Sanskrit: Paripurna Navasana
Images of Maggie Anderson taken by Maggie Anderson
Boat pose is the perfect pose for warming up the core as well as working on our posture. It can be modified for less strain or if your working towards a strong core or already have one you can power up this pose. There are many variations to help you progress through this pose. So it’s all about getting out of your ego. It’s not about what someone else is doing. It’s about where you are in your body and listening to that. If you can’t get into this pose with a long straight spine then you’ve gone too far into it too fast. Work your way up with balance. Let go and allow your body to generate strength over time. To hold this pose, tapping into our breath is key. Since breath is our prana life force energy at work, it truly energizes you to hold this longer, focus on alignment and come into and out of this pose (and all poses) with grace. Our core is our foundation to all movement, so it’s helpful to keep it healthy and strong. Working with Boat pose allows us to do just that.
Directions on how to come into the pose:
I like to start Boat pose first by coming into the Baddha Konasana (Butterfly) as shown on the left. Next month I will dive deeper into this pose. 🙂 Simply put, you place the soles of your feet together, knees splaying out, spine straight, hands can hold your toes or take your thumbs to the inside on the balls of the feet to open them up a little. This is our resting pose. We will come into this pose throughout the Boat pose variations to rest, re-center and align ourselves.
From this position, let’s straighten our legs a little with knees bent and close together. Feet on the floor. Bring hands behind you about 4 inches or so with fingers pointing towards the feet. Then inhale, extending the spine, thinking good posture, exhale and let’s lean back with our upper body, keeping our back in good straight alignment. From here, inhale and on your exhale lift the legs up off the floor so they are parallel to the floor, knees still bent. Already you will start to feel the core heating up and working. Be sure your back is not rounding. You’ll be sitting centered on what yogajournal.com calls the “tripod” of your two sitting bones and your tailbone.
Begin now and stretch your arms out alongside your legs, parallel to the floor. Breathe deeply. Strong core. If holding arms out is too much yet, you may hold the backs of your thighs or place the hands back down behind you till you grow stronger, and I promise you that if you continue to work with this pose, you *will* grow stronger. Tip the chin down slightly towards the chest, in order to lift the bottom of the skull lightly away from the neck. You have the option to splay out your arms shoulder height, extending both away from your body and each other. This is a bit more challenging.
The extra variation to challenge the legs and core more, is to straighten the legs up to the sky at the angle as shown above (about 45 degrees), again while keeping a nice straight spine.
The next option is holding hands together in front slightly above your legs in temple mudra hands (fingers clasped and index fingers pointing pressed together). When taking this variation, you may also want to pulse with your breathe. You may take an inhale as you extend the legs straight out and leaning further back with your upper body, back still straight, exhale bend your knees and come back in with your upper body. Inhaling as you flow out, and exhaling as you flow in. This is a beautiful practice with the breath.
Another more advanced option you can work towards is to use your two peace fingers and wrap them around the big toes, while you extend the legs straight out and up, keeping your spine straight. If tight in the hamstrings you may bend the knees till your practice gives you better flexibility.
Each of these variations can be worked up to holding for 10-20 seconds at first in hold variations and working your way up from there, with breaks in the Butterfly pose I spoke about at the beginning. Your breaks can be 3 to 5 rounds of breathing. Then go again for three or four different variations to see what you resonate with most. And change it up each day or week that you practice this pose.
To come out completely, slide yourself back into Butterfly pose, breathe, relax and close your eyes.
When not to do this pose or to modify / Contraindications:
Some possible reasons to rethink doing this pose may or may not be: Asthma, Diarrhea, Headache, Heart Problems, Insomnia, Low blood pressure, Menstruation, Pregnancy. I say may or may not because for some of these, this pose can probably help a little. Use your own judgment and intuition. If you have a neck injury sit with your back near a wall to perform this pose. As you tilt your torso back rest the back of your head on the wall.
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