Boat Pose: Step-by-Step Instructions
Paripurna Navasana, also known as "Boat Pose," tones your abdominal, hip flexor and lower back muscles all at the same time while you balance on your sitting bones and tailbone.
(Pronounced as "par-ee-POOR-nah NAH-VAHS-anna")
Paripurna means "full or complete," and nava means "boat." Hence, your body takes the shape of a boat with your arms representing the oars that row it.
How to do Boat Pose
Take a seat on your yoga mat with your legs stretched out straight in front of you. Press your palms into the floor by the sides of your hips as if you are about to push your buttocks up off of the floor.
Your fingers should point forward. Inhale as you stretch your chest up and keep your arms straight. Feel your whole torso lengthen upward.
Keeping your back and arms straight at all times, tighten your stomach muscles and exhale as you start to lean back.
Press your palms down at your sides for extra support as you bend your knees and lean back to put all of your weight onto your sitting bones and tailbone.
Your thighs should be at a 45 degree angle above the floor. Keep lifting your chest up and pull your bellybutton in toward your spine.
If you can go further, then gradually stay balanced on your sitting bones as you straighten your knees and point your toes. Try to hold your ankles up at the same level as your eyes and tighten your thighs to help support yourself.
Without disturbing the position of your legs or your balance, hold your back straight as you lift up your straightened arms to the level of your shoulders.
Do not grab your legs. Instead, reach forward through your fingers into the air as if you are about to grab something a small distance away from you.
If you can't maintain your balance while lifting the arms, then you can keep pressing your palms into the floor next to your hips.
Keep breathing as you hold the pose for at least 10 seconds, and you can gradually increase holding up to one minute. Lift yourself up and hold the back straight by pressing your sitting bones down further into your yoga mat.
Feel your spine lengthening from your tailbone all the way up through your neck, keeping your head and back in perfect alignment.
Breathe out as you lower your legs and return to a relaxed sitting posture.
Boat Pose Information
Contraindications and Cautions:
Excessive Bowel Movements or Diarrhea
Inability to Sleep
If you have a neck injury: Sit with a wall behind you as you practice this pose. After leaning your torso back, rest just the back of your head against the wall.
Modifications and Props
To help lift and extend the raised legs, bend your knees and place a yoga belt around your feet. Grab both ends of the belt tightly in your hands. Breathe in as you lean back. Exhale and use the belt to help pull your legs up, pushing your feet against the belt as well.
Deepen the Pose
Full Boat strengthens the deep hip-flexor muscles along with the abdominals. Remember to press these inner-thigh bones down to anchor yourself as your practice this pose.
When you do this correctly, you can keep the lower front belly relaxed while you keep your balance.
Boat Pose Benefits
Reduces lower back pain
Stimulates circulation in the abdominal organs, kidneys, thyroid and reproductive organs
Strengthens the hip flexors
Boat Pose Variations
Ardha Navasana (pronounced "ARE-dah." Ardha means "half.")
From Full Boat Pose, put your hands together to support the back of your head. As you exhale, lower your legs a little so that your toes are at eye level.
Shift your body weight onto your sacrum while keeping your lower back off of the floor. You can bring your head forward, but try to keep most of your torso fairly straight.
Stretch your elbows out to the sides and hold the pose as long as you can while you keep breathing.
Ask a partner to stand behind you. When you lean back, they can bend their knees and press their knees in between your shoulder blades.
Then you have extra support to feel how much you need to lift your chest, which is critical to keep your back straight in this posture.