Many of us in the chronic community are looking for ways to improve our core strength. Having a strong core benefits us in many ways:
- Better posture
- Healthy digestion
- Reduced pain
- May help to combat blood pooling in POTS patients
Boat Pose targets the abdominal muscles so that we can experience all of these benefits. It's a pose that I try to practice regularly, although I have to admit I'm a bit of a slacker when it comes to core strengthening. Building core strength takes time and persistence.
The traditional expression of Boat Pose is done with straight legs. For most people, straightening the legs all the way doesn't feel good. I grew up doing gymnastics, so this is a pose I've been doing since I was a child. I'm just used to it, I guess. If your body doesn't want to make the traditional Boat Pose shape, that's okay! The muscle engagement is the same in each of the following modifications. You'll get all the same benefits. Find the version that challenges your muscles without straining your body.
POSE: Boat Pose
SANSKRIT NAME: Navasana
BENEFITS: Builds core strength, back strength and leg strength. Stimulates Manipura chakra. Encourages self-confidence.
HOW TO: Be seated on the floor. Sit up tall with the spine as straight as possible and the chest proud. Shoulders are away from the ears. Lean back onto your sit bones. Pull your navel in toward your spine and try not to round the spine. Keep the chest lifted. Lift your legs up off the floor and extend the legs, reaching the toes up toward the sky. You may feel the core and the inner thigh muscles activate. Arms are extended straight in front of you with the palms facing up. The whole body is active. Hold this pose for as long as you can. If you can only hold for a few breaths, try doing repetitions. Hold for a few breaths, then rest for a few breaths, and repeat as many times as desired.
MODIFICATION #1: Bending the knees.
HOW TO: You'll enter this expression of the pose the same way as above only with the knees bent and the shins parallel to the floor.
MODIFICATION #2: Knees bent, feet on the floor.
HOW TO: You'll enter this expression of the pose by being seated on the floor and then bending the knees with the feet flat on the floor or on tip toes. Lean back, keep the chest lifted. Extend the arms out in front of you.
MODIFICATION #3: Knees bent with feet flat on the floor. Holding the backs of the legs with the hands.
HOW TO: You'll enter this expression of the pose the same as modification #2, but in this variation, you'll gently hold the backs of the legs with your hands as you lean back. This helps take a bit of tension off the lower back and requires less core strength.
MODIFICATION #4: Boat Pose in a chair
HOW TO: If getting to the floor is difficult for you, Boat Pose may be practiced in a chair! You can do this with the back of the chair behind you to protect you from falling backward. Try not to lean your weight into the back of the chair. If falling is not a concern for you, you can practice with the back of the chair to your side.
Sit at the edge of the chair. Come onto the tip toes and begin to lean back. Extend the arms in front of you with the palms facing up. Keep the spine tall and chest lifted. If you would like to challenge yourself further, you can straighten one leg at a time, alternating sides as you continue to breathe.
Please remember that although we can all practice the same alignment cues, a pose may look different on one person than it does on another, and that's perfectly OK! Our bodies, our bone structures, our physiologies, are all unique, and this can influence the ways we express asana. If you look different than me, that doesn't mean you're doing it wrong. It's not about how it looks, but rather how it feels in your body. That is what matters.
Ready to give this pose a try? Join me on Instagram and use the hashtag #spoonieyogatribe to be featured on my page!