Boat posture (paripurna navasana) is a posture utilized to create core strength and stability. It can also be a fun and lighthearted way to find strength within our openness. This posture can be overpowered, or underpowered, by the psoas muscle and takes a deep concentration to keep the psoas and abdominal muscles engaged thoughtfully.   

Some students may avoid this posture if it causes back discomfort or achiness in the front of the hip. With any posture it is important to notice why we are avoiding it. Much like our samskaras we may build a resistance to changing our habits, or patterns, and assume we cannot “do a posture. This is where the kleshas can be helpful even in our asana practice. Is my ego getting in the way? Am I attached to a specific outcome? Do I have aversion toward a posture? Do I just not know how to proceed in finding the version of the posture that works well? Our body is very wise, so let’s dive deep into listening wholeheartedly to the signals we are receiving. Here are some variations of Boat that may help you listen more closely.       

The full version of Boat can be straining on the hip flexors/psoas for some practitioners. The femur bone is heavy and when lifting the feet off the floor, it can be difficult to maintain if our core is not engaged or the psoas is needing more support. Before coming into the full expression of this pose (with legs straight, body in a ‘V’ position and arms extended upward), consider some prep work before sailing forth in your Boat: 

  1. After warming up for your yoga practice, consider some simple seated or standing bent leg raises, as well as plank. This will get the hip flexors and core warmed up.
  2. Add a blanket to the sit bones: The last thing we want is to feel pressure on the sit bones in a posture. A little blanket will go a long way in feeling comfortable and will let you feel more of a ‘floating’ aspect too.
  3. Hands Back Variation:
  • Begin seated with the fingertips behind you and knees bent with toes on the floor. The sit bones are plugged into the floor. Be weary of tipping back onto the tailbone. Avoid leaning back on the hands and rather, use the fingertips as a method of getting the weight distributed into the sit bones.
  • Lift one foot off the floor, alternating, while maintaining an engaged core. Lift the chest but continue to keep the lumbar/low back supported with the engaged core.
  • Another variation is with your feet tapping the wall or with both feets on the wall (still with fingertips behind you).
  1. Hands Forward and Under variation:
  • Begin seated as above but bring your fingers underneath the knees or the lower thighs. Use a lighter and lighter touch as you build strength in this posture.
  • Continue with the leg lifts you did in the variation above or take both feets off the floor with shins parallel to the floor maintaining an engaged core without rounding the back. Keep the chest lifting upward.
  1. Strap Circle “Floating Boat”:
  • Take a long strap and create a big circle using the buckle to hold the circle in place. Place the circle strap underneath your arms between mid and upper back. For comfort, make sure the buckle is not pressing on your back.
  • Make sure the strap is big enough to take your forefoot to the inside of the circle, keeping knees bent. One end of the circle is behind your back and the other end is underneath the toes. Add more or less length to the strap for comfort. Consider one leg at a time inside the strap to get used to this method.
  • Take fingertips behind as you slowly inch the feet off the floor while actively pressing feet into strap (bend or straighten knees). Lift the chest and find the core strength again. When ready, take the arms up extending from the heart in the direction of the feet to ‘balance’ in the floating boat. Enjoy!

(Note: You can create more strength here by relying less on the strap and not pressing into the strap as much with the feet.) 

Follow any of the variations above with a psoas/hip flexor stretch, like kneeling lunge emphasizing the front of the thigh and hip of the back leg; or any other front body opening stretches.  

This latter variation with the strap allows a sense of freedom in boat – of sailing in your posture. There is a sweetness to feeling empowered and free in a posture. This helps us witness our practice, observing all the parts while maintaining equanimity. Can we see the ease, the challenge, the strengths, and hold them all at once? When we are confronted, once again, by our habitual reaction to something, can we pause in this awareness enough to then float through life with a little more ease and grace? 

This is our 8th article and video series. I hope you have appreciated them and found pieces to support your health and wellness. Kudos to the team at Seattle Yoga News that has brought all my pieces of information together for readers and viewers like you.   

Interested in more content like this? Get social with us:



Rai Lowe