Boat Pose Yoga: How to Do & Benefits

Boat pose, also known as navasana in Sanskrit, is one of the most fundamental core exercises in modern yoga. It offers many benefits and can be incorporated into any slow or intense routine, no matter the style of yoga.

At its heart, the boat pose is a static seated asana that involves balance and stability with the use of core activation and controlled breathing. It is considered a beginner yoga pose, with many static and dynamic variations for decreasing and increasing its difficulty.

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Boat Pose Benefits

As a seated balance asana, boat pose requires adequate core engagement.

This makes it one of the best yoga poses for strengthening the core and abdominal muscles, which can transfer into other beginner and advanced yoga poses, exercises and even day-to-day movements and activities.

By building a stronger core through boat pose, you will also help to alleviate and prevent lower back pain, which is a common problem for many whose work involves sitting down at a desk for most of the day.

Subsequently, if you are looking to achieve more defined abs, the boat pose is an exercise that will help you towards your goal.

How to Do Boat Pose

The boat pose involves balancing on the bottom, with the torso and legs held in a symmetrical V shape. The hands are extended to touch, or float beside, the knees, forming the shape of a boat.

To perform a boat pose, sit down on a comfortable flat surface – ideally on a yoga mat, or soft carpet. From this position, lean back slowly and begin to elevate your legs. Engage and contract your core to assist with balance.

As a core exercise, an activated core is the most important requirement. Hold your arms out straight and hold the pose for as long as desired.

In general, the boat pose involves fully extended, straight legs. But for beginners, the boat pose can be held with slightly bent knees to make it easier.

Boat Pose Breathing

As with any yoga pose or asana, there is an element of breathing involved to assist with the exercise, as well as to establish a connection between the body, mind and soul. This is known as pranayama.

For boat pose, you will need to regulate your breathing to help provide focus on your balance and core engagement. As you lean back to enter boat pose, inhale into your chest and tighten your core muscles.

From here, maintain calm, steady breathing between your head and chest, while making sure that your core remains squeezed and engaged.

Boat Pose Sequences

The boat pose is a versatile asana that can be incorporated into any yoga routine, no matter whether it is vinyasa, kundalini, ashtanga or yin yoga. The pose itself can be held statically or with additional movement.

An example of a boat pose sequence or flow could be transitioning between boat pose and half boat pose, or balancing a yoga block on your shins, then raising the yoga block behind your head, while maintaining hold of the boat pose.

Another method could be including other yoga poses into your yoga core sequence, such as happy baby pose or even celibate’s pose.

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Boat Pose Variations

As a foundational core yoga asana, boat pose has many variations. These can be easier or more difficult than the regular boat pose, ideal for beginners as well as anyone who wants to make the boat pose more challenging.

Easy Boat Pose Variations

If you are just starting to practice the boat pose, a good method for making the boat pose easier is to place your palms flat on the floor beside your thigh muscles. This will assist in the balance, removing a good portion of the difficulty from the exercise.

As mentioned above, you can also alleviate some difficulty from the boat pose by slightly bending the knees. This will help to prevent the hip flexors, lumbar spine and core muscles from working as hard to keep the legs elevated and straight.

Harder Boat Pose Variations

If you are starting to get comfortable holding the boat pose, there are a number of ways to make the pose more difficult.

One of the methods is to lean back further and extend your legs further, so that you are almost lying down but without your upper back or legs touching the floor.

This is also known as half boat pose, or ardha navasana in Sanskrit, generally considered to be harder than the regular boat pose.

The half boat pose is similar to a hollow body hold, with the option to raise the arms behind the head for increased difficulty.

With either the regular boat pose or half boat pose, it is also possible to add weight to the exercise. You can do this by holding a yoga block, small dumbbell or book at your chest, extended behind your head or balanced on your shins. Another option is to wear ankle weights.

Finally, the most difficult boat pose variation is ubhaya padangusthasana. This variation involves holding the boat pose with the hands touching the toes.

This pose involves a greater element of stretching and hip flexor strength, and can be made harder by bringing the legs in closer to the body as if performing an upright paschimottanasana.

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Final Thoughts

Being a beginner, entry-level yoga pose with many benefits – both within yoga and transferable to everyday life – the yoga boat pose is an extremely advantageous yoga asana for developing core strength, learning correct core engagement and practicing controlled breathing.

By developing a stronger core, and more core muscle awareness, you will find that other yoga poses – particularly those that require balance and stability – will become easier. In addition, having stronger core muscles will also help to alleviate and prevent lower back pain.

If you are not already including boat pose in your yoga sequences, are yet to try the boat pose, or just want to build a stronger core, give the boat pose a try for your next yoga session or exercise routine.

Laura Simmons
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