Boat Pose – Navasana: Is Core Strength All You Need?

Dr. Chloe demonstrating boat pose

Navasana, or boat pose, is an incredibly difficult yoga pose to do correctly.  When you think boat pose, you think core strength.  What people don’t always think of is the flexibility you need.  In order to have our spine in the correct position, flexibility is a must.  What’s surprising is that it’s probably somewhere you didn’t realize.  Keep reading to find out where this flexibility comes from.

We learned in an earlier blog that our core isn’t just abs.  It is every muscle that supports the spine.  These muscles run up along the front and back of our bodies.  They include the paraspinals, abdominis rectus, obliques, and many more.  Engaging your entire core is no easy feat!  From years of sitting, standing, and moving improperly sometimes we have muscles in there that are lazy.  These muscles don’t want to engage and when that happens we aren’t properly using them.  This is totally normal, but we want to fix it!  In order to do that, we need to know which muscles need flexibility, what direction to tilt your pelvis, and some exercises that will help us engage properly.  

Hamstring Flexibility

Chloe doing a dynamic hamstring stretch to prepare for boat pose

Hamstring flexibility has an important role in how you carry yourself.  If your hamstrings are too tight, it will cause your pelvis to tuck under.  When your pelvis tucks under, you can instantly feel your lower back round.  Try it with me as you sit or stand.  Allow yourself to be in a neutral position.  Push your sacrum towards the back of the room.  Now, tuck your pelvis all the way under.  Do you feel how your back first swayed forward and then rounded?  In this exaggerated form it is easy to feel. 

Having a tucked pelvis and tight hamstrings is a bigger issue than just having difficulty getting into this month’s pose.  It will trigger issues in your back causing pain and discomfort.  It also stops you from properly engaging and strengthening your core.  That is why this week’s video starts with a dynamic hamstring stretch to get us loose.

Which Tilt

While discussing the flexibility of our hamstrings, we talked about the ability of our pelvis to move forward and backward.  To properly do boat pose your pelvis needs to have forward tilt.  This slight forward tilt allows you to sit tall.  It doesn’t mean that you need to put a huge sway in your lower back.  It is a small movement that comes from your sacrum.

Having an improperly tucked pelvis and holding here teaches your spine to be rounded.  It may feel easier and better, but it’s not reinforcing a good upright position with proper curvature in your spine.  When you try rounding your back to engage your core muscles, you can pull them in, but they are bunched together.  When you sit tall it is a much different feeling and your muscles can be used in an entirely different way.  It just so happens that it’s also the right way!

How to do Boat Pose

Dr. Chloe demonstrating a version of boat pose

If you haven’t noticed a pattern yet you’re about to!  I mentioned in the beginning that when people think boat pose they think core.  Well, you weren’t wrong.  All of the exercises in this week’s video help you realize exactly what positioning you should be in to properly engage your core.  They make you aware of your pelvic tilt and ensure you have the proper flexibility to do so.  They also remind you to sit tall and ask you not to over arch your back.  There are a lot of things to think about which is why this progression of exercises is so practical!

Dr. Chloe put together a group of exercises that are perfect for yogi’s of all levels.  Whether you’re a beginner or an expert, you will see great benefits.

Boat pose isn’t something that can be done properly overnight.  Yoga is all about growing with your practice, so don’t feel intimidated!  This work is fundamentally improving your foundation so you can have a stronger pose that will make variations more easily attainable.  You’ll also be surprised to see how this translates into other parts of your practice.  Through the next 4 weeks, the exercises will continue to progress in difficulty.  Keep up the hard work and you will see big differences in no time!  

If you enjoyed this week’s video, be sure to check out our full playlist for MD Does Yoga on YouTube!  Dr. Chloe features a new pose every month.  This video highlights our first backbend series.  

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