Boat pose has many variations for accessibility; find yours to tone your core and strengthen your hip flexors.
Move-It Monday~Yoga Pose: Boat Pose (Navasana)
Difficulty level: Easy
- Tones abdominal muscles
- Strengthens hip flexors
When I instruct, I refer to “bus stops”…you know, the place YOU want to get off the bus! Thinking about poses in terms of different spots on the journey can allow you to choose, each time you come to the mat, the appropriate bus stop for that day’s practice, rather than always feeling you must go for the Most Difficult Version of a Pose. First, in yoga we don’t want to compete with ANYONE (honestly, not even ourselves). Second, the version that is Most Difficult for you may not be the version that is Most Difficult for your fellow yogi. Everyone’s body is slightly different, everyone’s intention may be slightly different. Remember to understand why you are practicing a pose and then remember to Honor Your Body!
To find your version of Boat Pose, begin in Baddha Konasana. Place each hand lightly under the same side thigh and draw your knees together with the soles of the feet on your mat. Gently rock back in space until you are able to balance on your sit bones, drawing your shins parallel to the ground. Flex your feet as you press down through the sit bones and lift up through the crown of your head, elongating your spine and lifting your chest.
As you hold this pose, firm the abdominal muscles and allow gravity to pull the heads of the thigh bones towards the ground. Continue to lift through your heart and the crown of your head to avoid rounding the back as you breathe; hold this position for several breaths.
Next bus stop:
To further challenge the hip flexors, release the hands from the thighs and draw them either:
*parallel to the legs, fingers reaching towards the toes or
*perpendicular to the body, palms down, pressing from the heart out through the fingertips.
Next bus stop:
Inhale deeply. As you exhale, ground through the hips and press out through the heels lifting the heels and stretching the legs straight. Tone the lower belly, but do not harden the lower belly as you hold this pose. This variation is really working those hip flexors, and you may feel strain in the front of your thighs. Remember to honor your body, finding challenge, but not pain.
A partner can help you keep your back straight and shoulders firm on the back. Have your partner stand slightly behind you on your mat with knees slightly bent. As you press back, your partner can move forward so that your thoracic spine (from the shoulder blades upward) is gently touching their thighs. Use this benchmark to remind you to pull your chest up and away from their thighs as you balance.
Moving from the bent knee variation to the straight leg variation can be challenging. Place a strap around the arch of both feet in Baddha Konasana. Use the strap as an extension of your hands, allowing you to assist the legs as you stretch them straight. Keep in mind that your intention is to challenge the hip flexors, not the shoulders, which will require your legs to do most of the work while the strap assists in the pose. Practice releasing the strap slightly for brief periods while you hold the pose until you are able to straighten your legs and keep your chest lifted without the strap.