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Sara Bigatti performing Boat pose - paripurna navasana; a popular yoga pose to strengthen the abdominal muscles

(Complete) Boat pose – paripurna navasana

Boat pose – paripurna navasana is responsible for a lot of yoga injuries. Sadly enough. Wrong alignment in this pose, will give you low back pain, because if you don’t already have the abdominal and iliopsoas strength, your low back muscles (quadratus lumborum) will try to keep you in balance, but this muscle is not made for that job.

A lot of yoga teachers and yogis like to include boat pose in their practice, to strengthen their abdominal muscles. The pose does, but the abs are not the muscles that do the hardest work. Lifting your legs in the air is the job of your iliopsoas muscle (hip flexor). A lot of people should train this muscle more,  because a weak iliopsoas causes a lot of health problems. In this case it can cause low back pain. As I said before, your quadratus lumborum muscle will ‘cover for you’ if you lack ab and iliopsoas power. So far so good, but if your low back muscles have to do this job to often, they get stressed out, leaving you with low back pain.

What goes wrong?

So what goes wrong in Boat pose. First of all you have to keep your back straight; sending your chest forward. If you don’t ‘hang’ in your low back, you prevent your quadratus lumborum to get stressed. Second: start the pose with bend knees. This is probably hard enough. You can even hold on to your legs to make it even easier. If you can do the pose with bend knees, slowly start to extend them, but keep your back straight.

How to do boat pose – paripurna navasana

  • Start seated in staff pose – dandasana (legs straight forward)
  • Place your hands next to your hips on the floor
  • Lengthen your spine and lean back a little bit without rounding your back. You want to sit on your sit bones
  • Bend your legs
  • Lift your feet of the floor
  • Hold on to the back of your thigs
  • Start straigthening your legs. If you notice your rounding your back, bend your knees again
  • If you can straigthen your legs, see if you can let go of them and bring your arms parallel to your legs
  • Stay in the pose for half a minute to a minute
  • Bend your legs and place them on the floor again

Benefits of Boat pose – paripurna navasana

  • Strengthens the iliopsoas muscle (hip flexor)
  • Strengthens your abdominal muscles
  • Stimulates kidneys
  • Give you a boost of energy

Contraindications of Boat pose – paripurna navasana

  • Spine injuries
  • Pregnancy
  • Diarrhea
  • Problems with your intestines

Enjoy! Be safe.

Source: Iyengar – Light on Yoga / Key muscles of Yoga – Ray Long / Ashtanga – David Swenson / Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha – Swami Satyananda Saraswati

You find more asanas in our Asana Database


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