Navasana or boat pose, is one f those yoga postures that usually gets a few sighs of frustration in classes. I myself use to struggle with it… shaking, holding my breath and just not being able to straighten my legs. The good news however is that with regular practice, Navasana can be achieved quickly because the core is quick to strengthen up. But do take it step by step, only going as far as you can with a smooth breath, and never hold your breath!
To start, sit upright with your knees bent up, try not to round through your spine. Keep your chin tucking in and you navel drawn in towards the spine. You can use your arms to help lever your chest forward.
Keeping the length in your spine and still holding on to the backs of the thighs, inhale deeply and as you exhale start to tip backwards (try not to round through the spine) until you are balancing on your sitting bones. Keep your breath long and smooth focusing on a still point in front of you and keeping your attention on keeping a strong core and long straight spine. If you are finding it hard to balance, lean back on the tips of the fingers slightly behind you to help until you can find your balancing point.
Start to lift your feet up so that your shins are parallel to the floor. With your hands still holding your thighs focus on the feeling of using your core rather than the tops of the legs to keep the position and release your hands to straighten your arms. With the arms straight, do not round through the shoulders, but keep the shoulders rolling back with the heart centre moving forwards.
If this is enough for you, then hold and repeat that 3 times, hugging the knees into the chest as you sit up straight in between.
For those of you who can move further, with your shins parallel to the floor, keep the lift in the chest and as you exhale start to straighten the legs. Keep the feet relaxed, but keep lengthening the legs and lifting through the chest. Keep the moola bandha lifting (pelvic floor lift) and the naval drawing in to the spine as you take long slow breaths. See for how many breaths you can hold the pose before your breath becomes uneven, gradually over time you should notice you are able to hold for a few breaths longer as your core strengthens.
A bit of extra help
Some people really do find Navasana a very tough pose for various reasons. It could be due to a weak core, tight hamstrings, or tightness in the spine. Don’t be afraid to use belts or the wall, remember that it’s not a competition, you are trying to work with your body so be kind to it. A belt is a great tool to help with Navasana. Loop the belt around the soles of your feet, lean back and then walk your hands down the belt until your arms are straight and your shins parallel to the floor. Pushing with your feet into the belt, and using your straight arms to pull the chest forwards focus on your core rather than relying solely on the belt to keep you upright. If you are feeling strong there, then lift the legs up straight (this will be harder to do if you have tight hamstrings), and still use the straight arms as levers to lift and pull the chest upwards to keep the length in the spine.
Navasana is a challenging pose, and as with all yoga poses there is a lesson to be learnt. So if you struggle with Navasana, then it might be that it will teach you patience as you learn to build up the core strength, or perhaps you have to learn acceptance of where you are in the pose and what your body’s limitations (but also capabilities) are, or if you are already strong in Navasana you might have to learn to be humble and come down along with the rest of the class rather than hold it that little bit longer because you can. Watch the feelings the arise in the pose and enjoy the learning process.
Hanri & Banjo