Boat Pose (Navasana)

Boat Pose, Navasana, (naa-vaa-suh-nuh)

nava (boat) + asana (pose)

Also Known as: Paripurna Navasana, Naukasana, Complete Boat Pose

Pose Type: Balancing, Strengthening, Core Activating, Seated, Digestion

Difficulty: Intermediate

a man wearing black doing boat pose (navasana) with his legs extended

Become aware of your entire body as you hone your concentration to achieve this challenging balancing posture

boat pose Fundamentals

Challenge yourself with this iconic core and hip flexor strengthening pose.

Boat pose is intense, as it doesn’t only challenge your muscles, but also encourages you to think about alignment and breath awareness. That’s true for all poses, of course. However, if you lose your focus and stop breathing in Navasana, you will also lose stability and balance, so the mind-body focus is even more pronounced than in most other intermediate asanas

Boat pose stimulates the digestive system, and the digestive fire (agni), releasing pressure from the organs and allowing more air to reach them.

Mentally, engaging the core and balancing the body brings a sense of confidence and empowerment.

The name and the symbolism of a boat in itself have a meaning in Indian spirituality. Since there are many rivers in India, there are also naturally also boats and crossing places (tirthas). Many tirthas are considered to be holy places and are named after Gods, many are also pilgrimage sites.  

Symbolically, when you’re practicing Boat Pose, you are acting both as Navasana (boat) and Tirtha (a dock). That means you are both the navigator, the vehicle that leads you spiritually, and your final destination, or your True Self, the spiritual existence. 

Boat Pose & The Chakra System

The pose also has an energizing effect on the body, clearing your energy channels, and consequently calms the nervous system, reduces stress, and makes you feel rejuvenated. 

Boat Pose activates Solar Plexus (Manipura) and the Sacral (Svadhishthana) Chakra.

In this manner, it may balance your emotions, improve intuition and creativity, bring a sense of personal power, and allow you to build more fulfilling relationships with others, but also with your own body and sexuality. 

boat pose Benefits

  • Strengthens the core, and is a perfect exercise if you want to build core strength for arm balances. It also activates the chest, glutes, quadriceps, hip flexors, and pelvic floor muscles.  
  • Increases flexibility of the back lower body, including hamstrings, calves, and ankles. 
  • The focus on alignment and a stronger core can also help in body awareness, and in building better postural habits. 
  • Boosts energy, combats fatigue, and may bring a sense of confidence. 
  • Perfect pose for working on breath awareness, as breath tremendously helps to hold it for longer, and allows you to work through its difficulty with awareness. By broadening the chest and focusing on the breath, you will use your lungs more efficiently, and help them to take more oxygen.
  • Improves digestion as the diaphragm is lifted, allowing more oxygen to reach the abdominal organs.
an annotated image of a man wearing black yoga clothes doing a boat pose

How To Do boat pose: Step-By-Step

How To Get There:

1. Sit on your mat with your legs extended in front of you in Staff pose. Move the flesh from your buttocks to the outer sides of your hips to root down with your sit bones. Then place your hands slightly behind your hips, pull your belly in and straighten your spine. 

2. Lean back slightly, still keeping a flat back, and distribute your weight between your tailbone and sitting bones. 

3. With an inhale, bend your knees and lift your toes off the ground, so your thighs are at a 45-degree angle from the floor. Engage your core and try lifting your arms and extending them next to your thighs. 

4. If this is enough, remain here. If you would like to try the full expression of the pose, try extending your legs. Flex your feet and keep your toes slightly above the level of your head. 

5. If your back rounds, shoulders come forward, or you feel pressure in the lower back, return to the variation with bent legs, or place your arms on the floor.

6. Regardless of the variation you choose to practice, make sure your shoulders are rolled back, your abs are pulled in and engaged, and your spine is straight. Your torso should create a V shape with your legs.

7. Hold the pose for several breaths, slowly increasing your time with each try. In classic Ashtanga practice, the pose is held three times, with short pauses in between, but you can practice in any manner that feels right for you.

8. Once you are complete with your practice, return to Staff pose, and do a counter pose which helps release tension from the back.

Tips And Tricks:

  • If you lose balance when you raise your arms, you can keep them on the floor or hold the back of your thighs. 
  • Make sure you draw your belly in to activate the core – it’s a similar action as if you were trying to fit and zip up a tight pair of pants.
  • Your back should also be engaged. To achieve that, make sure you do a variation that allows you to keep your chest open and your shoulders rolled back. 
  • If you struggle to engage your inner thighs, try placing a block between your thighs and actively press into it.
  • Don’t forget to breathe, deep and conscious breaths make it much easier to hold this intense position.
  • Involuntary shaking is completely normal in difficult core exercises like this one, and it doesn’t mean you’re doing something wrong.

boat pose Variation:

Boat Pose Variation: Boat Pose With Strap

a woman doing Boat pose with a strap

If you are able to keep your legs straight but struggle to maintain balance, you can practice with a strap. That will help you build a habit of proper alignment in the pose and gain confidence, while still getting an intense workout for your whole body. 

To do this variation, simply place the strap around the soles of your feet and hold each end with your hands.

This is a great variation if you still need to build core strength to be able to hold the pose without collapsing in the back. However, make sure the strap isn’t pulling your shoulders forward, your chest should still be open. 

Boat Pose Variation: Knees Bent

a man wearing all black doing plow pose with his knees bent

If it’s difficult to maintain a straight spine with your legs extended, or if you feel any pressure in your low back, try this variation. Simply bend the knees, instead of straightening them, and focus on engaging the abs and maintaining a straight spine. 

You can keep your arms extended next to your thighs like in full expression of the pose, or grab your thighs below the knees to help you with stability and balance. You can also place them on the ground slightly behind your hips. This variation will still help you strengthen your core and thigh muscles. Although your legs are bent, you should still engage your legs and abdominal muscle and keep your chest open. 

Boat Pose – Advanced Variation – Boat Crunches 

If you are able to hold Boat pose with proper alignment and want to work more on strengthening the core, you can try Boat Crunches. To do this variation, begin in full Boat pose, then simultaneously bend your knees into Half Boat and lower your torso behind you. Hover above the floor for a moment, then come back to the full boat. Alternate between these two positions a couple of more times, just as you would if you were doing sit-ups. 

Precautions & Contraindications:

Common misalignments

Focusing on the legs. Often, students prioritize straightening the legs in this pose. However, if keeping the legs straight compromise proper alignment in the spine, rather bend them, as the main aim of this pose is maintaining a straight spine and activating the core. 

Joint and Muscle Injury 

Boat Pose is intense for the whole body, as it equally engages all joints and muscles. For this reason, it may be best to refrain from this pose or do an easier modification if you have any joint or muscle injury or condition.  Also, avoid if you had any surgery on the organs or joints. 

Other Contraindications

Pregnant women and those with any abdominal issues may want to avoid this pose because it places pressure on the abdomen. Also refrain from doing the full expression of the asana if you have low blood pressure, headaches, or asthma as it may aggravate these conditions. 

Related Poses

Plank Pose 

Chair Pose

Upward-Facing Wide-Angle Seated Pose

Preparatory Poses:

Staff Pose

Downward Facing Dog Pose

Bound Angle Pose

Counter Poses:

Seated Forward Bend

Plow Pose

Upward Plank Pose

yogajala break 1000 × 40 px 1

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