If you’re looking for a yoga move that doubles as an exercise and a stretch, get down on your mat and try the boat pose. This all-purpose pose not only works your abs, but is also an ideal way to loosen up tight hips and shoulders while improving overall stability.
Boat pose, or navasana, is a seated yoga posture that balances you on your tailbone as you lift your feet off the ground, says Stella Stephanopoulos, a yoga instructor at Equinox and CorePower Yoga. Depending on how you perform the pose, it can be slightly complicated or completely challenging, making it perfect for all skill levels.
According to Anna Rillahan, an RYT-500 yoga teacher, the boat pose is an effective way to strengthen your core muscles. As you lean back and lift your toes, you’ll light up your rectus abdominis, transversus abdominis, and even your obliques. By engaging these muscles, you’ll build a solid foundation for other yoga poses and daily activities, she tells Bustle. And since the boat pose requires you to find your center of gravity, it’s good for improving overall stability.
The angles in this posture also provide a nice stretch for your spine, as well as your shoulders and hip flexors, which are the muscles that bring your legs inward. By sitting tall and lengthening your torso, you promote better posture and alignment, which can also ease back pain and discomfort, adds Rillahan.
Think of this exercise as a one-stop shop that offers multiple benefits. Below, yoga instructors explain how to do the boat pose and how to modify the move.
How to do the boat position
Here, Stephanopoulos explains how to do the boat pose using good form.
– Start in a sitting position with your feet flat on the floor and knees bent.
– Engage your core as you slowly lean back onto the sit bone.
– Bring your spine to a 45 degree angle.
– When you feel stable, lift one foot off the mat and then the other.
– Raise your legs until your shins are parallel to the floor.
– Flex your feet and maintain this position.
– If you can, reach your arms above your head and spread your fingertips.
– Lower your shoulders away from your ears.
– Hold the position for three to five breaths.
How to change the boat pose
To get into the full expression of Boat Pose, straighten your legs and lift your feet to create a 45-degree angle as you balance on your booty. Your core muscles will engage as they work to keep you stable, and you’ll need to breathe more deeply to stay comfortable in the pose, says Stephanopoulos.
You can also improve things by adding a yoga block between your thighs for an added element that will activate more muscles. If you don’t have a block handy, you can simply swing your arms up along your ears to increase the load on your core, says Rillahan.
If that’s too challenging, go slow by keeping your knees bent or placing both feet flat on the floor as you lean back. According to Stephanopoulos, the lean will still activate your core just as much, especially if you make an effort to keep your back as straight as possible.
If you’re trying the boat pose for the first time, it might be nice to lift one foot off the ground at a time. Find balance and stability before attempting to lift both feet at the same time, Rillahan adds. You can also keep your hands behind your knees to help stabilize you as you lift your feet.
Common mistakes in boat laying
Keep in mind that you don’t have to put your legs up in the air to reap the full benefits of boat pose. In fact, Stephanopoulos says straightening your legs before you’ve developed a strong core could put unwanted pressure on your lower back, so definitely give yourself plenty of time to reach that level.
Your main goal in boat pose is to keep your back straight the entire time, even though you’ll want to round inward. Think about how you can create length in your spine while maintaining a tight V shape between your thighs and torso, she says. This will allow you to strengthen your core more effectively and ultimately make it easier to straighten your legs and balance.
As you enter the pose, it’s also important to make sure your chest stays open and lifted. This will help you maintain proper alignment and ensure effective engagement of your core, says Rillahan. Standing straight will also prevent you from holding your breath, which can be very tempting when your muscles are under tension.
For the finishing touch, pay attention to the neck. Rillahan suggests looking straight ahead so you don’t twist or strain your neck muscles when looking up or down. When done in top form, you’ll be able to reap the full core-strengthening benefits of the movement.
Studies referred to:
Tekur, P. (2010). Effect of yoga on the quality of life of patients with CLBP: a randomized control trial. Int J Yoga. doi: 10.4103/0973-6131.66773.
Anna Rillahan, RYT-500 yoga teacher
Stella Stephanopoulos, yoga teacher at Equinox and CorePower Yoga
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