Navasana or Boat Pose

Navasana is a beast of a pose.

Navasana is hard for any number of reasons. The most difficult aspect of navasana is more about the individual than the pose. For example, if you have trouble finding both the curve in your lower back and getting extension of the legs in downward dog turning upside to try navasana probably won’t go well. Muscles aside, navasana is about having a decent curve in your lumbar spine which many people can’t access due to a lifetime of tucking the pelvis.

If you can’t arch the lower back and extend the spine in the first stage of the pose that I show in the video with the knees bent and the hands holding the backs of the thighs, the best way to work is keeping the knees bent and trying to extend the spine with an arch in the lower back.

You can spend months doing excellent work trying to develop ease in this variation. Though navasana is technically a core strengthener I would say that is the least interesting aspect of the pose. Navasana is meant to be an extension of the rectus abdominis muscle which I believe is overly extended in most people. This complicates matter because navasana is not about doing a crunch but without doing a sort of crunch it is truly difficult to access the pose.

There are a number of troubling issues with navasana which is why I offer all of the variations in the video above. For many students, the tendon of rectus femoris, one of the quadriceps muscles, tends to fire relentlessly, which often feels like there is a steel cable popping out of your thigh. What fun is that? It is hard to recover once that tendon kicks in. I didn’t include it in the video but it can be helpful to do navasana with a blanket or block between the thighs.

If your latissimus dorsi is tight it will be hard to fully extend the spine and if your hamstrings are tight it will be difficult to extend the legs. These are all great reasons to spend a lot of time working on this great pose.

Here are the three stages to navasana that I always offer to work your way into the pose.

  • Sit on the floor with your knees bent and the feet flat. Take hold of the back of your thighs and bring the feet up off the floor. That might be enough.
  • If that goes well raise your shins so they are parallel to the floor.
  • Then release the hands alongside the shins. There should be no change in the spine through each stage.
  • Finally try extending your legs straight Your eyes and ankles should be in the same line.

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