Flexible capability: teaching yoga at sea

This article has photo gallery Published on LEUT Jessica Kuk (author), POIS Tom Gibson (photographer)

Topic(s): HMAS Canberra (L02), Yoga, Regional Presence Deployment

Royal Australian Navy sailor, Able Seaman Dental Assistant Chutima Luerach teaches a yoga class at sea onboard HMAS Canberra during the Regional Presence Deployment 2020. (photo: POIS Tom Gibson)
Royal Australian Navy sailor, Able Seaman Dental Assistant Chutima Luerach teaches a yoga class at sea onboard HMAS Canberra during the Regional Presence Deployment 2020.

Royal Australian Navy Dental Assistant, Able Seaman Chutima Luerach has been busy keeping the 709 officers and sailors on Regional Presence Deployment smiling in more ways than one.

When not working in the dental surgery aboard HMAS Canberra firstly and then HMAS Sirius, Able Seaman Luerach gives yoga classes to her shipmates.

“I began yoga about three years ago after trialling a couple of classes. I found it helped with some joint injuries, and the more I made it a habit, the more people asked me to help them learn,” she said.

“While I was working as a dental assistant in the Navy, I also studied yoga as a personal interest and then took a course to become an instructor.” 

Facilitated by the ships’ Personal Training Instructors (PTI), Able Seaman Luerach has run regular classes during the deployment that focus on strength but also encourage relaxation and mindfulness.

Canberra’s PTI, Petty Officer Amy Carpenter, said the yoga classes were a great way to unwind during this unique deployment.

“We have no port visits because of the COVID pandemic so as PTIs we are interested in ways to help members relax and keep their morale high,” Petty Officer Carpenter said.

Royal Australian Navy sailor, Able Seaman Dental Assistant Chutima Luerach conducts yoga at sea onboard HMAS Canberra during the Regional Presence Deployment 2020.

Royal Australian Navy sailor, Able Seaman Dental Assistant Chutima Luerach conducts yoga at sea onboard HMAS Canberra during the Regional Presence Deployment 2020.

“Able Seaman Luerach’s talent and enthusiasm bring a welcome capability. Her skillset as a qualified yoga instructor provides variety to the PT program for ship’s company and embarked forces. 

“She taught us a variety of stretches and poses ranging from easy to advanced, and I could see that members were relaxed and refreshed after a quiet yoga session.”   

In preparation for the deployment, Able Seaman Luerach enlisted the assistance of her mother, Sormchat, whom she flew to Sydney from her native home of Chiang Rai, Thailand, to look after her 12-year-old son, Lucas.

While she admits it has been challenging being away from her son, Able Seaman Luerach is glad for the chance to deploy.

“Performing my job at sea has been a learning and rewarding experience, but I have to admit that doing yoga on the flight deck of Canberra while the sun rose and reflected on the water all around me was a highlight. There was a truly unique sense of stillness and calmness,” she said.

Able Seaman Luerach originally deployed in Canberra, but swapped to Sirius with the rest of the dental team when the Landing Helicopter Dock left the five-ship task group in Guam and returned to Australia.

The swap allowed Navy to continue looking after the welfare of their deployed sailors while on RPD20.

Lieutenant Ben Walker, Deputy Maritime Logistics Officer in Sirius, said he had enjoyed the new type of physical training challenge.

“I found the classes relaxing and reinvigorating,” Lieutenant Walker said.

 “Often I forget to stretch after a workout and so yoga has been a great way to stretch and build strength.”

The Task Group is on its way home to Australia after the successful completion of Exercise Rim of the Pacific 2020 in Hawaii. On its return journey, the task group will conduct a series of regional engagement activities with Southeast Asian nations.

RPD20 demonstrates Australia’s commitment to sustaining strong and positive defence relationships with regional nations as well as the security and stability of the Indo-Pacific region.