One of the most well-known yoga poses for core strength, Boat Pose — Navasana (nah-VAHS-uh-nuh) — tones the abdominal muscles while strengthening the low back. The name comes from the Sanskrit words "nava" (meaning "boat") and "asana" (meaning "pose"). There are two variations: Half Boat Pose — Ardha Navasana (ARD-uh nah-VAHS-uh-nuh) — and Full Boat Pose — Paripurna Navasana (pahr-ee-POOR-nah nah-VAHS-uh-nuh) . The word "ardha" means "half," and it refers to the bent-knee variation of the pose. "Paripurna" means "full" or "complete," and it refers to the deepest expression of the pose, with the legs and arms fully extended and lifting, creating the "V" shape of a small boat.
Benefits of Boat Pose
Navasana deeply challenges the abdomen, spine, and hip flexors, building strength and steadiness at the body’s core. 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 pose requires (and helps further develop) concentration and stamina. Practicing Navasana regularly will increase your ability to stay focused, internally aware, and emotionally calm.
Concentrate and you will radiate!
Do not practice Boat Pose if you are currently experiencing headaches, low blood pressure, or diarrhea. Those with heart problems and asthma should not practice the full variation of the pose, but should 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.
- Begin seated with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor, hands resting beside your hips. Draw your awareness inward and focus on your breath. Allow your inhalations and exhalations to be smooth, calm, and even.
- Keeping your spine straight, lean back slightly and lift your feet, bringing your shins parallel to the floor.
- Draw in your low back, lift your chest, and lengthen the front of your torso. Then, extend your arms forward, in line with your shoulders with your palms facing each other.
- Balance on your sit bones, keeping your spine straight. Take care not to let your lower back sag or chest collapse.
- Lengthen the front of your torso from your pubic bone to the top of your sternum. The lower belly (the area below your navel) should be firm and somewhat flat, but not hard or thick.
- 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 your 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, gradually working up to one minute. To release the pose, exhale as you lower your legs and hands to the floor.
Modifications & Variations
If you’d like to deepen or lighten the pose, try these simple changes 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 assistance 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.
- 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.
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 the front of your torso long 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.
- The lower front of the belly should never get hard. Although it 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 become hard.
Set Sail for Strength
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 will provide safety through balance and strength when the waves of life get rough!