What is the boat pose?
Boat pose, known as Navasana in Sanskrit, is a core strengthening yoga posture. Challenging at first, the posture requires you to engage the core, hold still and breathe deep. It’s often used as a preparatory pose for more challenging yoga postures related to core and arm strength such as the crow pose (Bakasanasa), eight-angle pose (Astavakrasana), and inversions such as the headstand and scorpion pose . There are several variations that can also be adapted to make the boat pose a dynamic movement or part of a dynamic yoga flow aimed at strengthening the core and abdominal muscles.
Posture type: Sitting
Ideal for: Strength
Pose level: Intermediate
How can you prepare for the boat pose?
Since the boat pose itself is a preparatory posture, you can practice other core strengthening yoga asanas such as the plank pose and low plank pose. You can also practice movements from the plank to downward-facing dog pose to upward-facing dog pose. Surya Namaskar will also effectively increase your core strength. Apart from this, regular push-ups, leg lifts and crunches are beneficial.
How to practice boat pose?
Getting into the posture
- Sit on your mat with your knees bent and feet on the floor.
- Place your hands behind your knees, lift the chest and engage the back muscles as you inhale.
- Keep your inner thighs and core engaged. Make sure to draw the abdomen inwards.
- Slightly tilt back coming onto your sit bones. Now lift your feet up to about knee height.
- Keep the toes pointing outward and engaged.
- Now bring your arms parallel to the floor.
- Once you are ready, you can slowly straighten your legs.
- Stay here for a few deep breaths.
Getting out of the posture
- As you exhale, gently bring your feet down. Sit for a few minutes and take deep breaths.
What are the benefits of practicing boat pose?
Being a core strengthening posture, the boat pose strengthens the abdominal region and the muscles in the region. It also has a strengthening effect on the hip flexors and spine. It is beneficial for the digestive organs, improves digestion and stimulates the digestive fire. The boat pose and its variations/ dynamic movements are a great way to prepare the body for more challenging and advanced postures.
What are the contraindications of the boat pose?
Anyone with back pain or a back issue should avoid the posture. If you have a headache, diarrhea, low blood pressure or asthma it is recommended you avoid this posture.
If you are suffering from any abdominal pain or problems of the digestive organs, avoid the boat pose. In case of shoulder or neck pain, practice carefully without straining the neck, shoulders and arms. The posture also improves your balance significantly.
Counter poses of the boat pose
You can rest in the child’s pose for a few minutes. Or lie down in the corpse pose (Shavasana) and take a few deep breaths.
Boat pose variations
- As a beginner, you can keep the knees bent with the calves parallel to the mat instead of straightening the legs.
- You can also keep the hands behind the knees instead of bringing them parallel to the mat.
- Place a block between the thighs to keep the inner thigh engaged. Once you get a feel of this, you can remove the block.
- You can try boat crunches. In this dynamic movement, lower the legs and torso simultaneously towards the floor and hover there just before the feet and head touch the floor. Then come back up to the boat pose, bringing your head close to your knees. Repeat this 5-6 times.
- You can also do cycle movements with the legs in boat pose. For this, from the boat pose, keep the spine and upper body as is, and start cycling with the legs while moving the hands also in circular motions.
- Try the full boat pose by taking a strap around the soles of your feet to help straighten your legs. You can also hold the pose for longer with this support.
Advice for beginners for the boat pose
- To know what it's like to draw the abdomen in, imagine you are wearing a tight pair of pants. Squeeze your belly in a similar fashion.
- Keep your focus engaging the lower belly, back muscles and inner thighs.
- Ensure your shoulders and back are not curved or rounding.
Practice tips for the boat pose
- Keep your chest open. This will help keep the shoulders back and upper back straight.
- Take deep breaths throughout the posture. It will help you keep the core engaged.
- If you find it challenging to keep the back straight, then bend the legs at the knees initially. With practice you can start straightening the legs.
Shvasa tips for the boat pose
- Don’t be in a hurry to straighten your legs. A straight back is more important.
- Loop a strap around your feet and hold onto the strap as you raise your legs. Initially, once you get used to bringing the legs up, you can let go of the strap.