How to do Navasana (Boat Pose) in Yoga
Navasana in Sanskrit, or Boat Pose, is a balancing strength pose in Yoga that appears like one is sitting on his or her tailbone. To remain balanced for many breaths, however, strong core muscles are needed. Activating the core muscles properly, however, does not start with balancing on your tail bone.
The core of your body is both a physical and a spiritual energetic zone. Learning how to activate and engage these core muscles will help ward off physical strain and injuries as well as enhance your yoga practice spiritually.
The core is a place where your body emits its center of gravity and strength as well as being the reception and transmission area of emotional and spiritual energy; The region which spiritually houses the first four chakras responsible for balancing and strengthening a person's ego, relationships and emotions. Strengthening your core literally and figuratively may also prevent people from pushing you around in life.
When yoga students first find themselves in Navasana, they might be literally balancing on their tail bone (Coccyx bone), which is improper. Try it for yourself. Lean back on your tail bone and lift your feet and legs off the floor. The Lumbar curve of your lower back will respond by "rounding".
Rounding the lower back will lead to poor posture and improper kinetic alignments leading to the Cumulative Injury Cycle.
How do we properly initiate Navasana? It is not by balancing on your tail bone. Try the following. Grab your butt. Literally, grab your butt and feel the flesh there. The bones underneath the fleshy part of your bottom are called "sit bones", or technically named, the Ischial Tuberosity bones. These are the bones that you actually sit on when sitting. Navasana begins with lifting the flesh up from underneath your bottom, and sitting on these "sit bones".
Secondly, lean back into a 45 degree angle without losing the curvature of your lower back. Thirdly, lift the chest and heart area up to the ceiling or sky. Looking up or finding an upward focal point also helps to keep your chest upright. Lastly, lift your straight legs to activate the lowest core muscles and the hip flexors , or technically referred to as, the Psoas core muscles. Once you are in the pose, load the abdominal wall and the lumbar curve of your lower back by pushing the muscles together (or against each other) creating a "Force-Coupling" in the core region.
Agreeably, it's easier said than done. A regression, or modification, to this pose is to bend the knees or keep the feet flat on the floor while in Navasana. But make sure you do not compromise an upright spine with its natural curve in the lower back. Placing your fingertips on the floor behind you in Navasana is yet another helpful modification. You can also leverage the pose by grabbing onto your thighs in Navasana, without rounding you back, until you're strong enough to let go. Eventually, your core will be strong enough to set up the pose without these modifications.
Strengthening your core muscles will improve nearly every pose in yoga and support your spinal column in all its different planes of motion. The core has two primary functions: stability and movement. Essentially, Navasana is a Core Stabilzation pose. Yet, by twisting and "moving" your torso to each side while in the pose, you can progress it to a Movement Stabilization pose.
Specific muscles are designated to each function. For example, the External Obliques and the Transverse Abdominas are the muscles which twist the spine. The Rectus Abdominas and Internal Obliques may act as more of the isometric or stabilizing muscles that are needed in balancing yoga poses. The back muscles are also core muscles. The lumbar curve, the Multifidus muscles (which facilitate the movement of the spine as a whole) and the Intertransversarii muscles (which create movement between each vertebrae) are all core related muscles
Additionally, some of these core muscles are also responsible for allowing you to breathe properly through your diaphram. Opera singers rely on cultivating strong core muscles, as well as all singers for that matter, for the process of exhilation; belting out lyrics.
Next time you find yourself in Navasana Boat Pose, identify how to avoid balancing on your tail bone which disseminates poor posture and may cause strain and injury. Remember that it's just as much "getting in tune with your body" as it is the "tuning of your body". You will feel when your core is engaged. It's an empowering feeling. And speaking of opera singers, that will not be when the fat lady sings, if you apply the above techniques.