On Justine Benanty’s website, it says she’s a maritime archaeologist, yoga instructor, scuba diver, airplane pilot, wellness entrepreneur, travel addict and, perhaps most aptly, renaissance woman. But if you ask her, these aren’t professions—just things she involves her life with.
“People often ask if I’m the underwater Indiana Jones,” she says, laughing. “But I just like racking up experiences.”
Benanty, who wanted to be an archeologist since she was five years old, began her career working on biblical digs before transitioning to cultural antiquities—which, she pointed out, happens to be the fourth most trafficked item in the world after drugs, humans and weapons. From there, she joined the Slave Wrecks Project, an investigation of African-sourced slave trades and enslavement experiences.
“This was a very humbling experience, and I wanted to do it correctly,” she says, reflecting on the excavation work of the initial ship that went down. “It was a huge responsibility to be part of that kind of storytelling.”
Come 2016, Benanty’s career was at an all-time high. Not only did she have an acceptance to a PhD program in the Netherlands, but she was also helping run Diving With A Purpose—a youth maritime archaeology program that provides 18 students from around the world scholarships to learn how to map shipwrecks. Her work was allowing her to travel—she’d mapped coral reefs with 3D technology in the Maldives, lived out of a truck in the remote vastness of Mongolia, gone diving off the coast of Cape Town and ventured deep into the Middle East for archaeological digs. And to top it off, she was on the verge of signing a show for the Travel Channel.
But then everything changed.
“My grandmother got diagnosed with terminal cancer, and I gave it all up to take care of her.”
It was during this time that Benanty rediscovered yoga and meditation, quickly realizing that the more intentional she was about taking care of herself, the more she’d be able to give of herself. Fast forward to September 2017, and what started out as part-hobby, part-self care ritual became a full-fledged business called Siren Yoga—the world’s first fully submerged yoga program.
In other words, underwater yoga.
Benanty, who’s currently based in Brooklyn, plans to bring Siren Yoga to Los Angeles in the spring, and eventually international as she leads retreats around the world in the open ocean.
So what does this archaeologist-turned-scuba-diver-turned-yogi whose work has brought her to some of the farthest corners of the globe have to stay about staying healthy while traveling? A lot, actually.
1. Always start with yoga or breathing exercises while en route—whether by plane, train or boat
To combat anxiety while flying, Benanty always starts with the intention of how she wants the rest of the trip to go. “It completely changes my approach and definitely helps center me for the rest of my trip,” she says.
2. Combat the time difference with melatonin
Over time, Benanty has developed a trick for the exact amount of time she should be taking melatonin to trick her body into a sleep rhythm that feels more natural. The secret? Figure out what the time difference is, and translate that to the amount of days before and after the trip to take melatonin.
“So say it’s an 11-hour time difference,” she explains. “In that case, I’d start taking melatonin 11 days before leaving, continue taking it for the whole duration of the trip and end 11 days after getting home.”
3. Avoid drinking anything sugary or alcoholic on the airplane
“Bloating is a thing,” she says, laughing. “So I always stick with drinking water.”
4. Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize
To prevent airplane air from wreaking havoc on her skin, Benanty swears by Lucas’ Papaw Ointment—an Australian vaseline-like ointment that she lathers on for long flights.
“My skin never dries out,” she says. “And when I land, it always feels so dewy and refreshed.”
5. Establish a morning routine, even if it’s just a few minutes long
Regardless of where in the world Benanty is, she always dedicates time to a morning yoga practice—sometimes 45 minutes, sometimes less. The important part, she says, is the consistency of routine.
“Having something regular helps the body stay regular and the mind stay regular. I find that really beneficial.”
For more tips on how to stay fit while traveling, discover what this professional international soccer player (and co-founder of OWYN protein drinks) had to say.