Yoga Pose 101: Navasana (Boat Pose)

Daniel Scott
Yoga Pose 101: Navasana (Boat Pose)

Pronounced Na-vahs-ana

Fun Fact: Our good friend Archimedes figured out that any object is held up by force equaling the weight of the fluid it displaces. This is why steel boats can float upon water with silent ease, and sweaty yogis are always groaning told to hold this pose.

Drishti: Padhayoragrai (Towards the toes)

Benefits

  • Builds core strength and stability (everyone likes that)
  • Said to aid in digestion (raise that digestive fire)
  • Improves balance (especially when perched on your tailbone)
  • Party Trick! (great posture to show off your yoga skills)
  • Helps to strengthen lower back over time
  • Sharpens patience—try to practice with a calm face for added bonus

Contraindications/Cautions

  • High blood pressure. Always be mindful of keeping the arms raised in line or above the heart for extended periods of time.
  • Lower Back Pain. Make sure to adjust your legs to relieve pain or pressure until your body is ready to move farther
  • Stomach Issues. If you’re experiencing severe borborygmus or tenesmus, one would see the obvious value to avoiding this or other core-engaging postures.

Step-by-Step

From Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Fold with Extended legs)

  1. Place hands, face down, on either side of your hips.
  2. Tone belly by drawing navel in towards your spine, away from your shirt (were you to be wearing one, of course).
  3. Keeping the thighs hugged together, draw knees into chest by engaging core.
  4. Move the muscles that move the bones.
  5. Lengthen from tailbone to the top of the head, drawing shoulders drawn down the back to elongate neck.
  6. Grasp thighs below the knee crease, keeping elbows drawn in towards the side body.
  7. VARIATION ONE—ArdhaNavasana: Shins parallel to ground, toes pointed, head neither lifted nor lowered (neutral neck)
  8. Expand chest without lifting ribs. Play with floating arms in line with knees, elbows and fingers extended.
  9. VARIATION TWO—Full Navasana: Extend lower legs in line with thighs, maintaining toe point.
  10. Arms can stay floating, or grasp shins/calves/feet/big toes/cold drink/slice of pizza.
  11. Calmly remark without care of who hears “I am on a boat.”

Modifications

ArdhaNavasana is more accessible for those needing to build the strength and flexibility necessary to fully extend. If you experience chronic back pain, have tight hamstrings and/or hips, this is the variation for you.

Work on lowering fully down from and up towards ArdhaNavasana (Half-Boat pose) by keeping your lower back fully supported with a strong core. To some, this looks like a yoga sit-up. To others, it looks like a fish flopping around on dry land in slow motion. Do your best, intrepid yogi.

Beginners Tip

Don’t speed past the first variation in hopes of looking cooler than you actually are. Get comfortable keeping your legs and core engaged. Try different arm and leg variations as confidence increases. To avoid rounding in the lower back, make sure you stay lifted in the torso without shooting your ribs out or collapsing in the neck.

Deepen the Pose

Variation two is more advanced. Feel free to maintain leg position while placing hands back down on the floor and lifting yourself up. If you feel particularly frisky, try working on crossing your legs and floating back to ChaturangaDandasana. Super frisky? Press up to handstand, you yoga monster. Roar!