dancing.

On the boat, it’s only possible to do stationary workouts unless at-anchor in a harbor, where you can swim or go for a run. But now it’s summertime in the Caribbean, and the heat and humidity turn runs into a form of torture. And you don’t want to swim through some of the harbors, as boats tend to pump their toilets directly into the water. We occasionally hike when we reach a new island, but after climbing Mount Scenery in Saba — which left my legs aching for days — I knew I had to start doing something more to keep limber.

I thought back to the last time I did yoga in San Francisco before I left for the Dominican Republic. I had biked out to Ocean Beach to meet my friend Dan, a yoga instructor, where we did sun salutations in the sand facing toward the glowing orange orb as it made its way towards the pink and purple horizon. We focused on being present in the moment rather than letting our thoughts run away on the past or future, which it often does.

I also thought of the first couple weeks of joining Lars and Travis on Bueller in the Dominican Republic. Our friend Logan was on-board, having joined the boat in the Bahamas in February. With a blossoming interest in teaching yoga, Logan planned out and led us through a couple hour-long classes, punctuated with humor and tricky balance poses as the boat wobbled in the water.

With these memories still visible in my mind, I started doing yoga again. I run through my sun salutations to stretch out, to be present in the moment, and to really breathe the air and feel the sun. But I also add some plank crunches to strengthen my core, warrior poses to work on balance as the boat tips back and forth, and pigeon poses to stretch my hips. The routine only takes 20 minutes, but it’s enough to bring my body and mind back into alignment. I finish feeling cleansed — in my muscles and my mentality. And I’m ready to fully appreciate this moment I’m in: windswept and sun-kissed in paradise.