Benefits of Yoga for Commercial Fishermen

By Brie Weisman, OT/L Maine FishAbility

Also published by Commercial Fisheries News February 2022

For many today, yoga conjures images of rubber-boned, slender women imitating pretzels, but this ancient, ever-evolving practice was devised as a practical method for everyone to improve mind and body awareness. More athletes turn to yoga every year; LeBron James does it; the Seahawks do it in team practices. Workers relying heavily on their bodies do it too. Why?

Studies show that yoga can:

  • Increase flexibility and muscle strength
  • Improve respiration, energy, and stamina
  • Improve cardio/circulatory health
  • Improve athletic performance
  • Reduce injuries
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Improve sleep
  • Encourage weight loss

It is (sometimes painfully) obvious why yoga is ideal for fishermen. Lower back and rotator cuff injuries and chronic pain are common among fishermen. Repetitive motions lead to stiffness, soreness, and injury. Many fishing tasks are difficult to perform ergonomically. Constant boat motion and slippery surfaces dramatically increase risks of tearing muscles. Yoga provides the improved balance, flexibility, and strength that can reduce injuries, improve recovery time, and increase productivity.

woman oyster farmer demonstrating a stretch on the bacl of the boat on the ocean
Antonia taking a yoga stretch break after tending to her oysters.

If regular yoga sessions are unappealing to you, you can still benefit by incorporating stretches into workdays. Maine FishAbility recommends taking moments, when appropriate, to stretch stiff muscles during work–no lycra required! To encourage this habit, Maine FishAbility will post a monthly yoga pose on Maine AgrAbility’s website beginning this February. Each pose will have instructions, illustrations, and feature an instructional video provided by oyster farmer/yoga instructor Antonia Small, interviewed below.


Antonia Small has run an artisanal oyster farm, Icehouse Oysters, with husband John in Port Clyde, Maine since 2017. She’s also a yoga instructor/educator with her own studio, Oryx Worx, since 2011.

Tell us about your farm. 

We grow oysters in the cold waters of Deep Cove, where they take two to three years to reach maturity. We’re out there year-round, harvesting in fall, winter and spring.

What do you like most about your jobs?

I like it all! I love oyster farming, being outdoors on the water, and love teaching yoga to empower people to stay physical and active.

What do you like least about them?

Well, we were on the water yesterday, it was very cold. It can be a bit to manage gear on our very exposed farm. Zoom yoga has been a blessing for keeping folks moving, but it comes with connectivity issues, so I’ve had to improve technical skills under pressure.

What’s the physically hardest part at work?

Maintaining my health and strength so that a day of heavy lifting on the farm isn’t a setback. We sort oysters standing, but there’s lots of moving bags in and out of the water.

How do you address physical challenges?

I have a hang bar and gymnastic rings to work on upper body strength.

Do you have work-related pains?

My lower back is vulnerable if I’m not careful, so core strengthening is my best friend.

What do you see as common injuries for fishermen?

Back, shoulders, joints. Wear and tear from repetitive motion.

What would you tell your younger self about this work?

Get strong, stay strong.

Do you have any tips or tricks to share?

I would promote the idea of maintaining year-round physique and physical aptitude, so do off-season workouts that maintain the kind of strength you need.

What’s the one thing you don’t leave the dock without?

Warm gear!