Core strength is an essential part of a healthy and fit body. When we exercise, we often give importance to this. One of the things yoga is good at is exercising and improving our core strength. And how exactly does it do that? Through the execution of the boat pose of course!
The boat pose/navasana is considered to be one of the well-known and commonly practiced poses in yoga practice. This pose is good for the entire body, specifically the abdomen and the lower back. However, this pose is also quite challenging to hold, especially if you are a beginner in yoga. Not worry though, because we have prepared a guide that you can easily follow!
Now, shall we begin?
Understanding the boat pose
The boat pose or “navasana” is a perfect core strength exercise that engages your abs as well as the other parts of your body. It actually has two versions: the half boat pose (ardha navasana) and the full boat pose (paripurna navasana). The half boat pose pertains to the version of the posture wherein the legs are knee-bent, while the full boat pose is the deeper execution of the pose with the legs straightened.
This particular yoga pose also targets arm balances and inversions. Doing this pose properly requires strength coming from both the front and back of the body.
What are the benefits of the navasana boat pose?
The paripurna navasana boat pose provides many benefits to our body and overall health. This type of pose is a strengthening one because it mainly builds strength in your core muscles. Here are its key benefits:
- strengthens the abdominal muscles, spine, hip flexors
- reduces the workload of the lumbar spine
- widens the range of motion
- prepares the body for advanced arm balances
- engages the hamstrings and inner thighs
- activates kidneys and thyroid and improves digestion
- improves focus and breathing
- reduces stress
Yoga practice is generally but it’s always important to remain careful and wary of your health condition. Do not practice the boat pose if you are currently experiencing any of the following:
- low blood pressure
If you have heart problems or asthma, you can only gradually practice the half-boat pose. If you have neck injuries, on the other hand, you can practice this pose as long as your heads and backs are supported by a wall. For further medical concerns, you can consult a doctor and seek the guidance of a yoga teacher.
How to practice the boat pose properly
It’s important to understand that practicing navasana boat pose requires a proper process to follow. If you do not execute it properly, chances are you might not attain the goals of the pose, or worse—you might compress the spine or strain your back. To avoid any possible injury, carefully learn how to do the boat pose the right way. Read on to begin!
Start by sitting down with your knees bent and feet on the floor. Rest your hands on the sides of your hips. Focus your attention on your breathing and make sure that your inhalations and exhalations are smooth, deep, and even.
Lean your torso back slightly, shins parallel to the floor, as you lift your feet but keep your spine straight as you can.
Lift your chest and lengthen the front of your torso as you draw in your lower back. Place your hands forward, extending the arms aligned with your shoulders, with the palms facing each other.
You must balance your sitting bones to keep your spine straight and lengthened. Be careful not to allow your chest to collapse or your lower back to sag. Straighten the front of your torso beginning from the pubic bone up to the top of your sternum. Make sure that your lower belly or the area below your navel is firm and somehow flat. However, it shouldn’t be hard.
As you exhale or release your breath, straighten your legs to a 45-degree angle from the floor. Your body should be forming a letter “V” shape right about now.
Again, maintain your breathing to be smooth and steady. Be aware of your body from within and soften your face as well as your eyes. Keep your gaze glued to your toes.
Reach out your hands up to the tips of your fingers while opening up your shoulder blades wide. Engaging your hands is a crucial part of the boat pose.
Remain in this position for up to five breaths until you reach a full one minute. If you desire to release the pose, take a deep breath out as you gently lower your legs and hands toward the floor.
What are the variations and modifications of the boat pose?
Some of us can’t perfectly execute the boat pose at the first try or simply just do the paripurna navasana. Fortunately, there are ways we can modify or lighten the pose. Many variations were developed to cater to the capabilities of each yoga practitioner. Choose the variation that works out for you:
- If this is the first time you are doing the pose, you can keep your knees bent and place your hands behind you on the floor for support. Your fingertips must be turned towards your hips. This is a good way to build strength.
- As you start to gain more strength, you can clasp your outer thighs and lift your hands. Gradually, you will be able to extend your hands and straighten your legs. But if you still can’t do it, you can just practice the pose with your knees bent.
- Just bend your knees and focus on building core strength if you feel that your hamstrings are tight. You can’t manage to straighten your legs if they are.
- To do a more challenging version of the full boat pose, you can try clasping your hands behind your head. As you exhale, lower your legs a bit as you slightly lean back closer towards the floor. You must inhale as you return to the full boat pose.
- If you need more support in straightening your legs, make use of a strap that you will wrap around the soles of your feet. You must hold the strap firmly with both hands. With an inhalation, lean your torso back. As you exhale, press both of your feet against the strap as you lift your legs and lengthen them.
What are the common mistakes to avoid in practicing the boat pose?
Now that you know how to execute the boat pose properly, it’s time to learn the dont’s. You must avoid doing things that might cause pain or injury at all costs. Some students center their attention on getting the shape right instead of focusing on creating the right foundation for the pose. To avoid repeating the same mistakes, here are things that you should never do when it comes to the boat pose:
Shrugging your shoulders
Shrugging the shoulders normally occur when you feel like you are about to fall out of the pose. If you encounter this, focus on engaging the core and rounding out the shoulder blades.
Collapsing the chest
This happens when you didn’t do what was said above. If you shrug your shoulders and do not engage the core, it’s natural for the spine to round and for the chest to collapse. You can resolve this by drawing the shoulder blades back and re-engaging the core.
Not engaging the abdominal muscles
This pose can get us very tired and sometimes that leads to us letting our stomach hang loose. You can fight this off by again—re-engaging the core.
Sticking your buttocks out
When you do not engage the core, the butt sticks out because the lower back is taking too much of the workload. This will affect your ability to keep yourself in the pose. Engage your core and realign your tailbone to maintain your balance.
Time to practice the full boat pose!
Hopefully by now, you got everything you needed to know about the boat pose. Now that you are mentally prepared, it’s time to take on the physical challenge and do this pose on your own. Whether you’re practicing yoga at home or taking actual classes with a yoga teacher, always remember the key points to executing the perfect boat pose.