Welcome to your comprehensive guide to the Boat Pose, also known as Navasana (for Yoga) in the ancient language of Sanskrit. This is a core-strengthening pose that balances your body on the fulcrum of your sit bones, a true testament to poise and power in the realm of yoga.
In this guide, I’ll go over, step-by-step, how to do the Boat Pose including important coaching tips, benefits and muscles worked. I’ll even include a few alternatives in case you may need them.
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How To Do Boat Pose
- Abdominals (Rectus Abdominis, Transverse Abdominis)
- Hip Flexors (Iliopsoas)
- Erector Spinae
- Groin Adductors
- Sit on the floor with your legs extended in front of you. Your back should be straight, and your arms should be at your sides.
- Gently bend your knees and place your feet flat on the floor. Keep your legs together.
- Inhale deeply and as you exhale, lean back slightly while keeping your back straight. Engage your core muscles to maintain balance.
- Start to lift your feet off the floor. Keep your thighs close to your abdomen, and your shins parallel to the floor. This is the “half boat pose.”
- If it’s comfortable for you, extend your legs so that they are at a 45-degree angle to the floor. Your body will now make a ‘V’ shape, and because of this, it’s also known as the V Pose.
- Extend your arms straight out in front of you, parallel to the floor. They should align with your shoulders with your palms facing each other.
- Try to balance on your sit bones, not leaning too far back. Gaze at your toes and try to keep your chest lifted and your spine straight. Hold this pose for about five breaths or longer if comfortable.
- To come out of the pose, lower your legs and hands as you exhale. You can bend your knees and place your feet on the floor if needed.
Focus on Core Engagement
The Boat Pose heavily relies on core strength. If you are struggling to maintain the pose, it might be due to a lack of core strength. To improve your core strength, incorporate more beginner-friendly exercises that strengthen the core into your program, like plank pose or bridges.
In the pose itself, ensure the lower back is not rounding – think of lifting the chest and extending the spine to keep the core engaged.
Use Props for Assistance
Props can be extremely helpful, especially for beginners or those with less core strength. A yoga block placed behind the sacrum (the lower back) can provide support and stability, allowing the practitioner to get a feel for the pose without straining.
Additionally, using a yoga strap around the soles of the feet can help maintain leg extension if someone has tight hamstrings.
Prioritize Form Over Depth
A common mistake is trying to fully extend the legs at the expense of rounding the back, which can put strain on the spine. It’s more important to keep the spine straight and the chest lifted, even if that means the legs aren’t fully extended.
Similarly, if someone is struggling to balance, it’s better to keep the toes touching the ground or the knees bent until strength and balance improve.
Benefits of Boat Pose
Strengthens the Core
One of the primary benefits of the Boat Pose is that it’s an excellent workout for your abdominal muscles, including the deep core muscles. Regular practice of this pose can lead to stronger, more defined abs.
Improves Balance and Stability
By practicing Boat Pose, you challenge your body’s balance and stability. This can also help improve your overall body coordination and proprioception (awareness of body movement and position).
Strengthens the Hip Flexors and Spine
It’s a good exercise for your hip flexors, the muscles that help move your legs and knees towards your body. The pose also strengthens the muscles along your spine, which can contribute to improved posture.
Boat Pose Alternatives
Need an alternative for Boat Pose? Here are a couple of exercises that you may be able to use in its place.
The Plank, like the Boat Pose, greatly emphasizes core strength. It also helps to build endurance and stability.
To do a plank, start on all fours, then extend your legs back, balancing on your elbows and toes. Keep your body in a straight line from head to heels, engage your core, and hold. You can easily modify the plank by raising up onto your hands or dropping your knees to the ground.
Straight Leg Raises
These target the same areas as the Boat Pose, particularly the lower abs and hip flexors. To do Leg Lifts, lie on your back and place your hands under your buttocks for support.
Then, keeping your legs straight and together, lift them all the way up to the ceiling, then slowly lower them back down without letting them touch the ground. Repeat this movement.
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More Links and Info
If you’d like to see more core exercises, head over to the Core Section of our Exercise Library. There you’ll find dozens of core movements, all with step-by-step instructions.