2.11.2011

Asana of the Week: Navasana


Navasana (Boat Pose) is often thought of as the quintissential core strengthener because of the toning effect it has on the rectus abdominus, but this fundamental pose works more than just the six-pack abs.  Navasana tones and strengthens the entire core while it stimulates healthy digestion and renal function.  The muscles of the back, sides, hips and even upper thighs in addition to the abdominals all work together to keep your Boat Pose afloat. 

To come into Navasana, begin seated, bend the knees, and plant the feet on the floor.  Sit up straight, draw the navel in, and reach the arms straight ahead with the palms facing one another.  From here, lean back until the weight of the body is balanced between the tailbone and sit bones.  Lift the feet from the floor so the shins are parallel with the arms.  If you feel strong here, straighten the legs.  Keep the heart lifting and the shoulderblades sliding down the back.  Gaze to the toes.

Ideally, there will be a 90 degree angle between the torso and thighs.  The arms should be parallel to the floor.  In the demonstration photo, my arms are a teensy bit high and the angle between torso and thighs might be a hair less than 90 degrees, which is the tendency for most practitioners.  The smaller the angle, the less weight for the hip and trunk flexors to manage. 

Maintain special awareness of the curve of the lumbar spine as you hold this pose.  If the abdominals are weak, the low back may collapse, which puts strain on the lumbar region.  Avoid rounding in the low back by continually lifting the heart toward the knees and engaging uddiyana bandha (navel lock).  Be sure to modify the pose by bending the knees or take hold of the backs of the thighs with the hands if any strain is felt in the low back.  If you already have abs of steel and regular ol' Navasana is no problem for you, intensify the pose by reaching the arms up or interlacing the fingers behind the head.

Navasana Sequence: Notice the ways in which the preceding poses prepare you for the postures that follow as you flow through the sequence.  Hold each pose for 5 deep breaths unless otherwise specified.
  1. Utkatasana (Chair Pose)
  2. Toe Squat
  3. Navasana (Boat Pose)
  4. Take-it-Up Asana - Inhale to lift up, exhale back down in a single breath.
  5. Repeat steps 3-4 four more times - Remember to modify Navasana as you need to protect the low back.  It gets a little harder with each repetition.
  6. Bakasana (Crane Pose)
  7. Salamba Sirsasana (Tripod Headstand) - 10 breaths.
  8. Vinyasa through Chaturanga (low Push-Up position) - Drop into Chaturanga from your headstand, if possible.
  9. Ustrasana (Camel Pose) - Enjoy the release in the abdomen, but be sure to keep uddiyana bandha engaged here to maintain length in the lumbar spine.
  10. Balasana (Child's Pose)

4 comments:

  1. Ahh Navasana - a pose I love to hate :)

    What is Take-it-up Asana?

    One of my teachers does a fun simple Navasana sequence:

    - Navasana, but keeping the toes at most at shoulder-height (this is hard!)
    - exhale into Purvattasana (or reverse table)
    - inhale to Dandasana
    - exhale into Paschimotanasana

    Much as I always mentally whine when it's thrown in, it's a hugely beneficial pose, for all the reasons you mention.

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  2. "Take-it-up Asana" is a simple lift up with the ankles crossed. It's just one breath - inhale to lift everything up by pressing into the hands and then exhale back down. Sorry I don't have a better name for that one. I think I got "take-it-up" from Swenson's book, so it's probably an Ashtanga thing.

    That sequence you've posted looks great! I like to see Dandasana in any seated sequence. It appears so unassuming, but is actually quite active an active pose.

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  3. Ahh, so like Lolasana, or the preparatory variations of Tolasana then?

    Forgot to mention the mini-sequence I posted should be repeated 3-5 times, 3-5 breaths in Navasana & Paschimotanasana, 1 in Purvattasana & Dandasana

    I agree - Dandasana is somewhat underutilized. Great pose, and it really sets you up for a lovely Paschimotanasana or any of the other seated forward folds.

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  4. Hi, I notice Swenson's DVD features handstands in between each navasana and a number of other teachers (Lilo, Kino) do this as well. Does this belong in the sequence) and do you have any tips for working towards this?

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