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Yoga at Sea

“I was in the right place at the right time, but more importantly, with the right qualifications”, writes Charleeze Brightman of Yoga on Yachts.


I was a childhood friend of a celebrity yoga teacher. Her clients included TV personalities which upped her kudos no end. She invited me to help out at a yoga retreat – my job was that of a gofer – go for this and go for that, but I got free yoga lessons at a beginner level. She was low on numbers on the beginner’s course. I was hooked on Yoga and practised three times a week.

Fast forward eighteen months. I am stewardess on a 50 metre, relatively new in the industry. The captain sees me practising Yoga on deck between charters and tells me I have just resolved a massive headache for him. The charter starting the next day had requested a yoga teacher for the duration of the cruise, and the one provided by the agency had just fallen off her scooter. With no replacement available, I become a yoga teacher.

I was terrified, but I remembered the words of my friend: teaching Yoga is 80% empathy and 20% skill.  Communication, observation, empathy.  It went so well that by the end of the cruise, the guests insisted I join them for dinner- the captain had to get a deckhand to cover my dinner duties.

I still am amazed at how this became a job.  Word got back to my celebrity yoga teacher and she recommended me to some of her beginner and intermediary students. At the end of the season in the med, the yacht was sold, and I flew out to St Maarten to teach Yoga to a billionaire’s wife/girlfriend/lover – it was never clear.. I have now twenty charters under my belt.

I have had some amazing experiences. Nothing beats the Sun Salutation at dawn on the deck of a beautiful superyacht.   I have had a few not so good experiences – gentlemen and their wandering hands – and one very bizarre experience when a celebrity client decided that she was better  at Yoga than me – she actually was practiced to a very high level – and taught me for duration of the charter. Even though I was stationed in a hotel and took a  tender every morning, she was always waiting for me at the top of the passarelle on the dot of eight. ‘Ready for your lesson?’ she would say. She gave me  a large tip at the end, and when I said I didn’t deserve it, she replied: ‘for allowing me to teach you.’

And that episode highlights an essential aspect of teaching Yoga: getting the Power Dynamics right. Get those wrong and  a relationship can go quickly wrong. Some students expect their teacher to be dominant in the classroom; others have unresolved issues with authority. I have learned to be quick of the mark, working out the dynamics from day one.

There are two types of course: one involves the teacher staying on board the yacht. This presents many practical implications because  crew  accommodation is limited. Staying in a guest cabin is problematic. You are neither crew nor guest. My preferred option is to stay in a nearby hotel. This can be fun in the summer season as you taxi from port to port following the charter. In the Greek islands following the yacht is a great source of entertainment but it is hard work.

Most of my clients are female. Yoga is for many addictive. A day without their hour of Yoga class is incomplete. Men veer towards the gym, whereas many clients look forward to meeting me for sixty to ninety minutes of Yoga and nothing compares.

One hale and hearty recommendation to the crew recruitment agencies. You may be able to get away with an existing crew member who knows a bit of Yoga with a so-so certificate but the real Yoga buffs will soon see through this. The Yoga Alliance is the benchmark for assessing Yoga teachers – there are no bluffers allowed.

This is the world of superyachts and, though there have been a few less than salubrious scenes that I have witnessed, Yoga always seems to bring out the best in people. I don’t know how long this will last. I sometimes think I was lucky. Other times I think you make your luck. Be lucky, dear readers.


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