How to Do Boat Pose (Navasana) in Yoga

Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes

boat pose
Photo: Ben Goldstein / Model: Emily O'Connell

Targets: Core strength

Level: Intermediate

Boat Pose (Navasana) was around long before the yoga world starting talking about core strength and dipping into the Pilates well for new variations on crunches and leg lifts. It remains one of the best ways to focus on your abdominal strength, which helps you do so many other yoga poses, especially gravity-defying arm balances and inversions.

Benefits

Boat Pose builds abdominal and core strength. In addition to the abdominal muscles, it works the deep hip flexors. These muscles get lazy when you sit too much. It will also help you build your balance.

Step-by-Step Instructions

  1. Begin in a seated position with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. 
  2. Lift your feet off the floor. Keep your knees bent at first. Bring your shins parallel to the floor. This is half boat pose. 
  3. Your torso will naturally fall back, but do not let the spine round. 
  4. Straighten your legs to a 45-degree angle if you can do so without losing the integrity of your upper body. You want to keep your torso as upright as possible so that it makes a V shape with the legs.
  5. Roll your shoulders back and straighten your arms roughly parallel to the floor with your palms turned up.
  6. Balance on the sit bones.
  7. Stay for at least five breaths.
  8. Release your legs on an exhale. Then inhale and sit up.

Common Mistakes

Too often, students think the pose is all about straightening their legs, which they struggle to do at the expense of their straight spine and upright torso. Having straight legs when your spine is slumped and your upper body is inching toward the floor is not doing great things for you. Focus instead on keeping a tight V between your thighs and torso. Half boat, with the legs bent at the knee, is really a good place to work on this pose. Straightening the legs can come later.

Modifications and Variations

Need a Modification?

  • You can hold the backs of your thighs with your hands if that helps you keep a straight spine.
  • Don't be in a hurry to straighten your legs. Keeping the back straight and away from the floor is more important. However, you could use a strap looped under the soles of your feet. Grip the ends of the strap while you raise your legs and press against the strap, keeping your balance.

Up for a Challenge?

  • To increase core strength, try some boat crunches: Lower the legs and torso simultaneously towards the floor and hover there just before your feet and head touch the floor. Come back up in full Boat or Half Boat pose like a situp. Repeat this five or more times.
  • Reach up and take your big toes in a yogi toe lock. Make sure that your shoulders stay away from your ears and that your upper arms are plugged into your shoulder sockets when you do this variation.

Safety and Precautions

Traditionally, it is recommended to avoid this pose when you have a headache, diarrhea, low blood pressure, asthma, or are pregnant.

Try It Out

Incorporate this move and similar ones into one of these popular workouts:

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