Core Yoga Poses

Boat Pose

An ab and deep hip flexor strengthener, Boat Pose, or Paripurna Navasana in Sanskrit, requires you to balance on the tripod of your sitting bones and tailbone to build mental and physical focus, inspiring a full-body awareness.

How to say Paripurna Navasana in Sanskirt

(par-ee-POOR-nah nah-VAHS-anna)
paripurna = full, entire, complete
nava = boat

Boat pose Step-by-Step Instructions

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Photo: Christopher Dougherty; Mat: Jade Yoga; Props: Hugger Mugger
  1. Begin in Dandasana (Staff Pose), pressing forward with your big toe mounds, spinning your inner thighs down to hold your thighs in a neutral position, and rooting down with your femurs to engage your quadriceps. 
  2. Move your sacrum in and up toward your navel, and extend your sternum away from your navel to lengthen your front body. 
  3. Engage your muscles along the length of your spine to keep your torso erect. 
  4. Move your shoulder blades in and up to lift and open your chest from behind. 
  5. Observe the relationship between your thighs and your torso–they form a 90-degree angle at your hips. 
  6. Bend your knees, and come on to the tips of your toes, holding the backs of your thighs just above your knees. 
  7. Tilt your torso back slightly, and feel the back edge of your sitting bones pressing into the floor; keep your spinal muscles engaged so your back does not round. 
  8. Remember the 90-degree angle between your thighs and your torso in Dandasana; this angle between your thighs and torso is a bit more acute, but many of the same muscles are working. 
  9. Raise your feet to eye level, pressing into your big toe mounds to keep your legs neutral and keeping a slight bend in your knees initially. 
  10. Release the hold on your thighs, and straighten your arms so they are parallel to the floor. 
  11. Draw your upper arms into their sockets to emphasize the lift of your chest. 
  12. Keeping your back body engaged and supporting your front body, straighten your legs. 
  13. Continue to draw your upper arms into their sockets to lift your chest. 
  14. Continue to press into your big toe mounds to activate your legs. 
  15. Balance on the back edge of your sitting bones without letting your lower back collapse toward the floor. 
  16. Hold for anywhere from 10 breaths to 1 minute, then release.

Contraindications and Cautions of Boat Pose

  •  Avoid strong core engagement like in this pose if you are pregnant, particularly in the second and third trimesters. Consider modifying to a gentler version held for a shorter amount of time. 
  • Use caution if you have a hernia. 
  • Avoid or modify if you have any back pain, injuries, or surgeries. 
  • Don’t force your body into the pose; instead, move slowly and mindfully in and out of the pose. 
  • If you have any pain with the pose or other limitations, try pose variations and modifications, or visualize doing the full expression of the pose in any position. Always ask your health care team if you are unsure of what you can and cannot do with your particular health concerns. Also, seek a qualified yoga instructor or yoga therapist to help you individually adapt the pose for safety. 

Benefits of Boat Pose

  • Builds focus and body awareness 
  • Can boost energy and fight fatigue 
  • Can help build confidence and empowerment 
  • Improves posture and counteracts the effects of prolonged sitting and doing computer work 
  • Strengthens your core and thighs

3 Ways to modify Boat Pose

1. Bent Knee Boat Pose

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Photo: Christopher Dougherty; Mat: Jade Yoga; Props: Hugger MuggerChris Dougherty
  • Try with your knees bent to lessen the effort and take pressure off your low back. 
  • You can bring your hands behind you on the floor for support.

2. Boat Pose with a Strap

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Photo: Christopher Dougherty; Mat: Jade Yoga; Props: Hugger Mugger
  • Try with a strap around the soles of your feet
  • Press into the strap with your feet as you pull it with your hands to lift your low back forward slightly into a mostly neutral spine and engaged core
  • Be careful not to unintentionally squeeze your shoulders

3. Half Boat Pose

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Photo: Christopher Dougherty; Mat: Jade Yoga; Props: Hugger Mugger
  • Try just lifting one leg at a time
  • You can keep the lifted leg bent or straighten it
  • You can hold onto the back of your thighs for extra support
  • Try transitioning back and forth between legs with your breath, exhaling to switch legs
  • Repeat as many times as you can do and then rest

Preparatory Poses for Boat Pose

Follow-up Poses after Boat Pose

Sequence Tip

This is a great pose to build heat. Practice this posture in the beginning of class to fire up your core for the rest of your practice. Counter core work with gentle twists or backbends.

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