Boat Pose - Navasana

Boat Pose - Navasana
Boat Pose - Navasana. © Ann Pizer

Type of pose: Seated

Benefits: Builds abdominal and core strength.

Long before we in the yoga world starting talking about core strength and dipping into the Pilates well for new variations on crunches and leg lifts, there was boat pose. And it remains one of the best ways to focus on your abdominal strength, which helps you do so many other yoga poses, especially gravity-defying arm balances and inversions.

Half boat, with the legs bent at the knee, is really a good place to work on this pose. Too often, students think the pose is all about straightening their legs, which they struggle to do at the expense of their straight spine and upright torso. Having straight legs when your spine is slumped and your upper body is inching toward the floor is not doing great things for you. Focus instead on keeping a tight V between your thighs and torso. Straightening the legs can come later. 

Instructions:

1. Begin in a seated position with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. 

2. Lift your feet off the floor. Keep you knees bent at first. Bring your shins parallel to the floor. This is half boat pose. 

3. Your torso will naturally fall back, but do not let the spine round. 

4. Straighten your legs to a 45 degree angle if you can do so without loosing the integrity of your upper body. You want to keep your torso as upright as possible so that it makes a V shape with the legs.

5. Roll your shoulders back and straighten your arms roughly parallel to the floor with your palms tuned up.

6. Balance on the sit bones.

7. Stay for at least five breaths.

Beginners' Tips:

1. You can hold the backs of your thighs with your hands if that helps you keep a straight spine.

2. Don't be in a hurry to straighten your legs.

Keeping the back straight and away from the floor is more important.

Advanced Tips: 

1. To increase core strength, try some boat crunches: Lower the legs and torso simultaneously towards the floor and hover there just before your feet and head touch the floor. Come back up into full or half boat pose like a sit-up. Repeat this five or more times.

2. Reach up and take your big toes in a yogi toe lock. Make sure that your shoulders stay away from your ears and that your upper arms are plugged into your shoulder sockets when you do this variation.

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