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When you think of Paripurna Navasana (Boat Pose), you probably think of holding an abs-olutely core-crushing position. Yes, the pose does work your abdominal muscles. You’ll build the core strength required for inversions and arm balances like Crow or Firefly. And let’s face it: a strong core is key. It helps you stand taller, helps prevent injury, and makes you better at other activities like running or rock climbing.
But Boat Pose also strengthens your hip flexors, adductors (groin), and the lower back muscles that support your spine. It offers a mental test, as well. You need to dig deep in Navasana to extend, expand, and open your body while pushing through heat and discomfort. But it’s a pose with enough variations to allow you to find your way a fully extended pose. If you are working on building the core strength to hold the pose with your arms and legs outstretched, try holding on to your legs behind your knees. In time, you’ll find Boat Pose smooth sailing.
Pose Name basics
Sanskrit: Paripurna Navasana (par-ee-pur-nah nah-VAHS-ah-na)
Pose type: Seated
Target areas: Core
Why we love it: “I do Boat Pose incrementally with bent knees, holding the back of my legs,” says Sarah LaVigne, Yoga Journal‘s contributing photo editor. “Once I find my balance and am past the wobbly phase, I slowly straighten my legs. This step-by-step approach focuses me on each stage. Once I reach the peak pose, I feel like I am floating.”
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Boat Pose builds focus and body awareness. It can boost energy and fight fatigue, and help build confidence and empowerment. Boat Pose also improves posture and counteracts the effects of prolonged sitting and doing computer work by strengthening your core and thighs.
Boat Pose: Step-by-step instruction
- Sit on the floor with your legs straight in front of you. Press your hands on the floor a little behind your hips.
- Lift through the top of the sternum and lean back slightly, making sure your back doesn’t round. Balance your weight on the tripod of your sitting bones and tailbone.
- Exhale and bend your knees, then lift your thighs so they are angled about 45 degrees above the floor, with your knees still bent.
- If possible, slowly straighten your knees, raising the tips of your toes slightly above the level of your eyes. If that is not possible, keep your knees bent, your shins parallel to the floor.
- Keeping your heart open and your spine long, draw your shoulders back and extend both arms forward alongside the legs, parallel to the floor, with your palms facing in. Try to keep your lower belly flat and firm, but not hard and thick.
- Point your toes or flex through your heels, and breathe. Try to stay in the pose for 10 to 20 seconds, slowly increasing your time to a minute.
Teaching Paripurna Navasana
These tips will help protect your students from injury and help them have the best experience of the pose:
- Practice this posture in the beginning of class to fire up your core for the rest of your practice.
- If students find it too hard to raise their arms, have them keep their hands on the floor beside their hips or hold on to the backs of their thighs.
- For students who find it difficult to straighten their raised legs, invite them to keep their knees bent and loop a strap around the soles of their feet. As they inhale, ask them to lean the torso back, then as they exhale and lift and straighten the legs, invite them to push their feet firmly against the strap.
Variation: Bent-Knee Boat Pose
Try with your knees bent to lessen the effort and take pressure off your low back. You can bring your hands behind your knees, or place them behind you on the floor for support.