Don’t rock the boat… or do! One of the most well-known yoga poses for core strength, navasana tones the abdominal muscles while strengthening the low back. The more we practice this core-strengthening pose and allow the waves to knock us off balance, the more we can find and return to our center. In this step-by-step guide, we’ll explain what navasana is plus why you might want to add boat pose to your yoga practice.
What is Navasana?
Navasana might look like you are doing modified crunches, but it’s a seated yoga pose that offers an opportunity for yogis to find the meaning of core strength. Traditionally, there are two variations, making it accessible to students of all levels including beginners:
- ardha navasana (half boat pose)
- paripurna navasana (full boat pose)
The word ardha means “half,” and it refers to the bent-knee variation of the pose, while paripurna means “full” or “complete” and refers to the deepest expression of the pose: with the legs and arms fully extended, creating the V shape of a small boat.
Benefits of Navasana
Navasana builds strength and steadiness at the body’s core, activating the abdomen, spine, and hip flexors. It stimulates the abdominal organs, including the kidneys and intestines, which improves digestion. This pose also encourages healthy regulation of the thyroid and prostate glands, helping to maintain metabolism and relieve stress. Often strenuous at first, this yoga posture requires and enhances concentration and stamina. Practicing navasana regularly can increase your ability to stay focused, internally aware, and emotionally calm.
How to Do Boat Pose
- Begin seated with your knees bent and soles of your feet flat on the floor. Your hands can rest next to your hips. Draw your awareness inward, and focus on your breath. Allow your inhalations and exhalations to be smooth, calm, and even.
- As you lean back with a neutral spine, let your feet come to tiptoe on the mat, and find yourself balancing slightly behind your sit bones. Zip up your legs as you lift your feet off the ground, bringing your shins parallel to the floor.
- Draw your lower belly in toward your spine, lift your chest, and lengthen the front of your torso. Then, extend your arms forward in line with your shoulders, with palms facing each other.
- Lengthen the front of your torso from your pubic bone to the top of your sternum, tucking your tailbone. The lower belly should be firm and pulled in. Take care not to let your lower back sag or chest collapse.
- With an exhalation, straighten your legs to a 45-degree angle from the ground, bringing your body into a V shape.
- Keep your breath easy, steady, and smooth. Focus your awareness within. Soften your eyes and face. Gaze at your toes.
- Spread your shoulder blades wide and reach out through your fingers, actively engaging your hands.
- Stay in the pose for five breaths. To release the pose, exhale as you lower your legs and hands to the floor.
Variations of Boat Pose
If you’d like to deepen or lighten the pose, try these simple modifications to find a variation that works best for you:
- If you are new to the pose, begin to build strength by keeping your knees bent and your hands resting on the floor behind you, with your fingertips pointing in toward your hips.
- As you gain strength, you can lift your hands and clasp your outer thighs. Eventually, you will be able to extend your arms forward and straighten your legs.
- If your hamstrings are tight, it can be difficult to straighten your legs. Keep your knees bent, and work on building core strength first.
- For support straightening your legs, wrap a strap around the soles of both feet. Hold the strap firmly with both hands. As you inhale, lean your torso back. Exhaling, press your feet against the strap as you lift and lengthen your legs.
- You can also practice engaging your core by placing a yoga block between your inner thighs.
- If you’d like more of a challenge in full boat pose, lightly clasp your hands behind your head. With an exhalation, slightly lower your legs while also lowering your back a few inches toward the floor. Inhale to lift up again into the full pose.
Contraindications of Navasana
Do not practice boat pose when you are experiencing headaches, low blood pressure, or diarrhea. Those with heart problems and asthma should not practice the full variation of the pose but can gradually and softly practice half boat pose instead. Women who are pregnant or menstruating should also not practice boat pose. Those with neck injuries can practice this pose with their backs and heads supported against a wall. Always work within your own range of limits and abilities. If you have any medical concerns, talk with your doctor before practicing yoga and let your yoga teacher know.
Practicing boat pose will build strength and power throughout your entire torso. Keep the following information in mind when practicing this pose:
- It’s more important to keep your spine straight and upper body toned than it is to straighten your legs or balance without hand support. Keep your hands on the floor and knees bent until you have built up enough strength to deepen the pose while keeping proper alignment.
- Although the lower belly will get firm, it should not puff forward or become thick. If it does, make a modification until you have built up enough strength that it does not harden.
Navasana is an empowering pose that requires dedication, practice, and a quiet mind. Just like a ship calmly making its way through a storm, boat pose can offer safety through balance and strength when the waves of life get rough.
How do you like to practice boat pose? Let us know in the comments below!
By Practyce Team
June 24, 2022