Perfecting your Navasana practice

Navasana, which translates as the boat pose is a brilliant asana for building a strong core. Although the emphasis is on the core (or abdominal muscles), almost all body parts get a fair amount of workout – starting with the eyes in order to focus, the neck, shoulders, upper, middle and lower back, the hips, the arms and of course the entire leg. It is certainly more of a strengthening asana rather than flexibility.

Since this is a fairly difficult asana, particularly when it come to holding the posture,  in this blog, I aim to help you with different ways to approach this asana – both with and without props, thereby helping yourself to do it right and perfect your practice. I find that focusing on one asana at a time and getting deeper into it with repetition is a great way to enhance my practice.

Lets begin by using the wall as a support prop.

Ideally, the head, neck and spine should be in a straight line. Use the wall and hand support to align your body, check your posture by focusing on body parts one at a time and re-align. Make a mental note of how your body feels like in the right posture, remember this stance as we proceed with our practice. 

The yoga belt is an extremely versatile prop that can be used to better quite a few postures.

If the belt is adjusted as per the right measurement between your back and feet, it will create a tension as you get into the posture. Use this tension by holding the belt in between your palms. See image below:

The belt provides a good sense of balance, while taking excess stress off the back
in the final posture.

The use of props helps us hold the posture for longer. Let’s admit it, the first few attempts to any asana can be stressful as the body is trying to cope with strength, balance, flexibility, technique, breathing and the anxiety to get it right. A prop then acts like a magic tool to tackle fewer challenges at every attempt. Personally, it allows me time to observe my body, breathe and coordination between the two which is the essence of yoga.

Practicing core exercises might have an impact on your back. Here’s a quick look at why this happens and how to fix.

If you’re anything like me, you definitely feel it in the lower back especially when holding core-focused asanas for too long or doing too many repetitions. In my understanding, this could most like be a result of either of the 3 cases:

  1. You are performing the posture incorrectly eg: not sucking your stomach in to hold the abdomen tight can strain the back
  2. You are not breathing right. Holding the breath can often deprive muscles of oxygen.
  3. You have a weak back. Strengthening the back can help overcome this.

If you are aware of  any other reason, please enlighten me in the comments section below 🙂

To tackle this, we can simply use a bolster or a cushioned support just as I have in the image below:

Using the pillow, make sure your spine is still kept straight. Try not to completely throw your weight on the pillow/ bolster.

Few important things to avoid while performing/ practicing Navasana

It is always a better move to learn the right way of doing any form of workout and particularly Yoga. Since our body is intelligent and has a muscle memory, it would be all the more difficult to unlearn any pose we have learnt the wrong way. So, let’s quickly see how not to go wrong with the beautiful boat pose. 

  1. Bending the knees can throw you off balance. Also, it works more on the thighs rather than the core/ abdomen.
  2. The curved back and the strained neck are connected. Aim to keep the entire spine straight – cervical to lumbar.
  3. Fixing your gaze on your feet is one way to ensure you neck is right.
  1. As you can see in the image above, the shoulders are slightly rolled inward or slouched forward.
  2. Instead, pull the shoulders back by opening the chest fully.  

Keeping all the points discussed in mind, you may now enjoy the posture,  rather the sweet pain without any props. The arms can either be parallel to the ground or parallel to the legs as seen in the images below.

To all those who fancy six pack abs, the Navasana daily dose will do you a great deal of good. Enjoy your practice 🙂

PS: Inspiration for this post and most of the learnings expressed here are owing to the regular sessions I attend at Anandam Yogashala. Aarthi mam, thank you for your unique style of teaching.