Boat Pose

boat.jpg

Navasana

Boat pose is recognizable to workout enthusiasts as well as Yogi’s, as it is a staple to help strengthen the abdominal muscles.  This pose resembles a letter V, and can be an important addition to everybody’s workout or yoga routines.

 

How to: Boat Pose

Start seated on your mat, knees bent feet flat.  Slowly lean back, slightly rolling your tail one under so it does not grind into the floor.  As you lean back lift your lefts off the floor so that you are now balancing on your butt.  Lengthen and flatten your back, trying to eliminate any roundness in it.  Lift through your sternum or upper chest.  Slide your shoulder blades towards each other behind you and keep lifting long through your neck and head.

Level one:  extend your arms and gently hold onto your knees.  Your arms will be parallel to each other and to the floor, also your lower legs will be parallel to the floor

Level two: keep the legs the same but release your grip on the knees and energetically reach your hands toward your feet, (arms still parallel to the floor) and at the same time keeping the shoulders back so as not to round the back.

Level three: keeping all the previous in mind, now straighten your legs, maintain a flat back lifted chest, long strong legs that are about a 45 degree angle to the floor and approximately eye level.  

Keep your energy flowing in all directions and breath calm and deep.  Hold for several breaths, challenging your abdominals, legs, hip flexors and back.

 

Benefits of Boat pose

The role of boat pose is vast.  Done properly and consistently, the most noticeable benefits include:
•    Strengthens abdominals, hip flexors, and spine
•    Stimulates kidneys, prostate, thyroid and intestines
•    Relieves stress
•    Improves digestion

For the lay person this is a great pose to master for many reasons.  The first and most popular reason is that it is a great way to improve the stomach muscles strength and tone.  A popular variation in doing knee in and out motions while in this pose to further challenge the core.  I recommend this pose because it works many areas at once.  For example, holding this pose for several deep breaths will help to undo the forward bend we all are dictated by throughout our daily routines, works the abs, open the chest increasing lung capacity, stimulating the thyroid (with the position of the head) to increase metabolism, and strengthen and tone the legs, quadriceps and deep hip flexors known as the psoas.  Increasing power and potency of the psoas/ hip flexors helps the pelvis stay in better position making stride its most efficient.  Who wouldn’t want to do this pose?  

Ailments associated with psoas dysfunction. Psoas - the major core muscle is partially responsible for:

  • Chronic low back pain
  • Sciatica
  • Intense menstrual cramping
  • Hip socket tension
  • Groin pain
  • Chronic quadriceps strain
  • Knee, neck and ankle tension
  • Bladder and digestive disturbances
  • Structural imbalance
  • Poor flexibility in the core
  • Poor core strength    
  • Lumbar joint immobility
  • Organ dysfunction

For the athlete I think it is best we refer to the words of Richard Martinez:
"Pretty much all athletes overuse their psoas during training and competition. If you're an athlete, you do not want to have a tight psoas. A tight psoas causes the quads to overwork. If you have chronic quad strain, look to the psoas for answers. Other common ailments among athletes due to psoas dysfunction are chronic low back pain, groin pain, sciatica, and knee and ankle tension - just to list a few."

"Any sport involving running and jumping can lead to psoas injury. Dancers often have psoas issues due to excessive jumping and the strain placed on the psoas during single leg lifts, especially when the leg is held in a lifted position for a while. We work with many dancers at our studio and most have psoas issues."

"Cyclists are prone to psoas issues due to the structure of the bike. It doesn't allow for full extension of the psoas and muscles in a shortened position for prolonged periods of time remain short. Stretch that psoas after your rides."
    
"Triathlon training poses a special problem to the psoas due to the nature of the bike/run combo. The psoas is kept shortened during biking and must lengthen during the run. A psoas stretch is essential between the two. Many cyclists will instinctively try to elongate their hip flexors while riding their bike by standing on their peddles and pushing their hips forward. This will elongate your psoas and other muscles in the front of your body……" Richard Martinez

Even though he speaks of the importance of stretching this muscle, you can easily see through his words how vital it would be to keep it strong as well.  As I say over and over Power=strength + flexibility.

Although you should always consult your physician and research a properly trained teacher before starting a yoga practice there are a few instances where you should avoid this pose entirely:

  • Diarrhea
  • Low blood pressure
  • Neck issues or injury
  • Pregnancy

 

Have fun exploring this pose and learning about your body

 

About the Author

Gwen Lawrence has been a practicing fitness professional since 1990. Her current practice includes private yoga training, class instruction and her sport-specific Power Yoga for Sports training program www.poweryogaforsports.com. Gwen’s unique combination of dance, massage and yoga training experience, coupled with her extensive knowledge of anatomy,and nutrition, provide her clients, and athletes with overwhelming benefits. Gwen is the yoga coach for several New York Yankees baseball players, team yoga instructor for the New York Giants, New York Knicks, New York Red Bulls, New York Rangers, several major college teams,including Yale and UNC, and  many youth teams in a variety of sports. She is also the official spokesperson for AFRIN PureSea, and ambassador for Lululemon, her writing appears in Men's Health, Women's Health, Fitness Magazine and shape.com.  She has made appearances on NBC TODAY show and many TV news and national radio shows. Gwen also owns her own Yoga School where she trains people to teach the power yoga for sports system.

Gwen lives in the New York tri state area with her Husband, and three teenage boys.