Dive into Boat Pose, Navasana, in order to build strength in the core, while building determination in the mind. Challenging poses in yoga, require a determined energy called tapas. Tapas allows us to practice unwavering focus while being present in the pose while not expending energy elsewhere. It is this mindful, determined, and balanced effort that we are able to receive powerful benefits from this posture. There are variations of the pose to best suit your body.
To do Boat Pose: Come to sit on your buttocks with your knees bent and the soles of the feet on the ground, aligned under your knees. Sit nice and tall, creating a straight spine. Inhale, and grow taller through the crown of the head while lifting and expanding through the area of the chest and collarbones. Exhale, and relax the shoulder blades down the back. Bring the palms to the backs of the thighs.
You can stay here and slightly lean back to feel the core activate and continue to breathe, creating long and smooth inhales and exhales. If you want more of a challenge, inhale, and begin to lift one leg and then maybe the other. Bring the legs to a 90 degree angle. If it is too challenging to lift both legs, vary one leg at a time. If you can lift both legs without rounding in the back, stay here and continue breathing.
If you want more challenge, begin to extend one arm and then the other. Draw the low belly in towards the spine and sit tall. Relax the muscles in the face, including the jaw. Create a smile on the face to encourage a little “lightness” in the body.
Stay in your variation of the pose and continue breathing for 3-5 rounds of breaths. One round of breath equates to one long inhale and one steady exhale. Option to move towards your fullest expression by straightening the arms and legs. Find balance on the sitting bones as well as maintaining balance in the breath.
If you begin to lose integrity of the posture, and the breath becomes “choppy”, the spine begins to round, or you have trouble finding balance, take a step back in the posture. Options to back-out include: coming back to bent knees, lowering the hands back behind the thighs, or back to start position, with the soles of the feet back towards the ground.
To come out: gently lower the feet and arms down. Come down to lay on the back and draw the knees in towards the chest. Draw circles to the right and then the left with the knees. Allow the breath to come back to normal.
When we utilize the qualities of tapas, strength, and unwavering determination in yoga, we can more readily access these characteristics in our daily lives. Yoga helps us to manifest more awareness in our bodies. When we focus our awareness on the physical body and incorporate mindful breathing, we can more easily tune inwards towards the soul.
Check with your doctor before performing any form of exercise including yoga. Always honor your body. If a posture gives you pain, gently come out.
Christi Iacono, In Rhythms Yoga, Clairemont, S.D.