Iyengar rates Paripurna Navasana or Complete Boat Pose as a 2 on his challenge scale in Light on Yoga. In comparison to some of the other postures I suppose that’s a fair rating, but don’t let the low number fool you. This posture requires core control through the front and back sides of the body, extension through the legs, arm, and crown, balance, and focus. When held for an extended period of time, inviting peace and softness to the posture can be just as challenging if not more so than the physical requirements.
When practicing this posture, be mindful of any discomfort in the low back. Modify the pose until you can maintain the posture with a long, strong, back that is free of strain. Additional full body core work like high plank pose will help create the core integration that is needed for Paripurna Navasana.
Work on theses stages and variations of Boat Pose to build strength, balance, and control.
Option 1 – Anchored Boat. Bend the knees taking the feet to the floor. Lean back with a straight back and use the finger tips for support. Keep the collarbones broad as you shift the weight just behind the sit bones. As you shift back do not tuck the tail or rest on the sacrum. Lift the heels, but keep the balls of the feet or toes anchored to the floor. Use the core to keep the spine long as you find full relaxed breaths. Build up until you can stay in this posture for 10 to 15 seconds without strain.
Option 2 – Boat Prep. When you feel strong enough, release hands and the feet from the floor. The rest of the body should not change. Lift the legs, so the shins are parallel to the floor, hug them together with the shins and thighs spiraling towards the midline of the body. Spread the toes like rays of sunshine. The hands can offer support on the backs of the thighs.
Option 3 – Complete Boat. With the legs glued together, extend them long, pressing through the balls of the feet. Extend the arms, parallel to the ground, hug the arms to the midline of the body without making contact with the legs. Exaggerate the reach of the heart and the broadening of the back. Iyengar recommends building up to 30 seconds in this posture.
Option 4 – Boat with Legs Crossed. This variation will make sense when next week’s pose is revealed. Cross the legs at the ankles, keeping the feet active and the toes spread. Squeeze the ankles together as you extend the feet and legs long. Repeat with the opposite foot on top. For added challenge place a block in between the thighs.
Another variation to this pose is to lower the back and legs to hover off the floor and then lift back up, navasana sit-ups or navasana core work. When finding this movement, only release toward where you can maintain control and length in the back. Over time, you will build up the strength to find the full range of movement.
Paripurna Navasana can feel very rigid, so invite softness to the breath, neck, jaw, and face. Always work where you feel challenged, but also where you can breathe, relax around the work, and create positive energy.
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